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Need help with 1930 mystery

 
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Renise



Joined: 02 Jan 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Midwest

PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

I am writing a Chicago mystery that is set in August 1930, and I need help in identifying the type of press camera that would be used as well as the type of lighting required.

My preliminary research suggests that newspaper photographers used flash powder and holders, because flash lamps were not available in the US until 1931.

The scene takes place in a small bedroom at night, and the crime reporter (or his photographer) takes photographs of a corpse lying on the floor. There is a ceiling fixture and a bedside table lamp. Would he have enough light to take the shots without additional lighting? If not, can you provide a description of what he would use, how he would use it, and any sensory information that would add authenticity to the scene?

Thank you in advance for your help.
Renise


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photo_trev



Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 8
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah he would have to use a flash, don't know what kind he would use, but for crime scene photography, especially back then flash is pretty necessary.
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Les



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 2682
Location: Detroit, MI

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just ran across a 1956 GE ad in Pop Photo for the new M2 bulbs. The ad goes on to say GE brought the first flash bulb to the US in 1930. Now how many photographers got their hands on one in 1930 is a matter of debate, but Chicago and New York would have been the top cities to get flash bulbs first.

While it's possible for your photographer to use flash bulbs in 1930, powder was still king. The bulbs would not have been synchronized either. He would have opened the shutter, fired the bulb manually and closed the shutter. aka "open flash"

Considering all of the horror stories of flash powder, I have to wonder if they would have used it at all in a small bedroom like that. The stuff was not only a fire hazard but burned very dirty.

there were any number of flash gadgets at the time, from a simple pan that used powder to a frame that used sheets, to flash cartridges where the magnesium paste was smeared into a dished out wooden disc, to a flash cartridge not unlike a bullet.

Depending on the location, they may have brought flood lights rather than flash powder. Better hotels were lit up all the time, butit would have been dicey to set up flood lights in flop houses and slums as their wiring was probably as old as the building.

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"In order to invent, you need a good imagination and a lot of junk" Thomas Edison

[ This Message was edited by: Les on 2007-01-02 19:27 ]
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Doug Kerr



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 177
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, Renise,

Regarding the press camera, in 1930 there would have been two real possibilities.

One would be a Graflex camera (what we afficianados often call the "Graflex single-lens reflex" to distinguish it from other cameras whose "brand name" is Graflex), likley in the 4x5 size. The Graflex was a camera in which the photographer normally focused on a ground glass screen observed from above through a chimney-like viewing hood. A likely model in 1930 would be the Revolving Back Graflex Series B or Series D.

The other credible camera would have been a Speed Graphic (likely in the 4x5 size). A credible "model" for 1930 is one in what is called today the "pre-anniversary" series.

Indeed in 1930 the use of flash lamps would have been unlikely.

A common type of chemical flash that might have been used in that era was Kodak flash paper. This paper was clipped to a sheet of cardboard or a metal reflector and then ignited while the shutter was open.

Other systems used involved flash powder held in a "pan" atop a handle, with a mechanical igniter (operating like the wheel on a cigarette lighter) to ignite a primer that ignited the flash powder, while the shutter was open.

As another member has suggested, the use of floodlights might have been involved in such a situation.

Good luck with your project.

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Best regards,

Doug
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alecj



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 853
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unless time was a constraint, I would think there was the possibility he used the camera on a tripod. Not everything was handheld. Police photogs used them, so why not newspaper photogs too?
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Renise



Joined: 02 Jan 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Midwest

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, Photo trev, Les, Doug Kerr, and Alecj

You gave me exactly what I needed, and my book will be better because of your combined knowledge and speedy feedback.

Thanks,
Renise



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Doug Kerr



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 177
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, Renise,

Don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions here if you get into details of camera usage, appearance, etc.

Let us know when your book is published.

Best regards,

Doug


[ This Message was edited by: Doug Kerr on 2007-01-03 12:43 ]
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photo_trev



Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 8
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

be sure to come back here and let us know the name of the book when it gets published,

cheers,

Trevor
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Renise



Joined: 02 Jan 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Midwest

PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doug, Trevor, your group has been so helpful that I would like to include graflex.org in the acknowledgment section. Thanks again for your support, and I'll keep you posted.
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alecj



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 853
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All kind thoughs are appreciated, Renise. We love keeping these old beasts going, and bringing in new users.

Alec
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Jim23



Joined: 08 Sep 2001
Posts: 128
Location: US/Greater Cincinnati, Ohio

PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An earlier reply indicated the use of electric flood lights - photo floods (today called "hot lights") were used quite often during this period and photo magazines of that era detail their use. This would require longer exposure and the camera on a tripod. In an old photo book I read, I remember seeing an article on evidence photograpy and it showed a press camera on a tripod and "Smith Victor" style photo floods with metal gray reflectors. Kodak made folding metal reflectors to use with photo floods in an ordinary household lamp socket.....I still use a 2x3 Century Graphic and "hot lights" for an occasional portrait or photo of an object.

This type of lighting is coming back, there are lots of uses of "constant light" for digital photography, especially since digicams (jpeg) or photoshop (raw) can set white balance for color (no need for tungsten film or filters).
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