This is not really a write up about the evolution of photography, more about my personal experience and how is this part of our business ‘NCAS_48’.
By the way, images from NCAS_48 are on sale through PICFAIR: https://ncas-48-fair.picfair.com/
After my dream being a pilot was shattered, due to me wearing glasses, I started out in a career in photography. Accurately more correctly in dealing with photography, but my education and training brought me face to face with darkroom work, yes in those times we still used chemicals and paper, and photographic work, from weddings (not so successful) to medical (not so much fun in running flashlight cables through blood puddles on the floor) to industrial (lots of fun).
Of course the type of photography I love is in travel and, what is nowadays called street photography.
In selling cameras, projectors and darkroom equipment I learned a lot about the equipment of the day and the customer preferences. Since I worked in a small camera store on Hamburg-Harburg, I became involved in virtually all aspects of the business, except bookkeeping. An activity, I still don’t enjoy today.
Being young almost everything was exiting and fun. At least most of the time. In our company we have had a lot of apprentices. Apprenticeship in Germany is something very different to what is is here in Australia and it covers much wider professions. The training also included many more aspects, such as retail management, etc..
One of the tasks I liked was to go with one of my female colleges to develop customer films.
In this small room, which smelled of developer and fixer, we had to take the film out of the cartridges and clip it, together with the customer id, on to hangers into the developer.
After 5 or 6 minutes, we had to take it out and move to the stop bath and on to the fixer.
All this in total darkness.
Imagine a young guy and a girl in close proximity and not being able to see anything.
Though there was never enough time to get into real mischief, apart from a stolen kiss and a hug.
That went on for some time until we dropped some films into the developer tank, which was nearly 1.5m tall. Since I was taller, I had to try to get my hand to the bottom of the tank and angle the film out. This created a lot of developer stains on my lab coat and caused the film to over develop. Not good for the customers results and their enlargements.
Of course our senior wanted to know why the coat got so dirty and the films got overdeveloped and called us for rapport. As a result we were not allowed together in the darkroom again.
One day a week I would travel to Hamburg-Altona to attend the professional school. We learned everything from the mechanics of cameras, to optics and darkroom technics. One of our teachers was a chemist from Tetenal, a company which manufactured photographic chemicals in Hamburg, Dr. Mutter. He was not a typical teacher type, though he had possibly more in depth knowledge about the processes than any other teacher in the country. He loved chess and taught us. So half of our lessons, was playing chess. I don’t know where from, but there were at leat 10-15 chess boards in the class. Often these classes were the last one on a Friday and subsequently went over time, until the school caretaker throw us out.
Over the years I got to work with and own many cameras. My first camera was a roll-film, 6x9cm camera, a very common format those times. 6×9 cm would give us 8 pictures per roll, if I remember right. A far cry from the 36 pictures you would have gotten on to a normal KB roll (Kleinbild or 24x36mm film). Everything was manual of course and usually in Black and white.
I still have some of these pictures in my school work books and the quality of these comparatively basic cameras was incredible.
Of cause many other of these pictures were made by famous brands like Voigtlaender, Zeiss Ikon, Agfa and Rollei.
But as 35mm film became the dominent format. I still remember when the factory rep brought in one of the early Topcon Reflex cameras. This Japanese manufacturer was one of the top three Japanese manufacturer in those times.
Of course brands like Leica, Rollei, Zeiss were the jewels of the industry, together with the spy camera Minox, all build in Germany, but these were expensive, much too much for our modest apprentice salaries.
Even after I finished my formal education in 1967, I only earned about 700 Deutschmark a month, which is possibly as much as the jobseeker (unemployment) allowance is in Australia nowadays.
So one of my first system cameras I owned was a Practica from East Germany with a famous Jena lens. I also often used an Exacta, as well from East Germany. My boss was very generous and allowed us free loan of any second hand camera the shop had and sometimes even new stock over the weekend.
In fact Claus Schroeder, was most generous. He gave us, though mostly I used it, access to the darkroom after hours. Working on the enlargers, where the girls, interestingly it were almost always women who worked in our darkroom and enlarged and processed clients pictures, I developed my own pictures.
He only charged us the cost of the paper.
In those years simpler camera technology emerged. The Kodak Instamatic and the Agfa Rapid. Both designed to bring photography to the masses. Cheap, easy to handle and reliable cameras. Film sales boomed and the darkroom created great income, if you consider that the standard 6×9 cm print cost between 1.20 and 1.50 DM or about USD 1.00.
Of course in the 70’s and beyond, with automated processing and the appearance of discounters, like ‘Tausend Toepfe’ (Thousand Pots), the price dropped to 30 pfennig a print. This also made many of the darkroom girls redundant. But that was after I left the store and moved on.
— End of part 1 —