Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ivan The Lens Man, One Of the Last Of The Great Tinkerers

A few weeks ago I got a call from Ivan. He was giving up his house and trying to find homes for some of his collectables. I'm now the proud owner of a brace of cameras, a 3.25" x 4.25" Speed Graphic and a big Graflex single lens reflex camera taking the same film size. It never was a popular film size in the U.S. but it was fairly common in England where it was referred to as "quarter plate", full plate being 6.5" X 8.5".

I first met Ivan back about 1968 at Browne's Photo Center when it was on N.W. 22nd Avenue just north of 79th Street, not yet having moved to the larger corner location. He worked for some sort of company that used lenses for instrumentation purposes, and they were always buying up strange optics, mostly military surplus I suppose, like Kodak Aero Ektars, but also other oddities like a 100mm f/2 Angenieux and a 50mm f/0.95 Canon, and an assortment of Astro Tachars and Zeiss Biotars. All these were barrel mount fast lenses, but lacked a focussing mount, so when they were finished with the lens it really had little resale value.

Ivan knew that I liked to play around with odd ball lenses and I could invariably figure out a way to mount them on one of my cameras. Over the years he gave me several very unusual lenses that I treasured for the way they rendered things on film. Today we use the Japanese term "bokeh" to describe the rendition of the out of focus areas in a photograph, but thirty years ago we just knew what we liked.

Brownes has been closed for over twenty years now and Ivan has been retired close to that long, but he just lives two blocks away and we often bump into one another when we eat at Jimmies Place. Now if I can just find Al Wessel's phone number and talk him into selling me back that 125mm f/2.3 Astro Tachar that I'd gotten from Ivan thirty years ago I think that it just might have worked on that Speed Graphic!


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