Something’s missing…

I was delighted to pick up today’s “Herald Sun“, and find not one but TWO full page instances, of classic 1950’s Press Cameras being used in advertising and editorial!! But all is not as it seems, and as this blog’s resident press camera afficianado, pedant and author(!), I feel compelled to point out the things that are MISSING from these two pictures that would make the camera setups not work as they ought.
This first one, featuring a late 40s to early 70’s Graflex ‘Pacemaker’ 4×5 Speed Graphic camera, with Kalart rangefinder and Graflite flashbulb holder, at first glance, looks ok. Sure, the mysteriously famous Alex Fevola is merely resting on the camera, but then, they are heavy… No, there are actual flaws I can see:

1. That’s no flashbulb!! It’s just a regular light globe. For the purpose of comparison, I have made this picture of a fairly standard Press 40 bulb: This is what they look like prior to detonation – much like a regular light globe, except for all the little bits of aluminium wire sprinkled inside… And then AFTER detonation, they look like this: – all spotty, like the surface of an alien planet (it’s a safety laminate on the glass, to stop the glass from shattering, that crinkles and burns slightly).
In the flash holder itself, they look like this: – they stick out taller, and look kind of magical with all the wires reflected in the shiny reflector. Yes, I think I have proven that the Herald Sun pic is using a BOGUS lamp!! What a scandal – they’re not hard to find (I have 100’s!), and even still made, by a company in Ireland, albeit rather expensively…

2. There’s nothing electrically connecting the flashbulb holder to the camera!! Like, when you fire the shutter, what makes the flash detonate?? In this pic, I’ve photographed a similar Supermatic shutter (I just happened to have around!) to show the two posts that are “closed circuit” a short time after the shutter fires: These ought to be connected by a short cable to the two sockets on the Graflite flash holder marked “shutter” – in this picture of a Graflite (I just happened to have around!) you can see the sockets, which are (alarmingly) the same standard as US household electrical points (minus the earth): This camera will never fire its flash, no sir/ma’am! There could be a cable from the focal plane shutter (it IS a speed graphic after all), but you would still see it?
3. The front standard locking lever isn’t in its centre position, meaning that the standard isn’t locked on the bed, and could slip about in an annoying manner – making the rangefinder useless. At least the camera is LEVEL….

And so we come to the second subject: A Myer ad, featuring a charmingly obscure ‘Micro Precision Products‘ Micro Press 4×5 Press camera, again with a Graflite flash holder, aimed at the ribcage of the mysteriously famous Rebecca Twigley. The camera is a gem, representing the creme de la creme of the British camera industry, but once again there are issues…

Dubious composition aside, this time there is NO flashbulb in the holder at all, let alone a cable attaching it to the shutter or camera. Operationally, the placement of the fellow’s hands is odd too – neither hand is in position to focus (the little knobs bottom right of the camera, underneath the lens front standard), and his right hand is nowhere near either shutter control (that silver button on the body, or the catch on the lens itself. Tsk tsk tsk. I really ought to write a letter, but I suppose as consolation, I can write a happily self-indulgent blog entry instead.

All that said, I am still charmed to even see these beautiful cameras here – and two in the one paper! Mon dieu!

5 thoughts on “Something’s missing…

  1. Hi Marc,

    As usual, funny and very informative entry !

    I am impressed that a flashbulbs factory still exists, I didn’t know that, and I am not sure I even already see such bulbs IRL ! Although as a camera gear gatherer, I often haunt old camera fairs.

    One thing make me rather sad, is that current tendency : never vintage cameras was so “hype” in advertising and marketing (especially in the fashion) now , and in the same time, there is a parallel disappearing of a whole cultural field and knowledge around the analog photography.

    This is a thing you point very well in your column, they display old horses, but almost nobody there knows how they work exactly.

    To my opinion, it’s going further than just ignorance of how old gears is working (it’s rather excusable), but it’s impacting too some fundamental knowledge of images and photography. I found I feel increasingly “attacked” (I exagerate) by the way some current advertising are presented : dubious composition (as you noted it), agressive/unreal colors, too accentuated edges, just plain hideous retouching, etc.

    “Tous les gouts sont dans la nature”, we are used to say in French (it takes all sorts to make a world), but I am going to dislike the (marketed) tastes of the common.

    Sorry for this little bittersweet touch in the comments, maybe I feel myself a little old in this moment 🙂



    1. I couldn’t agree more – it was the same vibe when I went on an excursion to the Melbourne Printing museum a couple of years ago – to see all these Linotype machines and trays of lead type – you could just see an entire trade and language fading away with the memories of the extremely knowledgeable old bloke showing us how everything worked. And yet, it is only within even my living memory that these machines were ubiquitous. I saved the lenses (and vacuum pump) of the old process camera from the university newspaper before it went to scrap (for example…).
      I love “Tous les gouts sont dans la nature” – I use the English version ALL the time…

      Cheerio, Marc

  2. Hi Marc,

    Speaking of French, if I can allow myself a personal question : you have a name that seems to be of French origin, can I ask what is your family history ?

    I am interested because, by an amusing coincidence, in the paternal branch of my family, there are ancestors with the Morel name. They emigrate in the first decades of XX century from Europe to America (they established in East coast, near Rhode Island). And maybe they have relatives who go later or sooner to Australia 🙂

    Of course, you can answer me by email if you prefer (the one I given is valid).

    Best regards,


  3. that same week there was a man with a ‘blad too, just cannot remember why. Maybe analog is becoming fashionable eks!!

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