More collection stuff

Over the weekend I went to a camera swap meet in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. You know, one of those things they hold in a hotel ballroom where dealers in used gear set up tables and put out all kinds of odds and ends for sale, and some will actively buy your used cameras too. I can remember not so many years ago when these things were huge, attracting 75+ vendors in some pretty big spaces in some pretty decent hotels.

Now, though, not so much. This show is now in the basement ballroom of what is quite possibly the lowest-rent hotel in Tyson’s Corner (it hasn’t been redecorated since the 60’s). I would guess that there were not more than 20 vendors. To describe it as a flea market would be verging on charitable. There were some nice items, for sure, but most of it was glorified (and some not even glorified) junk. I did see a few momentary temptations (a beautifully preserved Nikon F with the non-metered prism, but it was so nice it looked to be a collector piece not a user), but nothing to compel my wallet to open, camera-wise. I did find some stereoviews, including this one, for $2 each.

Castell Sant'Angelo, The Vatican

I know, here I was saying I’m not collecting stereoviews, which is not entirely accurate, nor is it entirely inaccurate either. I pick up a few here and there when I see one that tickles my fancy. I’m sure that 99% of them when I die will still be worth what I paid for them, in large part because I don’t actively collect. Stereoviews were made in series, much like this one. Underwood & Underwood was one of the largest publishers of stereoviews, and they printed thousands upon thousands of them, with themes like “The Grand Tour of Europe” or “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” or “Vignettes from Oriental Life” showing pictures of the peoples and customs of Asia. They were the 1860s to 1910s equivalent of newsreels and National Geographic movies before motion pictures and television existed, and served to bring the world in all its variety into the homes of the working classes who could not travel and see these things, and perhaps were illiterate and unable to read about them in books and newspapers.

Each stereoview is numbered, and within individual sets, there are always some rare ones. Chasing down the rare numbers reminds me too much of collecting baseball cards, so that’s why I don’t get into it – the image is more important to me than the rarity of the paper behind it. Not that I’d ever turn down a set of Alexander Gardner’s stereoviews of the Lincoln Assassin’s execution. I’m just not going out looking for them.

Washington DC Victorian era photographers’ map

Washington DC Photographers

Here is a link to the DC photographers’ map. I’ve got some more photographers written down somewhere that I’ll be adding to the map soon. I found addresses on a CDV for Alexander Gardner’s studio, but oddly enough there were A: two addresses not adjacent but still proximate to each other, and B: neither one was the address I thought it was. There is still the remains of a wet-plate era portrait studio that you can see from the alley behind the National Council of Negro Women’s headquarters in the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. Even though it’s not a portrait studio, I’m including Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office on the map as a point of interest because it, like so many of these studios, was presumed lost for decades but only recently re-discovered, and is chronologically and geographically contemporaneous with the studios I’m tracking. At some point I’m sure either the patrons or the staff of her bureau availed themselves of the photographic archives of the studios in the neighborhood to help in finding missing soldiers after the war.

Also interesting – Alexander Gardner began his career in Washington working as Mathew Brady’s studio manager. At some point they had a falling out and Gardner opened his own studio. I didn’t realize it was literally next door to Brady’s.

I can also now definitively place Schroeder & Rakeman’s studio in Northwest DC, having found another photographer making reference to the “Market” at Pennsylvania Avenue, which is where the Navy Memorial is currently located.

M.E. Bennet of Washington, DC by Schroeder & Rakeman

M.E. Bennet, by Schroeder & Rakeman, Washington DC

Another little CDV added to the collection, from Schroeder & Rakeman, 344 1/2 Seventh Street. It’s nice to find an image that is identified, even if the subject remains anonymous after the naming. I’ll have to do some digging around to find out who this might have been. Obviously the photo was made post- civil war, as it shows the dome of the US Capitol completed in the painted backdrop. I did look up a map of Washington DC from the 1850s to see if I could find the ‘N.L. Market’ referenced in the photographers’ back stamp. While the building (or place – the market could have been a permanent outdoor location), the address is part of what is now called the “Market Square” office/condo complex, including the Navy Memorial. Another option for the studio would be at 344 1/2 Seventh Street, SE. Which ironically enough puts it within a block of Eastern Market. I can find no reference to Eastern Market as anything other than Eastern Market, however, which throws this location for the studio into doubt.

Updates to the NY photographer’s map

I’ve found some more photographers to add to the map of New York. Again, you’ve got to love some of these self-descriptions of their businesses. Also interesting is the case of C.D. Fredericks, who ran studios in New York, Paris and Havana. Makes you wonder how he managed three studios in such far-flung cities at a time where steam-powered trans-atlantic crossings were just coming in to being, there was no telephone, and the airplane was still an opium-smoker’s dream.

I’ve reorganized the list in geographic order, with the assorted Lower Manhattan addresses first, then the ascent of Broadway, followed by the odds and outliers, including one in Brooklyn.

STUDIO NAME ADDRESS DATES OF OPERATION
R.A. Lewis 152 Chatham Street * unknown
R.A. Lord 164 Chatham Street * unknown
K.W. Beniczky #2 New Chambers Street, corner of Chatham * unknown
Vaughan’s Gallery 228 Bowery unknown
H. Merz E. Houston & Essex Streets unknown
Bailey’s Photograph Gallery 371 Canal Street unknown
O.O. Roorbach, Publisher of Dramatic Photographs 122 Nassau Street unknown
Mathew Brady 643 Bleeker Street (1859-1860)
Jaquith, Daguerrian Parlor 98 Broadway unknown
S.A. Holmes, Daguerreotype Studio 289 Broadway unknown
Josiah Thompson, Daguerreotypist 315 Broadway 1849-1853
J. Gurney & Sons, Daguerreotype Studio 349 Broadway unknown – early
Mathew Brady 359 Broadway (1853-1859)
Bogardus 363 Broadway 1860s
E. Anthony, Publisher, Brady’s National Portrait Gallery 501 Broadway unknown
W.C. Wemyss, Dealer in Photographs, Books, &c. 575 Broadway unknown
C.D. Fredericks & Co
587 Broadway, New York
31 Passage du Havre, Paris
108 Calle de la Habana, Havana
587 Broadway unknown
Anson’s Daguerreotype Gallery 589 Broadway unknown – 1850s
Chas. K. Bill 603 Broadway unknown
J. Gurney & Sons 707 Broadway unknown – mid
Mathew Brady 785 Broadway (1860-)
Glosser 827 Broadway unknown
Bogardus 872 Broadway late 1870s
T.J. Maujer, Passepartout & Carved Walnut frame manufacturer, Dealer in Photographs, Artist’s Materials, &c. 953 Broadway & 183 5th Avenue unknown
J. Gurney & Sons 5th Avenue & 16th Street unknown – late
Loud’s Celebrated Album Cards unknown unknown
Fernando Dessaur 145 8th Avenue unknown
Estabrook’s Ferrotypes 379 Fulton Street, Brooklyn unknown

* addresses no longer exist. New Chambers Street & Chatham Street are now approximately where New York City Civic Center and Police Headquarters are now located.

And now for something completely different… a Stereoview

Stereoviews are not something I routinely collect, because there’s gazillions of them out there (I know, gazillion is such a technical term) and they’re already by themselves a hot collectible. I couldn’t resist this one though because I see pretty much the same view from my office’s conference room window every day. The Lutheran church with the statue in front hasn’t changed, but on the left is now the National City Christian Church, and on the right, the trees are gone and replaced by the Washington Plaza hotel. The landscaping in the circle is completely different, as is the traffic pattern around the circle. I think the land area of the circle island is much smaller, to accommodate additional traffic lanes.

I have done a bit of digital restoration on this scan because the original stereoview has seen better days.

Stereoview, Thomas Circle circa 1880

Getting wet in Puerto Rico

Some underwater shots with the Olympus Stylus Tough 6020. Rated to 16 feet. It was remarkably capable – I think 90% of the shortcomings I experienced were attributable to operator error. The biggest hassle/complaint about the camera that I can point to the camera as the source of the shortcoming is shutter lag. While not such a big deal on dry land where you can stand still, but when your own natural buoyancy combines with the motion of the waves and current, it’s hard to hold still and compose a shot. With too much shutter lag, you end up losing a lot of shots. Something I’m neutral about is the built-in owners manual. The camera does not come with a printed owners manual, but instead has a built-in help system for all the features and functions. The upside is you don’t have to carry the owners manual with you and possibly lose it. The downside is it takes battery power to read it, and the camera is not the most efficient at conserving battery power. According to the camera specifications, you get about 200 shots per charge of the battery. I don’t think I got that many, but I did a fair bit of chimping. I’d say I got between 80-100 shots. I’ve got another gripe with the camera I’ll address in another post.

Some new results from Old San Juan

Just a few better images from the trip to Puerto Rico. Definitely NOT with a view camera – everything was shot with a Contax G2, mostly with the 21mm and 90mm lenses, with a couple of 45mm grabs in there. As always, working with the G2 is a joy, and it produces incredible results. Even though it isn’t “as silent as a Leica”, I enjoy the whirring of gears of the auto-focus, and the snick-snick of the shutter.

I’m some kind of obvious when taking photos, as even when I’m using the G2, which is a pretty inconspicuous camera, I seem to attract attention. My father and I were coming back from dinner and I stopped to take a photo, and this panhandler approaches me. He asks, “How much does that camera cost”? I can tell he’s not a photography enthusiast, so I reply, “I don’t remember, I’ve had it for a while. It takes film” – hoping that will discourage any thoughts of taking it. He then states, “I guess you have a relationship with your camera”. DUH. I do, but don’t even THINK about trying to end that relationship non-consensually. I do have a love affair with my cameras, and I’ll happily share that with anyone interested, but I’ll smack you to the moon if you try to mess with that.

This time, I was paying attention to creating abstract compositions, which is easy in some ways because the tropical light is so strong, even early and late in the day you get powerful shadows and directional light, unless you’ve got profound overcast. The wrinkle is color- because our natural perception of the world is color, working with color film tends to emphasize our connection to the reality of the subject and distract from perceiving it as just line and form. I hope I’ve managed with a few images to challenge that limitation. I know for myself as a predominantly black-and-white photographer that switching gears to see and think in color is hard – some of the photos I took on this trip I can look at and see very clearly that they would be better as black-and-white images. Sometimes color creates contrast that we don’t see when we are used to thinking only of tone and reflectiveness, and sometimes what looks good as contrast between light and shadow looks god-awful in color because it’s too harsh and the color is overwhelmed.

For those who are interested, all these were shot on Kodak Ektar 100 (with a few using the new Kodak Portra 400). I think it is my new go-to 35mm film, displacing even my beloved Fuji Reala. I like the palette of Ektar better now- the Fuji’s greens are a little too strong, the blues and reds a little weak compared to the Ektar. I’m also highly impressed with the Portra 400. I brought along two rolls of it thinking I might use it for some night photos. Dummy me didn’t segregate it from general population in the film pocket of my camera bag, and I accidentally grabbed a roll and loaded it thinking it was still the Ektar 100 (BAD Kodak – the design for the canister is identical except for the text label, so you can’t tell easily through the plastic tube which is which). The upside is, I can almost not tell any difference between them, at least in a scan and a 4×6 print. I’ll let you look through the gallery and decide for yourselves which is which. I’m not telling.

Photography, Alternative Processes, Really Big Cameras, and other cool stuff

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