Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Beginning, An End, And a Strange Twist



I started buying most of my photo supplies at Browne's Photo Center back in the 1960's when he was on N.W. 22nd Ave. just north of 79th St. It was kind of a seedy place in a borderline seedy neighborhood, but he always had tons of used equipment and a good well stocked section of papers, chemicals and film. He also was pretty free about offering a "house account" back in those days when "credit card" meant Diners Club or American Express and nobody could envision the cashless society soon to come. My friend Al Olme started working there, and I'd get hot tips on just arrived used things as they showed up.

After a few years Browne moved to a trendier location on Biscayne Blvd. and 82nd St. and added Leica to the lines of Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and a bunch of other brands he stocked. He had a large darkroom section with about everything you could think of from enlargers to half a dozen brands of paper. He carried large format film and the cameras and lenses to shoot it. Browne's wife Alice, who was also the book keeper, was the best pastry cook I've ever known, and there were always her home made sweets by the ever full coffee pot. There were almost always photographers gathered around too, drinking coffee, chatting, comparing notes on the latest film or the newest lens.

Al got promoted to manager and Browne (nobody ever new his first name - he was either Mr. Browne or Brownie) hired a new "kid" to work there, Clark Vegazo. Well, Al moved to Minneapolis, Clark got promoted, and eventually Browne just got too old. Browne's Photo Center was closing, and Clark gave me a call. He gave me a few odd items like a right angle arm and Gitzo pan head (I'd been using a Slick ball head)for my Gitzo Studex, stuff that would be hard to sell but he thought I might be able to use. Then the store was empty and I didn't see Clark again for probably twenty years or more.

One day within the last year I was hanging around the coffee pot (sound familiar?) outside the council chambers at city hall and Ilene, the director of the North Miami Public Library, came over to me with an excited "My husband says you know each other!" Turns out that she was married to Clark. A couple of weeks ago she'd completed her twenty years with the city and decided to retire. They honored her at the council meeting that night. She's the blonde lady in the back. The guy with the big white head takes part in some childrens' programs at the library that Ilene instituted. I'm not sure who the black woman is.

You realize how fast the years fly by when you attend the retirement party for the wife of "the kid". I still use the Gitzo pan head on a regular basis, and occasionally the cross arm when I use the tripod as a copy stand. I miss the social life of the old time camera store. I thought of that this morning as I phoned in an order to B&H Photo in New York. They don't send me cookies either.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the black woman in the picture...lol. I work at the north miami library as a library aid. nice article.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i used to work at Browne's when i was in high school back in 1978. i remember working with two guys, jim and BP i think their names were. one of them owned a pit bull he used to bring to work with him. brings back memories.

12:29 AM  

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