Author Archives: chuck

Fresh Photographic Product Consistency
or
Rules Are For Fools

By Chuck Baker

I purchase and use a lot of products for my photographic endeavours. These include cameras, film, paper, chemistry, along with digital products such as special papers, printing inks…etc.

Since the advent of digital I have found that established film companies who continue to produce film have a consistency to their product that I enjoy and even demand. I find Kodak, Ilford, Bergger and Rollei are films with excellent consistency. Even handmade film from Washi are trustworthy from batch to batch. Perhaps, I take this consistency as a matter of fact. For instance, Kodak’s TMax films vary little to none and inconsistency doesn’t even enter my mind while Impossible films vary wildly from batch to batch and inconsistency is always on my mind. The same applies to chemistry, paper or any time-sensitive product made in batches…I need to trust them in order to use them in any meaningful way.

Kodak Verichrome Pan

I don’t want to imply that a surprise outcome can’t be extraordinary. Impossible films, now Polaroid Original, are a perfect and expensive example. But when I want to use an instant film that I can rely on for consistency, I use Fuji Instax film in any number of specific cameras with a Fuji Instax film back.  The same goes for expired films, which I enjoy shooting with…sometimes the older the better! However, I never go out to a specific shoot armed only with a film knowing the results will be a surprise.

My internal conflict expressed here may have something to do with experimenting before one knows the way that the materials work together so that controlled experimenting can happen. I helped a young photographer this week who is very talented. We spent some time in my darkroom, he wanted to print silver for the first time, and I equipped him with the materials to print at home…his first bathroom darkroom. I found myself expressing the importance of consistency in developing, to change one variable at a time to get the final result. I said without this foundation, long term success was impossible. Then I thought back to a time when I was this young person’s age and would scream “Rules are for fools!”

With that said, I’m the type of artist that feels the need to know the materials so that they can be manipulated in such a way to achieve my desired final. I labor with new cameras coming into my arsenal, running film through them until I know their personality. The element of surprise can be fun but doesn’t cut it when trying to create art as a coherent thought or idea. In a discipline such as analog photography, there can be so many variables that each variable that can be controlled helps with the creative process. Only by knowing the variables and adjusting one at a time to achieve what’s wanted can a true creative end be accomplished.

 

I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I being to strict? Do you agree with me about material consistency and practices? Or maybe, a bit of both?

The Last Brownie Camera

By Chuck Baker

The Kodak Brownie II was the last Brownie camera produced. This interesting camera is similar to the Kodak Cross and the Kodak Star 110 models. Why it was released as a Brownie model, years after the previous 110 Brownie model ended production, is a mystery. It was produced and distributed in Brazil. As far as I can tell, it was manufactured only during 1986 and there were no variations of this camera produced.

The Kodak Brownie II - photo David Lisk

The Kodak Brownie II – The Last Brownie Camera

This well-made camera is surprisingly advanced for any Brownie camera, not just a 110 camera. The shutter speed is automatically set by the speed of the film, via notches on the film cartridge. Additionally, it offers a choice of two apertures and has a “flipflash” socket..

Kodak Kodak Brownie II - David Lisk photo

Closed Kodak Brownie II – The Last Brownie Camera

Here are some details:
Camera Type: Eyelevel 110 Cartridge Loading
Introduced: 1986
Discontinued: 1986
Film size: 110 Cartridge
Picture size: 0.51″ x 0.67″
Manufactured: Brazil
Lens: Kodar Meniscus F/11, 22mm Fixed Focus
Aperture Settings: Bright and Cloudy
Shutters Speeds: 1/50, 1/125 and 1/250
Numbers made: ?
Original price: ?

The Kodak Brownie II Package - David Lisk photo

The Kodak Brownie II Package – The Last Brownie Camera

CONTRIBUTE TO THE HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
The Brownie Camera Page was introduced to the World Wide Web in 1994 and has been growing ever since. I started the website because I couldn’t find any information about a Baby Brownie that was my father’s. The website has become a knowledge base, of sorts, kind of a WIKIBrownieCamera. I am always open and welcome new information and corrections to the website.

Recently, a visitor to the website/blog found a camera listing that was wrong. I did not verify well enough the wrong information that I used to create the webpage years ago. For this, I apologize to everyone who took this information as fact. This is a big Thank You to David Lisk for taking the time to point out the correct information for this blog and the camera page, with references, and for sending images of The Last Brownie Camera ever made.

What Makes a Real Photographer?

by Christopher Hosford

One of the most interesting debates in the world of photography today swirls around the memory of a dead eccentric who would cringe at the idea she was in the public eye whatsoever.

Self Portrait – Vivian Maier

I had this thought after seeing the excellent documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier” about the reclusive children’s nanny who also was a compelling street photographer. Maier, who died in 2009 in poverty, had rarely if ever printed or edited her own shots. More than 100,000 of her negatives were recovered in an auction of “junk” after her death, were brought to public attention by those struck by her work, and have now been embraced by the public.

While many now acclaim Maier as a near genius, a controversy has arisen over what qualifies people to be a “photographer” in the first place.

Maier was technically superb with her Rolleiflex, had a great eye for composition and light, and insinuated herself brilliantly into the private spaces of strangers in order to take a picture. But … she didn’t bother editing her work in the processing and printing process. In the eyes of some, this gap disqualifies her from the first rank of photographers.

By extension, some say the discoverers of her work who are now printing and selling her images not only are shameless profiteers, but also are misleading the world about Maier’s abilities. The excellent commentator Ted Forbes, in his YouTube series The Art of Photography, raised this issue recently, and seriously considers the point.

Children – Vivian Maier

I view the debate through the prism of journalism, since that’s how I make my living. I’ve always tried to do my best in the “shooting” aspect of writing, which includes reporting, verifying and crafting of words. But very few writers have any control once their work is handed off to editors and publishers—or in fact are very good editors themselves, especially of their own work. Anyone can appreciate this who’s read the unedited embarrassments on the Internet.

The poet Emily Dickinson is an apt Maier analog. Another famous recluse, Dickinson rarely published. After her death the first editions of her poems were printed only after her idiosyncratic syntax, usage, grammar and punctuation were “improved.” Only recently has her work been published as originally written, but it was the edited printings of her poems that brought her to prominence.

Consider other arts. Michelangelo’s “David” was originally intended to be positioned along the roofline of a Florentine cathedral, but later was situated in a public square, and then replaced at the original location with a replica. Does this “editing” after the event violate the artist’s intentions? Has it harmed the art itself? I’d bet a hatful of florins that the artist made the statue expressly to be viewed from afar and well below.

Woman - Vivian Maier

Woman – Vivian Maier

Are photographers expected to be great shooters as well as great processors, great printers, great chemists, great optical technicians, great mathematicians (the “zone system,” anyone?), or expert in many other abilities? Just how many skills must it take to be considered a “true” photographer?

I will say that Maier’s own reclusiveness harmed her legacy. Because she never, and I mean never, threw anything away, everything is now before the public, including the just OK and the dreck. Forbes’ critical assessment of Maier is partly based on her pedestrian stuff. If she could have foreseen the future, she may have chosen carefully, processed well, and hidden the embarrassments out of sight.

I’ll leave it to others to hash out the fine points of the debate. For me, if Maier’s negatives are all we have I’m good with that. They illustrate well her terrific photographic ideas, and that she could capture them vividly and compellingly. It would be swell if we all were so talented.


From Chuck: Chris started and moderates the Facebook group “Kodak Brownie Fans“. I’m excited about Chris contributing his thoughts and ideas to this blog.

Making Photos With An Ancient Camera

by David A. Cory

No 3 Folding Brownie Model A

No 3 Folding Brownie Model A

About six years ago, I was given an old Kodak folding camera. When I opened the camera, I found a roll of film that was larger than 120 medium-format film, and the roll had been put in the camera inside out, so there was no hope of producing or salvaging any images from it. I put the camera in a drawer and didn’t give it too much thought after that–until recently. That’s when I pulled out the camera and sent pictures of it to my friend in cyberspace, Chuck Baker, the Brownie Camera Guy. Chuck is a great photographer and an expert on all things Kodak Brownie. His website is a fount of information. Chuck informed me that I have a folding Brownie No. 3, Model A (not to be confused with the Brownie No. 3A). The characteristics of the camera indicate that it was made by Kodak sometime in the two years after the model was introduced in 1905. This photo shows the camera open after I reversed the roll of film so the paper side was out. The roll of film is 122 size, which was meant to produce postcard-sized 3.25 x 5.5 inch negatives. While 122 film fits the Brownie No. 3, the camera was designed to use 124 film and produce 3.25 x 4.25 inch negatives. In any case, the expense of buying custom spooled film to fit the camera called for another solution. Chuck gave me some suggestions for using 120 film in the camera, and I gave it a try.

making-photos-david-cory-2
I encountered a few obstacles. First, everything involving film–respooling the 120 film on the longer 122 spools, loading and and unloading the camera, and loading the film on a reel for developing–had to be done in the dark. Fortunately, I had a large film-changing bag I could use. The next challenge was getting the 120 film onto the longer spools.
I wrapped rubber bands around the spools to help keep the film centered.

I wrapped rubber bands around the spools to help keep the film centered.

I wrapped rubber bands around the spools to help keep the film centered.

Since the film counter window is near the top of the camera, the numbers on the backing paper of the 120 film are not visible when the film is loaded in the camera. Note the window’s tint has changed from red to orange over time. Since the 120 film doesn’t do anything to block light leaks into the camera, I thought I should put black tape over the opening. If anyone else wants to try taking pictures as I did, I wouldn’t recommend putting tape on the faux leather covering of the camera. You can see that I pulled some of it off when I removed the tape.

Caution: Faux leather was pulled off when I removed the tape covering the hole.

Caution: Faux leather was pulled off when I removed the tape covering the hole.

Before loading the film, I did some experimentation with a spare roll of 120 backing paper to figure out how far to wind the camera between exposures. Two full turns of the winding key seemed about right. Not knowing exactly what to expect for shutter speed, I went with ISO 50 film, figuring film speeds were probably even slower in the early twentieth century. The viewfinder wasn’t terribly useful. Below is an image of the viewfinder pointed at a well-lit bust of Abraham Lincoln. Outside,I could only get a rough idea of where the camera was aimed.

Getting rough idea of where the camera was aimed.

Getting a rough idea of where the camera was aimed.

As for results, I got a few exposures. One of the better ones is shown below.

A result!

A result!

Was it all worth all the effort? Probably not, but it was an interesting experience.

The Challenges Of Buying A Used Film Camera

by Christopher Hosford

Anybody who is into old film cameras must know that acquiring one constitutes a delicate dance between hope and experience.

You say the local Goodwill has a dusty little Vivitar point-and-shoot for $1.99? But wait…there’s that nifty Olympus 35mm right next to it that, uh, kinda rattles when you shake it. And the antique shop up the road offers a lovely Art Deco Baby Brownie that looks in OK shape. But at $60 it’s no bargain, and uses hard-to-obtain film.

Here’s one online: “In perfect condition.” A bit further down the page, there’s this: “I know nothing about cameras,” and “No returns.” Hmm.

Lesson: Beware of Claims
When I was first trying to learn more about photography, I was attracted to what was termed a beautifully “restored” all-mechanical Ciro-Flex twin lens reflex. I love American stuff, and it went for $65 at an online auction site.

Yashica-ALesson: Check Out Seller Ratings
The Ciro-Flex was a horror. The “restoration” included funky green (not original black) leatherette that actually overlapped vital areas. The lovely white Ciro-Flex script on the face of the camera was painted over. And when I actually used it, the bellows crank broke after one roll of film, the resultant negatives were scratched by rusty rollers, and (judging by soft spots in the prints) the lens also appeared to be scratched. The seller refunded my $65 and sent me cost-free a less-upscale Yashica Model-A TLR. I guess he felt guilty, his seller rating was quite good and I’m sure he wanted to make things right.

Lesson: Be Happy With Good Enough
The Yashica A, by the way, works fine, and it continues to be a workhorse for me. So-called entry level cameras from good manufacturers can take great photos, so don’t get too hinky about bells and whistles.

Six-20 Brownie Model DLesson: Know When to  Fold’ em
Which brings me back to the Brownie, the ultimate entry level film camera. Inspired by some great Brownie photos online, I checked out online auctions and found a Six-20 Brownie Model D (1953-57 era). “Perfect condition” again was cited, but after running several rolls through this model from Kodak’s old English manufactory, it was clear that the lens either was scratched or was hosting a colony of fungus happily raising millions of offspring eager to matriculate to Kodak U. It is now a display piece.

Lesson: Check “Extra” Costs
Seeking additional Brownie experiences, I went for an earlier Six-20 Brownie Model C  (1946-53 era), also from England, priced at an unbelievable 99 pence (0.99 pounds sterling). How could I lose? I won the bidding, but when conversion to U.S. dollars and shipping fees were figured in, that one-quid camera set me back $26 U.S. of A. greenbacks. Youch!

Lesson: Enjoy the Wins
Sometimes things work out well. In my childhood my family had a Kodak Brownie Flash Six-20, and it took fine snapshots. I found one online for $6. This oddly shaped little tank seems indestructible, and takes excellent pictures. Later I bought an original Kodak yellow filter and close-up attachment just for this model. (I’m a nut about going stock. You’ll never find me pimping out my 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk. If I owned one.)

Lesson: No Need to Gamble
There are reliable sources of old film cameras, such as shops that restore and sell them, and offer guarantees. But part of the fun is the thrill of the hunt. To grab a great Rollei for a song has got to put a zing in your swing.

Lesson: Cameras For All
I should add that many, many people buy cameras for reasons other than just picture taking. I know folks with hundreds of cameras, arrayed on shelves from every period of the great age of film. Here, perhaps rusty rollers or befogged lenses don’t matter. Historical gaps are filled, and wonderment is gained from red leather bellows, glorious mechanics, and superb hand craftsmanship.

Whatever your goal, keep up the good fight in your camera hunt. Don’t lose faith. Take the bad purchase with the good, return what you can, and stash the others in the bookcase where they will look fine.

After all, it’s just a camera.


From Chuck: Chris started and moderates the Facebook group “Kodak Brownie Fans“. I’m excited about Chris contributing his thoughts and ideas to this blog.

Images ©Christopher Hosford

 

The 1st Brownie Camera

By Chuck Baker

The Brownie - The first model with a slide on back and it's immediate replacement with a hinged and sliding lock back

The Brownie – The first model with a slide on back and it’s immediate replacement with a hinged and sliding lock back

The very first Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera, simply named The Brownie, was introduced to the public in February of 1900. This event had a profound and far reaching effect on the world as a whole. One could argue that it was one of those single events that changed the world. For someone like me it must have been like watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and waking up the next day to a changed world.

George Eastman

George Eastman

The introduction of this $1 camera allowed virtually anyone to afford a camera and film to capture family moments. The invention and marketing of The Brownie illustrated the genius of George Eastman. This camera was not intended for increasing camera sales. It was intended to increase film sales for the long haul. George Eastman had invented roll film in 1884 and wanted a way to sell this cheaply produced product to the masses and not just to professional photographers. Because Eastman Kodak was a film producing company, any camera produced was for film sales but up until this point only expensive cameras had been produced, with a few lower priced exceptions still out of the reach of most middle and lower class working families.

Frank Brownell - designer of The Brownie

Frank Brownell

Eastman asked Frank Brownell, his camera designer and manufacturer, to design the least expensive camera possible while at the same time making it effective and reliable. The Brownie was the result and specifically marketed with children in mind, taking it’s name from the popular Palmer Cox Brownie characters. George Eastman saw the potential of marketing to children as a way to secure future roll film sales along with the appeal to families for taking family pictures, much like the postcards photographers at places like Coney Island, except now these families would use his inexpensive Brownie Camera and, more importantly, Eastman Kodak film and processing. It came at the perfect time…work hours were decreasing, pay was increasing and vacation travel was on the rise.

The Brownie Camera was so simple to use that anyone, even those who had never held a camera, could operate it right out of the box. It invented point & shoot snapshot photography as we know it today. Think about that for a moment or two…invented point & shoot snapshot photography as we know it today! The film was also affordable, even for 1900. For $1.55 anyone could buy The Brownie, a roll of film, and get it processed. The February 1900 Trade Circular lists a 6 exposure roll of transparent film at $0.15, paper-negative film at $0.10 and $0.40 for processing which included the printed images and postage!

The Brownie - released in March, 1900 replacing the first camera released a month earlier. The viewfinder was available in August, 1900 as an accessory.

The Brownie – March, 1900 with the optional viewfinder

Unfortunately, the first batch of about 15,000 had push-on box lid backs which proved unreliable in some circumstances, when knocked hard it could pop open. Just about all of this first batch was sent to Kodak Limited in the UK and examples are therefore more common in Europe. Without a break in sales, March of 1900 saw a bottom hinged back and a sliding latch on top completely fixing this problem.

 

The inside workings of the camera were not changed and, speaking from personal experience, many examples produce extraordinary results even today…115 years after this $1 camera was manufactured!

In The Fields - Chuck Baker - taken with The Brownie

In The Fields – Chuck Baker – taken with The Brownie

As the success of The Brownie increased, so did the available models. By the time the last Brownie camera was produced over 100 different models and variations had been manufactured. As time marched on many Brownie cameras mirrored the age with breathtaking designs from designers like Walter Dorwin Teague and Arthur H. Crapsey. The word brownie came to mean just about any camera…”Grab the brownie and let’s get going“. Quite a few Brownie cameras gave birth to film formats still produced to this day such as 120 film which was introduced with the No.2 Brownie in 1901.

Here are some details:
The Brownie
Camera Type: Box Rollfilm
Introduced: Feb 1900
Discontinued: Oct 1901
Film size: 117
Picture size: 2 1/4 X 2 1/4″
Manufactured: US
Lens: Meniscus
Shutter: Rotary
Numbers made: 245,000
Original price: $1.00

Though I am a professional photographer that, for the most part, views cameras as tools of the trade, I have a special place in my heart for Brownie Cameras. It was a Brownie that helped spark my lifelong love of photography. Even with the hundreds of cameras that I possess, using any Brownie Camera is special but making images with The Brownie gives me goosebumps like no other…kind of like watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

The 100th Anniversary Brownie Camera

By Chuck Baker

The first Brownie Camera, released in February of 1900, defined the snapshot. It allowed virtually anyone to afford a camera and film to capture family moments. It came at the perfect time…work hours were decreasing, pay was rising and travel was becoming popular.

This article is not intended to go over the history of the Kodak Brownie Camera models, of which there are over 100. Instead, let’s have a look at the interesting 110 cartridge Brownie Camera: Anniversary Brownie.

110 Brownie Camera

left: Made in Australia by Kodak PTY.LTD. – right: Made in England by Kodak Limited – photo by Chuck Baker

It was the first Brownie camera manufactured to use 110 cartridge loading film. In 1979, a renamed version of the Kodak Limited Pocket A1 Camera was cosmetically redesigned for the 100th anniversary of the founding of George Eastman’s company. The body of this proposed model was moulded in milk chocolate plastic with gilt nameplate. lens panel and centenary motif. A matching hard ever-ready case was also designed. A small number of these were made for evaluation(not pictured) but unfortunately the decision was made not to market this camera with the anniversary name on it.

left: Made in Australia - right: Made in England - photo by Chuck Baker

left: Made in Australia – right: Made in England – photo by Chuck Baker

Instead, the models pictured here were manufactured without the mention of “Anniversary” on the camera. The cameras made in Australia differ from the UK in the font of the name stamp, silver(England) or no silver surrounding the lens and the shutter release button is orange while the UK model has a black button. There may be other variations out there, I’m not sure. If you know of or have a different version of this camera please drop me an email or a comment.

This outfit, which included the case, was made in Australia – photo by Chuck Baker

The gap in time from the previous model, Brownie Fiesta R4 which was discontinued in 1970, leads me to believe that the Anniversary Brownie, released 10 years later, was trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of the Brownie brand and was not intended to somehow bring the Brownie Camera back in any serious way.

Here are some details:
Brownie Camera or Anniversary Brownie
Camera Type: Eyelevel 110 Cartridge Loading
Introduced: 1980
Discontinued: 1982
Film size: 110 Cartridge
Picture size: 0.51″ x 0.67″
Manufactured: Australia and England
Lenses: Single Element F/11, 25mm Fixed Focus
Shutters: Single Speed 1/60 Second
Numbers made: ?
Original price: ?
This camera was designed boxier than other Kodak 110 cameras for easy holding. It has a “flipflash” socket and a thumbwheel film advance.

I have a special fondness for Brownie Cameras. I grew up with them and it was a Brownie that helped spark my lifelong love of photography. Even this cheap plastic 110 camera with “Brownie Camera” stamped on it gives me goosebumps!

David A. Cory: About Image Making

Cory_David_Springs_737x491_Holga Mounted on Homemade Device

Springs © David A. Cory

David’s imaginative photography began its impression on me last year, just before the 2014 Somerville Toy Camera Festival.  His exhibition image captivated me, there’s no one else doing work quite like it. Since then, I’ve sought his images out from past/present exhibitions and his website, and find them inspiring.

I’ve asked David a few questions and he was kind enough to answer.  I hope you find this interview as interesting as I do.

 

Chuck: When did you first get interested in photography and why?
David: I bought my first camera at age 11 at the dime store in the small town near my family’s farm. I bought the camera in anticipation of a trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. I still have a few prints of photos I made on that trip! The camera, as I recall, was a simple Imperial brand fixed-focus plastic camera that shot medium format film.

Cory-Marbury-Tree-1

Marbury Tree 1 © David A. Cory

Marbury Tree 2 © David A. Cory

Marbury Tree 2 © David A. Cory

 

Chuck: What has been the evolution of your work?
David: I didn’t pursue photography through the rest of my childhood and adolescence. As I young adult, I was content with snapshots made with 110 cameras, then graduated to a Nikon 35mm point and shoot, and eventually to an entry-level Minolta 35mm SLR. When digital came along, I lost interest in the SLR and used compact cameras like the Canon Powershot Digital ELPH. A turning point occurred on a trip to England in 2008 when I found the compact camera didn’t permit me to do everything I wanted to do photographically. I recall specifically being frustrated trying to get a picture of a kingfisher during a boat ride on a canal. The bird was flying too far ahead of the boat for me to get a decent image. It was also during that trip that I took a photo of a gnarled old tree in a cemetery, then walked around the tree and took a photo of its eroded interior (see attached images). I think with that second image, I began to realize that I could do more with photography than just vacation snapshots. After the trip, I bought a Nikon dSLR and did a lot of nature photography. I became a bit bored with this, and in 2009 started experimenting with different techniques like Lensbabies and digital multiple exposures. I also started accumulating and using vintage film cameras and new Holgas through purchases or as gifts from my wife. Another spinoff of the England vacation was that I sent some photos from the trip to the local newspaper. They were enthusiastically received and published, and I realized that there could be a wider audience for my photography than just friends and family. I started submitting to juried exhibits and have been fortunate to have had my photos displayed around the country.

08_KK2014_David-Cory-Nebula-1-Holga

Nebula 1 © David A. Cory

Chuck: Your “rotated” images are your signature, how did you come about making the first image like this?
David: Early on in my experience with Holgas, I came to appreciate how easy it was to expose a frame multiple times without advancing the film. I started rotating the handheld camera 180 degrees and liked the results, but wanted to come up with a way to get more symmetric images.

 

Cory-Rotomator-1

The Rotomator

Chuck: What is the technique that produces these incredible images?
David: As I started to consider ways to stabilize and rotate the Holga for multiple exposures, I thought a rotating bracket could be mounted on a tripod. I discovered such devices are commercially available, but it seemed crazy, and somehow untrue to the spirit of toy photography, to spend hundreds of dollars for a gadget to hold a $25 camera. So I bought a lazy Susan bearing and used scrap plywood to build “The Rotomator”. This allows me to rotate the Holga around the axis of the lens for symmetric multiple exposures. The other key element is a cardboard mask which mounts in front of the lens, and which limits the exposure to an arc of either 90 degrees, 60 degrees, or 45 degrees, for 4, 6, and 8 exposures respectively.

Cory-Rotomator-2

The Rotomator

Chuck: What visually needs to be present for you when producing a final image?
David: When doing multiple exposures on film it’s difficult to previsualize exactly what the finished photo will look like. I try to look for details in either natural or manmade subjects that I think will yield interesting patterns when rearranged into a multiple exposure. I’ve also become more aware over the years of the interplay of light and shadow. There is always an element of surprise (often, but not always pleasant) when the film comes out of the developing tank, which is appealing to me.

Chuck: What was your original attraction to cheap plastic cameras as it relates to your imaging?
David: At the end of 2014, I retired after a career of almost 30 years as a physician practicing diagnostic radiology. It was my job to look at images of the human body produced with precise, expensive, computerized devices. Producing images with imprecise, inexpensive, analog devices during my time off was an escape from the demands of my profession.

Pucker St. No.2

Pucker St. No.2 © David A. Cory

Chuck: How do you decide which camera and film to use?
David: Any time I want to use the Rotomator, I am locked in to using a Holga, since none of my other cameras fit. I use Kodak Tri-X 400 almost exclusively with that combination. I have two Holga pinhole cameras and I generally use Ilford Delta Pro 100 with those to get longer exposure times. One of the pinhole Holgas is a WPC, which is handy when I want a wide angle. I’ve also tried orienting it vertically for tall subjects, such as the monument on the circle in the middle of Indianapolis. I have a few Diana and Diana clone cameras, which I use infrequently. I favor an Acme brand clone on those rare occasions when I shoot color film. The lens produces just enough chromatic aberration to be interesting. I will generally use Kodak Portra 800 for color. I have a couple flipped-lens brownies which I occasionally use with respooled TX400. Finally, I have a homemade anamorphic pinhole camera, and I use Ilford Pan F Plus 50 with that.

Emerging from War David A. Cory

Emerging from War © David A. Cory

Chuck: How do you go about processing your film and creating finals of your images?
David: I develop most of my black and white film with Diafine, which is easy to use, is not very temperature dependent, and can be reused over and over. I have experimented with Caffenol, which is a homemade developer made from instant coffee, powdered vitamin C, and washing soda. I don’t use it a lot because it’s single use and can’t be stored, so you have to mix it each time you want to use it. For color processing, a local camera store still develops medium format film. I scan the negatives with a Canoscan 9000F. It’s inexpensive, works well, and comes with a 120 film holder. Using VueScan software, I can import the images right into Photoshop. I will say the healing brush in Photoshop is one of the greatest inventions in human history, as it allows me to get rid of dust specks that inevitably get on the negatives while they’re drying. I do some minor adjustments in Photoshop, then save the images both as PSD and JPG files.
I can make up to 13 inch prints on my Epson R3000. I generally use Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper and Quadtone RIP software for printing, but recently I’ve found I like the look of black and white on Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl paper.

Chuck: Is there anything you’d like to say to new photographers just starting out?
David: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Follow your bliss!

Check out David’s Website and Facebook page.

The Selling of Lomography

by Chuck Baker

Lomography means different things to different people. I won’t go through the complete history of how the word came to be, you can read about it here, however the meaning of Lomography has changed since the Viennese art students using the Russian-made LOMO LC-A founded The Lomographic Society International.Picture of Old Diana Camera

Lomography, for me, has come to include cameras and a style with roots established well before Lomography was in vogue. It use to be just “shooting with goofy cameras” for a certain effect that was attainable only from these cameras, before scanning and Photoshop existed. This discipline, if you will, included cheap and sometimes crappy toy cameras along with old Brownies, Agfa’s, pinhole cameras…you get the picture. The emphasis being on “cheap” crappy cameras, many with plastic lenses and light leaks producing heavily vignetted images with dream-like qualities. Each camera producing it’s own unique effect.

I love it when people get interested in photography. That they are helped along by the hipster appeal of the Lomography phenomenon is unimportant and I certainly enjoy the results by both beginners and experienced artists. I have many cheapo-plastic-flipped-lens-analog-digital cameras in my arsenal that are used for those subjects calling for them.Flipped Lens Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

What does bother the grumpy side of me is the “club” mentality associated with Lomography, somehow being more important than what is being produced with the camera. Maybe it’s that I find the Lomography company’s advertising campaign irritating…”it’s cool to shoot with plastic” or “use crappy film and be surprised by the results”. With that said, I actually have a great respect for the selling of Lomography, it is brilliant marketing. That cameras worth $5 can be sold for $50 or more and inconsistent films are sold at high prices makes that evident.Toy French Fry Camera

I have very mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I like the fact that more people are experimenting with photography, for whatever reason. On the other hand, the selling of Lomography can blind new film photographers from seeing that cool or hip is basically a waste of time and energy. I’m not so sure that someone wanting or needing to label themselves as a photographer should be concerned about how cool their camera is.

I hope that those who have been swept up by lomography as an expressive tool take the time to find a camera at a flea market or accept that old box Brownie camera given to them by a family member. Think about where that camera has been and what images it has produced…clean it up, load it with film, and do photography with it…that is cool!

Separating The Photo From The Subject

by Christopher Hosford

Is there a difference between the quality of a photo and the impact of the subject? I’ve seen this debate online more than once, and often the accuser—yes, generally, there is some judgment attached to this question—says that photographers are just suckered by a great scene.

An especial target of online ire is nudes. This is particularly so with “ambitious” photographers with expensive rigs, often featuring a lovely young woman wearing very little or no clothing. If the lady is subtly lighted to give a sense of artistry, and the photo is (invariably) in black and white, the social “likes” rocket skywards (ahem, hope I’m not getting too metaphoric here). Offsetting this is the occasional pushback from bluenoses.

Prudes aside, there are others who dismiss these kinds of shots as “just one more fill-in-the-blank.” I’ve seen this accusation when it comes to gorgeous sunsets, towering mountain scenes, and rusted old automobiles. The point of the offended parties is: Does one more photo of a wrinkled old blues singer from the Mississippi Delta constitute “good” photography?

Immediate Family by Sally Mann

Immediate Family by Sally Mann

Shock value also figures in the photo-as-subject topic. Recently the New York Times explored the impact of the photographer Sally Mann, in particular her 1992 book of photos titled, “Immediate Family.” It was, as you may recall, black-and-white photos of her three children, all under the age of 10, at the family’s remote summer cabin along a river where the children played and swam in the nude. I remember this book vividly, and admit I was mildly disturbed by it. Is Sally Mann a good photographer or just an exploitative one? As to whether she’s an exploitative mother, I’ll leave that question to others to answer.

Also in the category of photo-as-subject is photojournalism. Years ago I had the good fortune to work as a newspaperman side-by-side with Rocco Morabito, who won the Pulitzer for his photo, “The Kiss of Life,” a photo of a utility worker giving mouth-to-mouth to a co-worker after he went unconscious following contact with a low voltage line. Photojournalism, in fact, may be the quintessential example of photo-as-subject. Can we really judge the photographic “quality” of the naked Vietnamese girl running  away from a napalm bombing, or the Kent State shooting aftermath, or photos of Confederate dead on the Antietam battlefield?

The Kiss Of Life by Rocco Morabito

The Kiss Of Life by Rocco Morabito

My take here—a still evolving one—is that “been there, done that” photography has little relevance to the photographer. The act of making a picture is to satisfy the photographer (or, sometimes, a client). If we wish to compete with Ansel Adams or Rocco Morabito that is fine, as long as we know we’re not competing with photographic history. If our photography of the nude body or rusted old cars provides us opportunities to explore planes of light and shade and excellence in our work, that’s good, too, no matter how often it’s been done before.

 

Whether you’re a writer, doctor, scientist, architect, teacher, plasterer, bricklayer, or photographer, the act of doing is only partially a technical one. It also is—primarily?— an exploration of the nature of vision, sentiment, and understanding of ourselves and of others. Our daily work comments on what we are doing now, not on what others have done.

Whether the lovely lady or the rusted car have been photographed by others a million times is immaterial. I’m talking about work that is informed not by imitation of other work, but by a love of current work.

Is all photography “Been that, done that?” Who cares?  Rather, “Be there, do that.”  Accept the details of life, and take pictures of it again and again. Through repetition, the image will come into focus.


From Chuck: Chris started and moderates the Facebook group “Kodak Brownie Fans“. I’m excited about Chris contributing his thoughts and ideas to this blog.