Saturday, January 14, 2006

It was a more enchanting era when you made friends at the camera store standing around drinking coffee. Browne's Photo Center was the store. That's where I met Paul and Louise Dana way back when, a pair of avid amateur photographers who befriended my wife Stephanie and myself. Paul was about to retire as a mechanic from Pan Am and Louise was a commercial artist who mostly worked at home. She was a lot younger than Paul, perhaps mid forties at the time. He liked view cameras and his Leicas, and bought the first M5 I ever saw. Louise was an Alpa girl, with an assortment of Switars and Kinoptic lenses. They had a darkroom set up in their house west of Miami Lakes back when there were cows still grazing there, rather than the houses and hi-rises that sprouted a decade later.

Al Olme was the manager of Browne's, and every weekend he'd make sure that a whole bunch of us would gather at somebody's house or another, compare notes and prints, discuss what progress we were making with out various photography projects, then we'd set up the slide projector as it got dark, and show one another our latest Kodachrome marvels. Some of us had pull-down screens mounted on the living room wall, a projector living on a projection stand or a bookcase by the opposite wall, always plugged in and ready to go. Everybody had pretty much standardized on Kodak Carousels, but the Danas insisted on a Leitz Pradovit with its superb Leitz lens, and always brought their own projector.

When our daughter Elena was born in 1971 Louise fell in love with our baby. She was childless herself, and doted on our daughter. We spent even more time visiting them, having dinner with them, and taking pictures in their garden. That's where I made this picture, in their back yard.

I'd borrowed Paul's 8x10 for awhile but it was HUGE, and film cost was a killer. I had a 4x5 monorail Graphic view camera because a lot of jobs required one in those days. But I also had (and still do) a nineteenth century E. & H. T. Anthony 5x7 view camera with leaky red bellows. I got new red bellows made. I had a 203mm f7.7 coated Kodak Ektar for my 4x5, and it more than covered 5x7. The combination gave me a lightweight flat bed field camera with a reasonable amount of swings and tilts. I probably made 4 or 6 exposures of Paul and Louise, and the print looks to me like it was printed on DuPont Varilour. I have no idea which box now has those negatives, or even where the box might be around here. It's easily been 25 years since I last saw Paul and Louise, and about that long since I last used the camera, but I ocasionally get it out and admire the varnished mahogany, the brass fittings, the workmanship you only find in fine furniture, and even then it's rare today.


Anonymous Moi said...

Great writing but I can't seem to find the photo that you are referencing in this entry.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Al Kaplan said...

It's immediately below the post. I screwed up and it ended up as two posts. Sorry!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Todd Frederick Photography said...

Wasn't it great when you could go into a camera store, the owner knew you personally, and cared about how you were doing photographically? These stores were also like classrooms, and they maintained good relations with their customers as well. There was one like that when I first started in the late 1950s, and they nurtured me along. In turn, I bought my supplies from them. We both won.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Al Kaplan said...

The stores would extend credit themselves. You didn't need a Visa or Mastercard. You signed for what you bought, got a statement the first of the month. If times were tight or you bought a new camera or lens you made a partial payment. If something you were looking for came in used they'd call and tell you about it. The owner's wife, Alice, was always baking goodies to put by the coffee pot, and she crocheted a baby blanket when my daughter Elena was born. They even went by the hospital to visit my wife and see the newborn infant.

7:42 PM  

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