Tuesday 27 July 2010

The Joy of Old Photography Books

I have never paid more than £12 ($18) for a camera or more than £5 ($8) for a lense. That is one of the beauties of using analog gear - it's very cheap, second hand. I have also never spent more than £2 ($3) for a photography book, and often a lot less.

Although digital photographers could learn a lot from pre-digital photo books, I am glad these old volumes are largely forgotten, because it keeps them affordable.

The joy of pre-digital equipment is the solid feel and quality of the workmanship and old photography books have the same sort of reverence for handiwork.

One such book is "Manual of the Miniature Camera" edited by Charles Duncan, first published in 1938 by George Newnes Limited.

It is a nicely illustrated collection of articles from eminent fellows of the Royal Photographic Society. It covers everything from the different models of cameras and accessories available at the time, through processing and printing, to specialist subjects like travel and action photography.

There are fascinating little bits of photographic history in here. In the section on "Press Photography", James Jarche describes an exciting moment when a bystander broke from the crowd and headed for the king during a two-minute silence on armistice day. In spite of a ban on photography during the silence, he captured the moment when several policemen flattened the man in front of the podium.

The section on "Differing Types of Miniature Cameras", for example, is a pure, nostalgic drool-fest. I have scanned a few of the pages for the reader's appreciation. Click on the images for enlarged versions.

Here is a page showing an early Leica rangefinder, a Contax II rangefinder, and a Contaflex TLR. Now nearly 80 years old, there are still working models of these classic cameras available for anything from £50 ($77) to £500 ($770).

Check your attic! If you don't have one of these beauties up there, maybe you at least have a lovely old book about them ...

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