Sunday, February 25, 2007

You Can't Take It With You

Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

A long-time camera enthusiast passed away in late October, and the fellow, in his 80s, had been a founding member of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society. He owned this house for a long time, and used it mostly as a place to store his hoard of accumulated cameras. According to his nephew, who has the task of emptying the house for sale, it was wall to wall with stuff with little aisles to walk through the 1500 square ft home with a finished basement. The old man had spent many years accumulating this stuff, and it had taken over his life to the point of being a sickness. The irony of it all, is that he had a card on the wall, stating he was taking it all with him when he died.

So what happened is that the nephew has to sell the house of course, and the Michigan Photographic Society is doing the work of sorting, identifying, pricing, and arranging to get this massive amount of photograhic material into the hands of others to make some money for the estate. The society gets a 20 percent cut, which is pretty fair.

I spent 7 hours there yesterday, sorting, identifying and pricing cameras. I handled hundreds and hundreds of cameras. We found many gems among the stones, and even the pebbles were interesting.
We found some pricey items like a Canon rangefinder - a beauty of a camera similar to a Leica, Leicas, Contaxes, more Nikon Fs than anyone should have, a pallet of Polaroids, obscure little French cameras, Graphlexes, mounds of crappy caameras, Dianas and a phalanx of clones, SLRS by the boxful, box cameras by the boatload, armies of Arguses... do you get the picture? I have never in my life seen such a house filled with stuff like this.

The sad part of it all is that this guy would shlep stuff to sell at the camera show and never sell anything because he always, always had it marked too high. Rarely did I buy anything from his table, as he evidently thought the book value was the going rate. Sure it is, for highly desirable items. But he never had those out. In the end, we'll be able to buy it for pennies on the dollar in some cases.

This also points out a few things. When we collect, we should be discerning in what we collect. To merely accumulate a houseful of EVERYTHING photographic isn't collecting, it's accumulating and hoarding. Nobody benefits. The guy picked his stuff up at garage sales, estate sales, and wherever he could get a bargain. He rarely passed the stuff on to anyone as far as I know. If you wanted a Diana, by God, you were going to pay $50, because that is what they sold for on ebay -- never mind that he had somewhere around 50 of them, and they were in a box...somewhere.

So, yes, collect and enjoy your treasures. But if they are sitting in boxes and bags all over your basement and around your house, it ain't a collection. It's a tragedy.

The sale announcement is here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tower Camera

From tower camera

Last Father's Day, Marjorie and I went on a little backroads trip and ended up in Mason, MI, and shopped around at the antique mall that is located at the edge of town. It was interesting checking out some of the stores and finding some different items than we had been seeing at the usual antique places we have visited. I found a box of cameras, and every one of them was $10 or less, which is quite find. I spotted one that was unsual, and after seeing the "Tower" name on it, I knew right away that it had once been sold by Sears & Roebuck. I purchased it, and a while later, cleaned it off and shot a roll of Agfa APX with it.

The Tower 50 camera shown here was made by Iloca in Germany in 1956 for Sears. It features a 2.8 Cassar lens (I am assuming a Tessar-style), shutter speeds B- 1/200, and zone focus. It's actually a nice little camera to use. Iloca made a number of cameras for others (as well as under their own name), and Sears sold a variety of cameras with the Tower brand that were made by a variety of companies in Japan and Germany.
Here are a few shots from last June (I finally developed the film on Sunday).
Backside of the UM Art Museum:
From tower camera

The Ants in the Alley

From tower camera


From tower camera

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Plus-X Forever?

Argus color still life
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Someone recently gave me a vintage unexposed roll of Kodak's Plus-X Pan from 1955. It was as shiny and new as the day it was sold, and I figured it deserved to have its photo taken with a camera of the same vintage, an Argus C-3.

This little tableau brings to mind Kodak's current state of affairs. The announcement that Kodak may spin-off its film business is a crying shame. The CEO Perez (a former H-P officer), is determined to make Kodak and entirely digital company, that will, in the end, have no products that distinguish it from all the other companies they are competing with. I can imagine George Eastman rolling in his grave. OK, you idiot. Sell off the film business and have it re-emerge as the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company once again.

To the new company -- promote the hell out of film and show why it really is archivally superior to digital in so many ways. Don't forget the millions of feet of movie film stock that you produce is vastly superior to the digital movie experience. Promote it, and compete with Ilford, Fuji, as a film company can, and accept the smaller niche. I think if that happens, things will work out. But Kodak might have to dump their CEO no matter what, once they lose their cash-making division, and people stop buying whatever digital products Kodak is making in favor of others like Fuji, HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark...

George Eastman, R.I.P.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sexy Kowa Six

Sexy Kowa Six
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

For some time I have wanted a medium format SLR with a 6x6 cm format with the ergonomics of a Hasselblad, not the Kiev 60 tank that I have had for a number of years. Last year, Marjorie saw a Hasselblad 501CM at Big George's and with some trading, and a generous discount, she soon was the owner of one of the best systems available. I, being cheap, or at least bargain-oriented, wanted a similar camera, but with affordable lenses. I love twin-lens reflex cameras, but they can be fiddly, and hard to find the appropriate filters, etc. In addition, they generally suck at doing close-ups.

So, even though I have a Mamiya 645E, and Pentax 6x7, I really wanted a better square format camera to replace the Kiev 60. My obvious choice, going the non-Hasselblad route, would have been a Bronica SQ series. Expandable, reliable system with different backs, prisms, etc. Not too expensive, either. I looked at KEH and saw I could put a kit together for less than $400.

I also saw how some people really liked the Kowa Six and Kowa 66 cameras. Their relative simplicity, nice ergonomics, well-regarded optics, and beauty intrigued me. Then, I saw one on ebay with no bids for $149.00! I put on a bid, and fully expected to be outbid. There were no other bidders. Within a few days, I had the camera in my hands, complete with a manual (yay!) and lens cap.

The film spools through inside like a Rolleiflex, as the back is not detachable. But it also allows one to use 220 and 120. Great option!
I borrowed Marjorie's Hasselblad strap, and took the camera out yesterday. It was bitterly cold when the wind was blowing. The waist-level viewfinder and beefy controls allowed me to use the camera with golves on and not frost up the viewfinder. Wonderful backwards images appeared in my ground-glass screen. I shot a roll of Tri-X that came with the camera.

frieze demolition

Not bad. I love it already. Now I am selling my Kiev 60 on ebay. Anyone need a camera that will stop a bullet?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It Was All Good

Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Thursday evening was the reception for my "Through A Lens...Softly" exhibit of images made with "toy" cameras. It was fun, invigorating, fulfilling, and on top of all that, I sold some prints. By Adrienne's and my best counts, we think 65 people attended the opening reception. A lot of my friends from Flickr and the Krappy Kamera Club were there, and so were neighbors, co-workers, Adrienne's friends, MiPHs members, and I think only 5 or 6 people were there that we did not know. The food and drink held out well, and UM Catering did a fine job. Of course, I wish we had served wine -- I might have sold a few more photos!
Matt and Dennis
It was a tremendous ego-boost, obviously, but I also enjoyed hearing WHY people liked certain images, which were their favorites, and explaining what toy cameras are all about. I think I explained "Silver Gelatin Print" more than a couple of times, too.
The Piano Lounge gallery is an excellent place for a show, high visibility, inviting, but not in the way.

Yes, it was my first exhibit, and a successful opening, too. I hope there will be many more. The next one WIll be easier!