Objective of the collectionI started out with a vague and naive idea that I would collect all the different Leica screw mount cameras that Leitz made. My collection evolved into a vague and naive potpourri of historic Leitz microscopes, camera systems for microscopes, cameras, binoculars, rangefinders, loupes and magnifying glasses, and other things that caught my fancy. So OK, there really wasn't a plan, it just happened.
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PART I - SON
How this all started, or "Gee, they all look different".
My first camera was an Olympus Pen my dad gave me in the Philippines in 1969. My father was and still is an avid photographer and we always had a darkroom no matter where we lived, so photography came naturally to me. Camera collecting, however, came to me accidentally. In 1976, when I left to go to college my father gave me a Zorki rangefinder camera and some Leica and Canon lenses plus his Kodak Retina IIIc set-up. I would have taken the Canon VT too except the cat knocked it off the mantle the winter before. A major shame that, it was such a nice camera, much better than the Zorki. During my first year of college the Retina was stolen. The Zorki was somewhat of a clunker so I bought a (very) used Leica IIIf BD. As it turned out, the Leica needed new shutter curtains so I went down to the local photo shop to see if I could get it fixed. Indeed, I could and while I was waiting for it to come back would I care to buy an extra body as a back up? Strangely, all the bodies he had for sale were just a little different from each other. I settled on a IIc for $100 and the dealer threw in a Leica Manual by Morgan & Lester. While reading the book I became fascinated with the different close up attachments, microscope attachments, gee gaws and other just plain neat stuff that you could screw onto the Leica. One thing led to another and thirty years on I find myself with several tonnes of Leitz equipment from old optical benches to microscope systems to cameras and everything inbetween..... Unfortunately, I didn't stop with Leitz and so what you see here on these pages is my ongoing obsession with all things optical.
PART II - FATHERThe two of us here have somewhat different interests. My son has the collection mania of all things optical, while my interests have been over the years the photographic side of the equation, with emphasis on the resulting photographs themselves rather than the equipment. In order to achieve the desired results, I had to become an equipment and darkroom expert in both b&w and color. A photograph was not finished for me until a framed print suitable for hanging on the wall was produced. I am now 81 years old and unable to manage a darkroom, the framing gear, etc. etc. any longer and, therefore, I have switched to digital.
I grew up all over Latin America and later Spain (my father was a pioneering newspaperman who established the UPI’s world-wide communications systems in the 1930's, a fascinating story in its own right). As result I was bitten by the bug and and served 30 years in the US Foreign Service, hence the variety of locations for the photos. In turn, my children also lived around the world, but don’t seem to be bitten by the Foreign Service bug.
Part of the problem with that sort of a life was procuring photographic supplies and equipment. Since much of it was during WWII, severe shortages precluded easy re-supply and lead to inventive alternatives, particularly when it came to film and paper and their developers.
I really didn’t get serious in working in color until the advent of the C-41 film process for color negatives. Since my favorite medium was the 6x6 format, Ektachrome and other direct positive systems were less appealing. Chemical supplies were always a problem until I came across an outfit called The Photographer’s Formulary, still in business today. It’s specialty was breaking down into manageable portions bulk chemicals for the average low volume home darkroom worker.
During the course of my hobby, I have used a 1914 Auto Graflex Junior, a pre-WWII Plaubel Makina (great machine); 1938 Rolleiflex (now in the museum); a 1938 Leica II(d); a 1951 Rolleiflex (my main camera until the 1970's, in the museum); a Kodak Retina IIIc; a 1956 Canon VT; an 1975 Olympus OM-2n (in the museum); a 1974 Zorki 4K (a clunker, in the museum, but it could use the Canon and Leica lenses left over from the cat-caused demise of my Canon VT); and a 1976 Mamiyaflex, now in the museum. Core darkroom equipment was a 1950's Durst 6x6 enlarger (beautifully designed for its time, in the museum) and a Beseler 23c enlarger, in the museum.
If you own a large collection of negatives and slides produced over the years, one of the disappointments in life is watching them get more and more out of date, grow fungus, and fade more and more, especially those taken on color negative film. My Nikon Coolscan 9000 is a magnificent, if expensive, solution to the problem. It can digitally scan all my negatives and slides up of 6x9cm and renders stunning results as you can tell from the examples I use in the exhibit. The original scans seem to have no limitations to enlarging other than the graininess of the original film.