The Antique Camera

November 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The local camera store, ASAP, has a couple of old cameras on display as "decorations", one of which intrigued me for weeks.  I finally asked to borrow it for an evening, and our son being an employee, they consented.  The camera is a Rolleicord, shown below, a name that was unfamiliar to me.  I since learned that the Rolleicord was a "cousin" to the famous professional level Rolleiflex and was marketed to amateur photographers.  The flex versions of the Rollei were extremely well built and were equipped with excellent Zeiss or Schneider lenses. This Rolleicord has Schneider lenses.

Part of my interest stemmed from having owned a Kodak Duaflex camera of similar design in my adolescence.  Another was that a great friend, Thomas Wiborg, a Norwegian student at the University of Wyoming while I was in graduate school at UW, shot a similar camera, maybe a Yashica (Thomas can add a correction below if necessary).  And Thomas got beautiful images with that camera.

The design is a twin lens reflex because of its having two lenses of equal focal length.  The photographer viewed the subject through the top lens via a mirror that projected to the top of the camera body.  The shutter mechanism is contained in the lower lens.  Images were recorded on 120 roll film in a square format, nowadays referred to as medium format.  In use, the camera would be held at the upper abdominal level and was much less obvious than a camera that had to be used at eye level such as a press camera or most of our present digital cameras.

All of this leads me to the name Vivian Maier.  Ms. Maier, a quiet woman and Rolleiflex owner, was a nanny who traveled when she was wasn't working, and shot street scenes.  Her many negatives weren't discovered until after her death, but they are now famous as well as compelling.  Her work is often listed among the masters of twentieth century black and white photography, and in my opinion, she was the best of the street scene genre.  You might enjoy reviewing her work via a simple web search for her name.  Among them are a few self-portraits that she shot as reflections in store windows - holding her Rolleiflex as described above.

An Ancient RolleiAn Ancient Rollei


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