Here is a treat for any Burke & James 4×5 Press owners out there, a remastered pdf version of the original Burke & James press manual which I own. I’ve had a copy of this manual on this site for years, but the quality of that one was rather bad. The new PDF that I created for this version should be much better.
The manual should be able to answer any question you may have about the Burke & James press, and uses some awesome mid 20th century terminology such as Rugged Aeroplane Metal Body. But, as far as I’m concerned, the best part of this manual are the endorsements by the legendary photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig that appear throughout it.
The best one of these being a letter written my Weegee which appears on page 5. After some marketing blurbs about the B&J Press, he provides some personal tips on how to being a freelance photographer.
FREE LANCING with the B & J PRESS CAMERA
— by ARTHUR (Weegee) FELLIG
“I use a B & J Press Camera in my work as a free lance Press Photographer. It will photograph anything from a crying baby to a roaring 5 alarm fire. It’s the best all-around camera I know of — and I ought to know as I’ve tried them all.”
“If you too want to make money free lancing with a camera, get a B & J Press Camera — and after you get it, study it thoroughly at your leisure. When you are at the scene of a story you have to work fast furiously — and sometimes at a fire at night, while people are screaming and being rescued, the best shots are made the first few minutes. That is why you must know your camera and be able to work it in the dark or by sense of feel. I find the B & J Camera wonderful for working in a hurry as it has no useless gadgets to get in the way.”
“Here’s how to get tips when a good story is breaking. One of the best sources of information nowadays is a midget radio tuned to the police alarms . . . also I would go around to the press room at police headquarters. That is where all the police reporters wait around for a story to break. They’re a good bunch of fellows and will welcome you . . . and besides, they can always use an extra hand at their card games. When a story breaks, they’ll take you along with them. The newspapers are always short of cameramen and will welcome a free lancer to give them coverage — especially at night when their staff men are home. They’ll always be glad to use you, rather than wake up their own men and break the next day’s schedule.”
“Here are some helpful hints which I hope you’ll find useful:
Don’t take a picture of someone just looking into a camera. Editors don’t like stiff, posey shots. Catch your subject doing something to give it the human touch.
At auto smash-ups don’t throw lighted cigarettes near the scene of the wreckage. It’s apt to ignite the spilled gasoline and start a fire or explosion.
At fires, don’t drive over the stretched hose lines, as you may break them.
If you promise a cop or a fireman personal prints, keep your promise. This will make everlasting friends.
At the scene of a story, don’t wait around for something to happen with your camera in its case . . . have it out and all set. You never know when something will happen.
If one of the crowd asks you a question, don’t give them a wise crack flip answer. By being polite you’ll be tipped off to good exclusive pictures.
Play ball with the other cameramen. If they should miss a shot, offer them one of yours. This will make friends.
After you sell the photo to a local paper and if you think it has more than local interest, offer it to the big syndicates like Acme Newspictures, etc., and also send a copy to Life Magazine as they pay well.
On pictures with lots of property damage, offer them to the trade magazines also.
And in conclusion, always act like a Gentleman. Don’t worry about a press card. Your B & J Camera will get you through any police or fire line. That’s what the boys on the papers use and you will be one of them.”