U.S. Camera 1943

One of my photography related side hobbies is the collecting of the old U.S. Camera annuals. If you haven’t ever seen one, they’re basically just big year in review books that were release between the mid-30s and 60s. (I think). Each one I own contains work by a lot of the heavyweights of photography – Ansel Adams, Ed Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson – alongside with a lot of photographers I can’t even track down via Google searches.

I generally end up paying around $10 per book, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion to help fill up the photography section of my home library. While now-famous photos such as Ansel Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez make appearances in the volumes, acquiring the lesser known work is where I find the real value of these books. Figured I’d start taking some terrible iPhone photos of a few that I find interesting from each volume and share them.

Bernard Hoffman – A Model Maid

Bernard Hoffman - A Model Maid

Commenting on this picture, Hoffman says: “I had taken the last picture on the last night of the American Legion convention in Chicago. I was so tired that I did not bother to pack the camera — even leaving an unused flash bulb in the reflector. As I walked into the home office building, one of the glamor girls of the night shift stuck her hands on her hips, looked me straight in the lens and said — ‘Take my picture.’ It looked like a masterpiece from where I stood, so I whipped the camera up to a bloodshot eye and squeezed the trigger on the speedgun. It was as simple as all that.” Bernard Hoffman is a native son of New York, who became interested in photography because a drugstore wouldn’t print one of his pictures. The exposure was made with an Ikoflex on Eastman Super XX film and Wabash No. 2 flash. Distance from flash to subject 15 feet with exposure in 1/250th second at f/9.

I like this photo as it feels like it would have a perfect place in my own portraiture. Simple set-up, not glamorized, and shows more about the person than just their face. I look at photos like this and try to imagine how things would look if I had shot the exact same scene in 2012. Plastic buckets instead of metal. A lot of various spray bottles hanging off the edge of the cart, etc…

I really wish though that there was a deeper explanation for the “became interested in photography because a drugstore wouldn’t print one of his pictures” line in his bio.

Edward Weston – Jean and Zohman Charlot

Edward Weston - Jean and Zohman Charlot

Edward Weston has this to say of his picture: “A picture should not need explanation. I discovered the Charlots in this graceful and romantic posture, resting after a picnic on Point Lobos. Call it a candid shot if you will.” Edward Weston, one of the county’s outstanding photographers and first photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, has traveled over 35,000 miles and made over 15,000 negatives in photographing the West. This project, for the Guggenheim Fellowship, consumed two years of time. He is now living and working in Carmel, California. This picture was made with an 8 x 10″ view camera with a 12″ Turner Reich lens. Mr. Weston did not keep a record of his exposure data but says: “It is obviously stopped down to at least f/90, and probably had a full second exposure on Isopan film.” The contact print was made on Haloid glossy paper. Weston composes his pictures, before an exposure, and prints full size of negative.

Now I’ll admit it, I’ve never really studied Ed Weston’s work very deeply. To me Ed Weston always conjured up the notion of studio still lifes and peppers. When I saw his name in the table of contents I thought to myself “Alright 1943 U.S. Camera. Are you going to show me a pepper, or something completely unexpected?” Unexpected is was. Maybe I’ll have to give Weston a deeper look now.

Thomas B. Hollyman – National Pastime

Thomas B. Hollyman - National Pastime

The occasion for this picture was a Negro baseball game at Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis. Walking around in the grandstands, Hollyman photographed these two Negro boys. He says that they were the essence of all grandstand fans with their jazz banded straw hats, soda pop, loud yelling and lusty laughter, shirtsleeved arms and peg-topped trousers. The shot was made as part of a layout for Pictures, the rotogravure section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Photography first got its grip on Hollyman during a trip to Europe, in 1936, with a college dance band. Until recently, Hollyman was a staff photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Now he is a 22-year-old private in the air force photo section at Victorville, California. Picture taken with a Rolleiflex on Super XX film. Exposure in 1/100th of a second at f/16. A G-E #5 flashbulb, covered with a handkerchief picked up the foreground and balanced the sunlight below the stands.

Street photography from behind — the easiest to take, and the hardest to make interesting as far as I’m concerned. I just liked this one because I feel that he pulled it off.

Esther Bubley – Checkers

Esther Bubley - Checkers

“These checker players were photographed at the Game Room in the Kips Bay Boys’ Club in New York, where I took a series of shots of club pictures. When I first brought my camera in and was setting it up, pandemonium raged around me, and I was sure the thing could not be done. But once I started to work, I was amazed at the marvelous cooperation of the boys. They loved to pose; they loved even more to hold the lights, and were charmed by the fact that they could see each other upside down in the ground glass. I had to use time exposures, but they held poses and expressions better than many adult models I have worked with. I am 21 years old, and was born and lived for about 19 years in Wisconsin. My first ambition was to be an artist. I went through two years of college and gradually acquired an interest in photography. Getting a job doing photo-finishing while trying to earn money to attend art school probably had a great deal to do with the fact that when I did get to the Minneapolis School of Art, I had decided to take their photography course — which I did. Then I came to New York; studied at the School of Modern Photography; wandered around working at various places — from Vogue to a night club in Brooklyn taking quickie flash souvenir shots; and then migrated to Washington, where I am working for the Government as a junior photographer.” The equipment used was a 4 x 5″ view camera on a tripod and three #2 photofloods in hand-held reflectors; an outfit which I know is not generally considered the best for taking pictures of young and active children. The exposure for this particular shot was one second at f/32/ The film used was Tri-X and it was developed in DK-50 for normal time.

I hadn’t ever heard of Esther Bubley until the Duluth Art Institute did a retrospect of her work in 2011. Since she was a Twin Ports native, I’m just going to give her some special treatment though from now on simple for being the hometown photography hero.

E. Schniewind – Fisherman at Gaspé, Canada

E. Schniewind - Fisherman at Gaspé, Canada

One of several hundred pictures taken on a trip through Canada and the Graspé Bay country. Schniewind was making a collection of pictures with an eye towards a magazine story. He says that this is the best of the lot. He didn’t want the fisherman to look right into the camera, but waiting so long for the gulls to fly into a good position, that he had forgotten the man by the time the exposure was made. E. Schniewind is an American who studied architecture in Switzerland. He has lived abroad for over twenty-three years but is now practicing photography in New York. The picture was made with a Rolleiflex on Superpan Supreme film. The exposure made in 1/100th of a second at f/6.3, in late afternoon with hazy sun. Film developed in X-33 formula.

Category Vintage Media