Lively Look at Photographic Past
by Sharon Bloemendaal
YorkPennsylvania Collector, a monthly
antiques newspaper, January 2001
About 250 collectors
and historians from nine countries and 25 states attended PhotoHistory
XI, the 11th triennial symposium in Rochester, NY. These are both
major and beginning collectors, authors, educators, curators and heads
of photographic history organizations.
Held since 1970,
the event is sponsored by The Photographic Historical Society in conjunction
with George Eastman House, the premier photographic museum.
and met fellow collectors, and listened and learned about all types
of cameras, photographs, and the Internet as well.
was lively. I enjoyed seeing friends that I had not seen for three
years. As I have attended all 11 symposia (as have many others), Ive
gotten to know many collectors and dealers.
Oregon, Collectors group was well represented, with 17 people
from nine states attending PhotoHistory.
A Scholarly and
the general chairman, in his opening remarks, noted that the first
symposium was held in 1970, about a month before our older daughter
was born and her second child was born earlier this October.
Saturday was busy,
with talks from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the afternoon presented choices,
with five concurrent sessions (generally on either equipment or images).
These sessions enabled TPHS to feature 16 speakers and to give both
the technology and image fans a chance for a full day of their choice.
All talks were so interesting that we hated to miss five talks! The
time was short but introductions were brief, thanks to Nick and Marilyn
Graver, who compiled a handout of biographical information on each
praised anonymous photographers. He noted that Beaumont Newhall presented
photohistory as art, ignoring snapshots and the vernacular. Kingston
noted, With anonymous photographs anything is possible. He noted
that there were more sophisticated photographers than books would
have you believe. He has 3,000 such photos in his collection, and
presented slides of many of them.
topic was The Mighty Carte de Visite the Paper Daguerreotype.
These almost baseball-card-size mounted photos were mass produced.
He noted, Photo albums married to a card mounted photograph
made CDVs popular in the 1860s and 70s. Isenburg, a preeminent
collector of daguerreotypes, reported that his collection was enhanced
by CDVs. He used the information written in pencil on the backs of
CDVs to identify daguerreotypes in his collectionof a Civil
War general and a minister. He dedicated his talk to William C. Darrah,
whose book on CDVs enriched the world of photographic literature.
The Internet was
discussed by three speakers, followed by a question-and-answer period.
of Sothebys, New York City, noted three records set by Sothebys:
$387,000 for a Southworth & Hawes full-plate daguerreotype (19th-century),
$607,500 for a Charles Sheeler industrial photo (20th-century) and
in October, 96, $184,000 for a daguerreotype of Frederick Douglas.
He recalled the April 99 David Feigenbaum collection, which
had 70 daguerreotypes by Southworth & Hawes.
Uwe H. Breker,
founder of Auction Team Koln in Germany, asked, What makes an
item a collectors item?
- * Historical
background: such as a pre-1935 Leica or the 1860s Dubroni (the first
instant camera); Auction Team Koin sold it for a record $14,400.
- * Rarity: (pre-1860).
- * Desirability:
(the Photosphere is attractive).
- * Originality:
this is most 1mportant; forget the regilded Leica, brought down
from a $6,000 to $8,000 value to about $200. The restored Leica
is worthless, he noted; the original patina is important. He compared
a restored camera to a woman with a faceliftwith a stiff face,
she can laugh no more.
Breker likes the
portability of a catalog for his technical auctions in Germany. He
reports that the Internet is a superb additional market to the live
auction. Since eBays success, our auctions are doing even
better.... Auction fever is spread to everybody now. Thanks, eBay.
He adds, We are very successful in buying on the Internet, and
getting two to three times what we paid and selling to collectors
and museums and those who didnt like the computer. He
said that the Internet saves time and traveling expenses. The times
of the great shows are over, he said, I dont see any dangerous
competition from online auctions. The online auction is totally public.
Why are there price differences on camera guide and public auction
prices? Breker said that desires and demands differ by country. The
French like their classic stuff better than the rest of the world.
Auction Team Koln
sold an Enigma, the WWII decoder, for $51,000. He summed up, The
good stuff is getting scarcer and scarcer. Prices for good collectors
items can only go up. Happy hunting!
of Rochester, NY, began by saying that the Internet was one of the
few things that the government invented that was beneficial to us.
The World Wide Web (www) was meant for the exchange of documents and
information by research scientists. He was realistic, saying that
99.9 per cent of the web content is totally useless, but that still
leaves a lot. He commented that the auction web quickly became the
900 pound gorilla on the Internet. Content is king on the Internet
and always will be.
that sellers avoid putting mundane items on the Internetits
easier to get them at Wal-Mart. eBay stays healthy because of
low overhead. While not totally online (it purchased Butterfield
& Butterfield), it is looking into fixed price items.
The benefit of
the Internet is that buyers can dial into millions of items, and the
seller has a global group of buyers. While Calandra has purchased
from many countries, including Slovenia, he says, The brick
and mortar world is not dead yet. Search for your treasures
at a variety of sources, he recommends.
One of the first
questions for the panel was on collusion in bidding (the Sothebys/Christies
suit settlement was recently announced). Christopher Mahoney reported
that the collusion investigation was only on the commission rates,
It hasnt affected my market at all.
One comment on
straw bidding on eBay, They cant police the entire Internet.
How do you decide
whether a piece should go to a traditional or online action? Sothebys
signed up trusted dealers and gallery owners to become Internet associates.
The Internet is better for lower end items, using a $3,000 to $5,000
minimum for live sales.
Breker noted that
six percent of his market is to the German people, the rest to international
Eaton S. Lothrop,
Jr., a collector of box cameras (and single use cameras) spoke on
the Brownie camera In the 1890s the Harvard camera (75 cents with
a tripod and providing five new subscribers to the Youths
Companion) met the need for an inexpensive camera for children. The
1895 Pocket Kodak was $5 when the average income was $415 per year.
The 1900 Brownie camera was just $1. Lothrop related how the 1897
Palmer Cox fairy tales caught the public eye; he told the story of
the Brownie, including the Baby Brownie designed by Walter Dorwin
Teague in the 1930s, the 50s Brownie Hawkeye, Starflash, Starflex,
Starmatic, and the 110. I wish the Brownie a happy birthday,
Myra Albert Wiggins
was a photographer in the late 1800s in Oregon. Carole Glauber pointed
out her trials and triumphs. She studied under William Merritt Chase,
photographed San Francisco, had photos in Godeys Ladies Book,
shot rural and Dutch peasantry-type photographs, used a cartouche-like
monogram MAW to replace her signature, and won many prizes
as an amateur photographer.
Why did Janice
Schimmelman begin collecting tintypes? Because they were inexpensive,
and because she found them at the many trade shows she attended with
her husband John Cameron. She spoke on the development of the iron
plate in American photography. The article in the October issue of
The New York-Pennsylvania Collector is based on a chapter in her upcoming
book. So why is it called a tintype when it is on japanned sheet iron?
Because tin was slang for cheap money, and the tintype
is the smallest and cheapest ferrotype.
was Tim Fuss, on colorful Kodak cameras. He showed slides of many
of the cameras, as well as the ads proclaiming the new look.
Naylor spoke on his new collection. After he sold his extensive camera
collection to the Japanese government for a museum in Yokohama (reportedly
for several million), he started over and filled his whole museum
again (with 25,000 items), but with a higher percentage of images.
(UK, from Sweden) spoke on Lippman photography, interferential color
photography from 1891 to the present.
(UK) shared information on John Dillwyn Llewelyn of Wales and a relative
of Morris wife. Llewelyn was the discoverer of the oxymel process,
which used honey and vinegar.
Nick Graver showed
slides of numismatic/photographic items from 1837 to 1998: coins,
bank notes, advertising coins and commission scrip.
Theron (Tim) Holden
can be called Mr. Graflex, as he worked for the company for years,
and had photos from 1952 to help attendees tour the Graflex plant.
If anyone knows the answer to a Graflex question, he does.
Suzanne Flynt spoke on photos by Frances and Mary Allen, photographers
from Historic Deerfield (1895-1915).
Thomas G. Yanul
of Chicago offered an exhibit of banquet photography in the Eastman
House Conservatory. His handout talked of the history
(and the problems of lighting) of such photographs.
The evening grazing
buffet (with harp music) coincided with the opportunity to hear the
huge organ that George Eastman once listened to during his breakfasts.
topic, the camera obscura, was given by Jack and Beverly Wilgus of
Baltimore, MD. Their search for camera obscuras was reflected by their
slides of these tourist attractions in several countries. They began
by noting that Platos cave may have been a camera obscura. The
Chinese built one around 400 B.C. The darkened room with a small opening
to project the exterior view upside down on the opposite wall was
noted by 10th- and 11th-century Arabians; Leonardo da Vinci described
the camera obscura in 1490. They noted that an Edinburgh (Scotland)
letter to the editor decried young men watching the camera obscura
(probably written to drum up business).
camera obscura, about a 10-foot cube, was set up in the George Eastman
House gardens. The white tent with a black inner lining was relatively
light tight and was visited by a huge numbers of attendees and museum
visitors. A table in the center had the reflection of the museum;
the view could be changed by the operator. It was staffed by docents
and Rochester Institute of Technology student volunteers.
people were able to sign up for a wet-plate workshop lead by Mark
Osterman and Frances Scully-Osterman.
Trade Show Features
Cameras and Images
A trade show on
Sunday at the Rochester Marriott Thruway attracted buyers from the
community as well as registrants. Bob Navias was trade show chairman,
filling two ballrooms with 82 tables filled by 60 dealers. Here were
books, cameras, posters and Kodakery, the early 1900s magazine for
amateur photographers, as well as images: ambrotoypes, calotypes,
tintypes, cyanotypes (blue) and daguerreotypes.
Dick Casey of
Oxford, Pa. offered ambrotypes, daguerreotypes and tintypes ranging
from $3 to $100. Military carte de visites were tagged from $2 to
$50 by Robert G. Duncan (Holyoke, MA).
Ruud C. Huff of
Amsterdam, Holland offered a postcard-size Contessa Nettel tropical
model for $625. He reported, Im quite happy [with sales].
I loved the symposium; Ive seen people Ive corresponded
with for the past 15 years.
Mike Kessler of San Juan Capistrano, Calif. put a price of $650 on
a toy 1890 magic lantern by J.S. of Germany, and $475 on a circa 1900
zoetrope, probably by Ernst Plank. He had sold an English mahogany
carte de visite box with four compartments, priced $350.
Dealer Josh Heller
(Victor, NY) offered a Muybridge print for $300. His photographic
prints were sorted by category: children, women, men, animals, police,
railroad, exterior scenes, etc.
David B. Chow
offered Steiglitz 1906 photogravure, The Swimming Lesson
One seller was
surprised to see silverplated Kodak spoons sell at $10
each or four for $30. They were presumably deaccessioned from the
company cafeteria; she had acquired them at a Rochester, NY rummage
age 12, who was featured as a young camera collector, attended the
trade show and spent all of his hard earned money. He had looked forward
to meeting Jim McKeown of Grantsburg, Wis., author of the definitive
price guide to cameras. He was surprised to find that McKeown (who
began collecting at age 12) wanted his autograph. It was a Kodak
the prototype of his McKeowns Price Guide to Antique & Classic
Cameras, 2001-2002. This 900-page 11th edition is $139 hardbound and
is being planned for October 2003. Save the month. Some attendees
came to Rochester early to study the extensive photographic and equipment
exhibits at George Eastman International Museum 0f Photography and
FilmSome made the pilgrimage for the first time.
TPHS offered to
publicize other shows on nearby weekends. The Photographic Historical
Society of New England held its show in the Boston area the following
Bea Cowan of Memphis,
Tenn., summed up her collecting philosophy as she bought a book on
photography with a forward by Einstein, You never find everything;
there are always variations on a theme.
Nick Graver, who
has visited many photographic museums, collections and trade shows
in several countries, said, Nothing else is quite like it in
the whole world.
The Future of
What is the future
of collecting? Many photographica societies are graying groups. Representatives
from several groups met at the end of the PhotoHistory Xl opening
reception. Bernie Danis of the American Photographic Historical Society
(New York City) was chairperson.
editor of Photographic Canadiana, reported, On hand were representatives
of collector groups from New York, Massachusetts, California, Michigan,
Pennsylvania and Rochester, NY, as well as The Daguerreian Society;
The Movie Machine Society, the International Kodak Collectors Society
and the Photographic Historical Society of Canada.
that seemed most energetic were the New England and Canadian groups,
as well as The Michigan Photographic Historical Society.
Society (with 1,000 members) and the National Stereoscopic Association
(with 3,100 members. President Mary Ann Sell did not attend, but sent
a positive report later). [The Leica Historical Society of America
has 2,200 members, we learned later.]
Photography, which was the key leisure interest back in the
70s when many of the societies were founded, has now been displaced
by enthusiasm for computers and digital imaging... ..Tho many commercial
fairs are competing for the same vendors and collectors, driving some
societies out of that business... [some societies operate trade fairs
and shows to raise money to support their journals and other activities].
The International Kodak Historical Society is but an Internet chat
site with no dues (is this the way of the future?).
A suggestion of
a national cooperative journal with local inserts failed to win acceptance
at the meeting. Interested editors met the next day at the buffet
lunch to exchange ideas on production and finding writers).
The future of mutual publications may lie in the Internet, where
locally-produced stories could be uploaded to a common site
One of the handouts
at the show was from the Internet Directory of Camera Collectors (IDGC)
a free Forum on using antique and classic cameras, with no commercial