PhotoHistory XI: Lively Look at Photographic Past
by Sharon Bloemendaal
Reprinted with permission from the January 2001 issue of The New
York-Pennsylvania Collector, a monthly antiques newspaper, (800) 836-1868,
About 250 collectors and historians from nine countries and 25 states attended
PhotoHistory XI, the 11th triennial symposium in Rochester, N.Y. 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.
Attendees mingled and met fellow collectors, and listened and learned about all
types of cameras, photographs, and the Internet as well.
The reception 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), I’ve
gotten to know many collectors and dealers.
The Portland, Ore. Collector’s group was well represented, with 17 people from
nine states attending PhotoHistory
A SCHOLARLY AND FRIENDLY SYMPOSIUM
Jack Bloemendaal, 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 am. 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 speaker.
Rodger Kingston 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.
Matthew Isenburg’s 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 collection – of a Civil War general and a minister. He dedicated his
talk to William C. Darrah, whose book on CDVs enriched the world of
The Internet was discussed by three speakers, followed by a question-and-
Christopher Mahoney of Sotheby’s, New York City, noted three records set by
Sotheby’s: $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 (pronounce it “ooova”), 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 facelift – with 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 eBay’s 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 didn’t like the
computer.” He said that the Internet saves time and traveling expenses. The
times of the great shows are over, he said, “I don’t 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!”
Frank Calandra of Rochester, N.Y 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.”
Calandra suggested that sellers avoid putting mundane items on the Internet –
it’s easier to get them at Walmart. “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
Sotheby’s/Christie’s suit settlement was recently announced). Christopher
Mahoney reported that the collusion investigation was only on the commission
rates, “It hasn’t affected my market at all”
One comment on straw bidding on eBay, “They can’t police the entire Internet.”
How do you decide whether a piece should go to a traditional or online action?
Sotheby’s 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 clients.
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 Youth’s 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,” he concluded.
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 Godey’s 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.
Another speaker was Tim Fuss, on
colorful Kodak cameras. He showed slides of many of the cameras, as well as the
ads proclaiming the new look.
Thurman (Jack) 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.
Hans Bjelkhagen (UK, from Sweden) spoke on Lippman photography, interferential
color photography from 1891 to the present.
Richard Morris (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.
The after-dinner 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 Plato’s 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 Edinborough (Scotland) letter to the editor decried young men watching
the camera obscura (probably written to drum up business).
Their working 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.
Eight fortunate people were able to sign up for a wet-plate workshop lead by
Mark Osterman and Frances Scully-Osterman.
Photographs by Sharon Bloemendaal (clicking on small verson brings up a larger version … using the
right click on a PC mouse allows you to speed up viewing by opening the image
in a second window and when you close that window you are right back here. You
can do the same thing with a Mac by keeping the clicker depressed a couple of
01. and 02. Among those attending the meeting on the Future of Collecting were, from left,
Elizabeth Soderberg and Matt Isenburg (Hadlyme, Conn.), Frank Pinchak (Clifton,
N.J.), Jack Naylor (Brookline, Mass.), Robert Wilson (Toronto), and George
Gilbert (New York City).
03. Three ladies who returned to the symposium are, from left: Bea Cohen (Memphis,
Tenn.), Lady Ostapeck (Fly Creek, N.Y) and Mary Carroll (Whittier, Calif.)
04. Christopher Mahoney (Sotheby’s, New York) Frank Calandra (Rochester, N.Y) and
Uwe Breker (Auction Team Koln, Germany) discuss the Internet for the crowd.
05. Newsletter editors from photographic historical societies met over lunch on
Saturday. From left, Chester M. Urban (Sutton, Mass.), Michael Hanemann, (Portland, Ore.), Cynthia Motzenbacher (Michigan), Robert Lansdale
(PHS Canada) Bill Carroll (Western PCA, California), Ralph London (Cascade
PHS, Oregon), Robert McElroy (Buffalo, N.Y.), John Cameron and Janice
Schimmelman (Rochester, Mich.) and Larry Gottheim (Yonkers, NY).
06. The local members posed in the west garden of the the George Eastman Hoouse.
From left, Frank Mehlenbacher, Hubert Sapp, Frank Calandra, Jay Allen
(Indianapolis), Grace Holloway, Robert Navias, Bob Bretz, Dick and Martha
Casey (Oxford, Pa.), Sharon Bloemendaal, Dick Haviland, Grant Haist, Jack
Bloemendaal, Theron Holden, and Bob Herden.
07. A working camera obscura was set up by Jack and Beverly Wilgus in the white
tent on the grounds of the Eastman House.
08. Hans Bjelkhagen, from UK, spoke on Lippman photography, interferential color
photography from 1891 to the present.
09. Nick Graver showed slides of numimatic/photographic items from 1837 to 1998:
coins, bank notes, advertising coins and commission scrip.
10. Jim Morsch, program chairman, found speakers from around the world.
11. Richard Morris (UK) shared information on John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882),
the first photographer in Wales.
12. Tim Fuss spoke on colorful Kodak cameras; he is also president of TPHS and
13. Talking at the buffet were Marilyn and Nick Graver (Rochester, N.Y.), Ruud Hoff
(Amsterdam, the Netherlands), and Eaton Lothrop (Miller Place, N.Y.).
14. Ira Medcalf (Richland Hills,Texas) and Janice and Dale Rossi (Limerick, Pa.)
look at a stanhope with Bobbi and Ralph London (Oregon) at the reception.
15. Eaton Lothrop (Miller Place, N.Y.) spoke on the first 100 years of the
Brownie camera.— —
16. Speaker Janice Schimmelman explains a detail about tintypes to a listener.
17. Suzanne Flynt shows an example brought by dealer Josh Heller of a photo by
Frances and Mary Allen, photographers from Historic Deerfield.
18. Jack Bloemendaal, general chairman of PhotoHistory XI (and of five previous
symposia), celebrated his 60th birthday at the reception with a camera-shaped
cookie. Six candles were on the “flash.He is also the co-founder (in
1966) of The Photographic Historical Society, the first such group in the
19. Peter and Barbara Schultz (Providence, LI.) brought an 1878 Rogers group of the
20. This photograph of a forge, taken by Myra Albert Wiggins, once hung in George
Eastman’’s office, said speaker Carole Glauber.
21. Discussing Graphlex at the buffet were from left, Mike Hanemann,
Ore.), editor of the Graphlex historical Quarterly, Tim Holden, long-time
Graphlex employee, and brothers Steve and Alan Redeker of
Sacramento Calif, and Glens Falls, N.Y.)
22. Wooden and leather covered 1900-1910 cameras were priced
$75 to $275 by Tim Fuss (Rochester, N.Y.).
23. Page and Bryann Ginns (Valatie, N.Y.)
offered a Stirns Vest Detective camera for $1950; and a
1890s Expo Police Camera, $850. A whole plate ambrotype of a couple in front
of a farmhouse was $750.
24. A posing chair in the foreground is near a table of photographs
at the trade show.
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, Mass.)
Ruud C. Huff of Amsterdam, Holland offered a postcard-size Contessa Nettel
tropical model for $625. He reported, “I’m quite happy [with sales]. I loved
the symposium; I’ve seen people I’ve 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, N.Y.) 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” for
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 sale.
Charles Green, 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 moment.”
McKeown brought the prototype of his McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique & Classic
Cameras, 2001-2002. This 900-page 11th edition is $139 hardbound and $101
PhotoHistory XII 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
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
THE FUTURE OF PHOTOGRAPHICA COLLECTING
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.
Bob Lansdale, editor of Photographic Canadiana, reported, “On hand were
representatives of collector groups from New York, Massachusetts, California,
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Rochester, N.Y, as well as The Daguerreian Society;
The Movie Machine Society, the International Kodak Collectors Society and the
Photographic Historical Society of Canada”
The societies that seemed most energetic were the New England and Canadian
groups, as well as The Michigan Photographic Historical Society.
The Daguerreian 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]
Lansdale wrote, “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” wrote Lansdale.
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 activity allowed.