Press photographer gear in the 40's and 50's?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Shootar401, Apr 11, 2013.

  1. Shootar401

    Shootar401 Member

    Messages:
    355
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    New York
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I posted this same question in another forum, and nobody really knew the answer. I was hoping it would get different responses here.

    For a press photographer in the 40's and 50's shooting a 4x5 speed graphic, what would be the lenses that one would carry? Aside from the standard 127mm and 135mm would there be a wide angle? Maybe a 10" or 15"? Or did they just use one lens and do what they could? I always see documentaries and all I see are 135's and 127's. They look like they are traveling light?

    Thanks
     
  2. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

    Messages:
    1,925
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jesus, man. ONE LENS is sufficient! The pressmen had enough weight to worry about, and most (from what i've heard) would lock the focus and shoot hyperfocally, as it made it easier to deal with the g/n of flashbulbs. I'm sure many would have had a backup or maybe a second lens in the giant vulcanite box, but certainally not when they were moving around.

    The notable exception i can think of may be the tele-optar some may have additionally carried for paparazzi stuff to get in closER, but in old photos you can see the pressmen weren't afraid to get close, unlike the superzoom creepers of today.

    Personally, I prefer a 150 on my Speed.


    *disclaimer* I may or may not know what the heck i'm talking about
     
  3. AgX

    AgX Member

    Messages:
    11,171
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I guess the equipment would be dependend on the part of the world you are considering.
     
  4. nyoung

    nyoung Member

    Messages:
    371
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The guys I knew who did it mostly used the Grafmatic 6 shot backs so all focusing was done with the Kalart rangefinder.
    Focusing on the ground glass was just not happening in the press environment.

    Thus they used the one lens that was on the camera as lens swapping would have meant recalibrating the rangefinder - not something you're likely to do in the field on a moments notice.

    Other than the camera and a couple or three grafmatics, the flash gun and a pocket full of Press 25 or #5 flash blubs was the essential kit. If you look at the press work from the period you'll see many many images made with the direct bulb flash, even outdoors, because of the maximum lens apertures and film speeds.

    The phrase "F8 and be there." to describe press photography's most important duties came from this period.

    Toward the end of the Speed Graphic era in the 70s I saw some rigs outfitted with the Honeywell/Singer Strobonar electronic flashes but by that time most guys were moving on to the new 35mm systems as fast as they could.

    The Associated Press and Time Life have published several "best of" photography books that give the camera specifics for each image. Flipping through one of those will give you an idea of how the press camera/twin lens/35mm eras overlapped. The mighty Speeds lasted farther into the late 20th century than most folks imagine.
     
  5. GregW

    GregW Member

    Messages:
    185
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Location:
    East Coast
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,057
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I was given my first 4x5, a Speed Graphic with no front shutter, by a free lance photographer in 1937. Normally a 127 or 135 lens. Very few used Grafmatics because of their weight and it was much faster to load and unload regular holders in the darkroom than the Grafmatics. The free lance photographer lived and died with the speed with which he could get a print to the newspaper. Some, especially those who photographed sports and needed to act fast, and those who had to travel light because of not having a car, used filmpacks (16 sheets in a very lightweight magazine).
     
  7. noacronym

    noacronym Member

    Messages:
    245
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The 135 Optar IS a wide angle lens to a fair extent. He held the camera up, gave a peep through the Kalart, and bingo. Then enlarged the big negative to get the photo to be run in the paper. Didn't take much with those halftone plates and newsprint paper to have something good enough to run. Usually walked around at 1/100 and f/8 with what maybe--Super XX film? That's about all there was to it.
     
  8. FL Guy

    FL Guy Member

    Messages:
    45
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2013
    Location:
    right here!
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Grab some old "'60's vintage" Photojournalism books......

    As a kid I remember going through 60's vintage "Photojournalism" books (they were "vintage" then), and there were plenty of descriptions of the typical Press "kit" back in the 50's and earlier. Photographers from newspapers in Milwaukee, NYC, Louisville Courier-Journal and other locations had a boatload of 4X5 Speed Graphics, film holders, extra 4X5 Graphics with different lens boards (getting around the rangefinder calibration issues), with most of the gear stored in the huge trunk of some then-current Ford or Chevy. And those cars had room for "junk" in the trunk.

    Some of the most elaborate pieces were the gear used for sports photography in that day, guys over the press box with a who-knows-how-long majestic glass in front of some hybrid camera/film holder combination. They pre-focused the lens (via ground glass back) for baseball games to catch 1st, 2nd and 3rd base positions and used intuition to get the shot. A different era......

    Even when that book was published, MF was widely accepted in the Press field, 35MM was coming on board.

    The comment on the photographer Weegee is spot-on..............the trunk of his car looked like a small closet of a Speed-Graphic collection. If these guys were ever rear-ended, not good for maintenance of the LF "fleet".

    Stay Safe,

    FL Guy
     
  9. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Location:
    Jackson. MS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am certain that more than a few packed the 90mm WA Raptar/Optar to go with the Teles. I recall seeing photos of Margaret Bourke-White with her (Pacemaker) Graphic having three rangefinders (the top mount Graflex with side mount Kalarts on either side.) After seeing that I always craved a left mounted Kalart.
     
  10. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Location:
    Jackson. MS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Though Maggie probably had Ektars or something even cooler.
     
  11. MDR

    MDR Member

    Messages:
    1,397
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Location:
    Austria
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The Graflex with the 135mm was the standard in the US , in Europe you had some Leica and Contax shooters as well as the Rolleiflex and a few Ermanox cameras. The main cameras from the late forties on was as far as I know the Rolleiflex. The Graflex, MPP and other lf cameras were used by a few photographers but were not used that much by euro photojournalists.

    Dominik
     
  12. AgX

    AgX Member

    Messages:
    11,171
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,518
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well by the 40's many US press photographers were using 35mm and 6x6 cameras. Not all used Speed Graphics some used reflex grahics,

    In Europe the 9x12 Avus style cameras were the norm befrore WWIIwith some SLR's as well, the UK was similar but cameras like the Sanderso were more common and therre were light weight press Reflex cameras like the Press Dallmeyer with faxt lenses. Smaller formats took over during the war.

    Ian
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,467
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I believe that a hat was a required piece of equipment.
     
  16. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

    Messages:
    2,266
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Location:
    Metro DC are
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    for the 4x5 guys they had the luxury of cropping and the editors weren't afraid to do it (like we are nowdays)
     
  17. premortho

    premortho Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2012
    Location:
    Bombay, NY
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I worked on a suburan Los Angeles newspaper for a shot time in the early fifties. I never saw anyone use a 70, or 80 and not even a 90mm lens. My newspaper never used Graphmatic film holders. I carried four sheet-film holders loaded with pan film, for shooting females for the woman & Home section, and Super Plenachrome in 12 shot film packs for everything else. I remember one guy who carried a 110 mm lens. Most guys used either the 127 or 135 mm lenses. I used a 150 mm on my Speed Graphic, and carried a Premo Senior 3.25X4.25 film pack camera for a spare. I used Press 25 flash bulbs. I normally pre-set the distance on the focusing scale at either 12 or 25 feet, which I marked with red fingernail polish. I kept the lens set at f22 or f32, and use flash to control exposure. If I was more than a half hour from the office, I loaded an old Kodak film pack developing tank in a daylight changing bag, pre-rinsed for 2 or three blocks, pulled over, dumped the water into a can, filled the tank with developer, and drove to the office. When I parked at the office. I dumped the Rodinal dilute developer, water rinsed for 2 minutes, poured out the water (into the bucket) put the hypo in and carried the tank to the art department editors desk. I'd have to leave it on his desk for a minute or two, while I described the action, then dumped it out in the darkroom, put rinse water in it and went back to the editor, and we pulled the photos out to see if they were any good. Well, that was the news racket when I was young!!
     
  18. premortho

    premortho Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2012
    Location:
    Bombay, NY
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I forgot to say, I never cropped a shot...except at gunpoint. 4X5 covered 2 column inches wide by 5 inches long. So art contact printed my (and others) photos, because it was faster. Occassionally one would be enlarged to 6X8 or 8X10. By using 2,3 or 4 column inch pics, set-up (print) was much faster. We put out 4 to 6 editions a day. All we ever heard was Pictures, I need pictures! All dy long this went on. So you composed your shots to use the whole frame. Without crowding. (No "choke shots")
     
  19. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Inactive

    Messages:
    8,093
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Location:
    Connecticut,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    What a cool story!!

    That's literally probably something that will never make it to the history books, and it's that kind of stuff that to me is important, because its stuff that at the time we take for granted that now wouldn't even have occurred to us.

    I was doing a movie scene this weekend and driving an old Cadillac and Buick from the 60's/70's and the Gil they put in the car to play my date was shocked to see the bench seats, she had never seen a car with bench seats and only even noticed because I moved the seat up to adjust for driving.

    It was funny because I took it for granted as my mothers first two cars I rode in as a kid had them.

    But she had never seen a car like this.

    Being such a control freak with my developing I can't imagine just throwing some developer in a tank while driving haha, but I think it would be fun, I wish they could have like a "newspaper history week" where the newspapers all used old film or something. Wouldn't happen but would be cool.


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  20. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,607
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Did you find certain roads were better at agitating certain developers?
     
  21. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,921
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Makes for an interesting agitation regimen.
     
  22. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Inactive

    Messages:
    8,093
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Location:
    Connecticut,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Hahahaha!! I would suspect paved roads gave you less grain but off roading have you better sharper images :wink:


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  23. mhcfires

    mhcfires Subscriber

    Messages:
    585
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    El Cajon, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The streets of LA in '50s combined with the stiff suspension of the cars was sufficient for agitation, especially if you hit the streetcar tracks.
     
  24. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Inactive

    Messages:
    8,093
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Location:
    Connecticut,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    :smile:


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  25. premortho

    premortho Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2012
    Location:
    Bombay, NY
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    O.K, loved the quality of street paving suggestions. I used Rodinal 1 to 100 usually on the road. I had never developed 4X5's in a dunk tank until I worked for the newspaper. At home I tray developed with continous erratic agitation. And yes, crossing the street car tracks helped agitation, I'm sure. I only developed Super Plenachrome that way, and then only when trying to make the next edition on time. In the newspaper darkroom I had to learn how to develop in the tanks.
     
  26. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Location:
    Jackson. MS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I love stuff like this.