jonathan pearlman

jonathan pearlman

FINE ART Photography


I'm a fool for vintage cameras. But my small(ish) collection has grown slowly over the years due to a condition known as money.  So it was fortuitous for me that I celebrated a milestone in birth years recently and was handed a carte blanche by my better half with permission to go slightly bonkers online.

Which I did.

The five cameras you see above are the result of serious research and frenzied auction activity over a two month period and which culminated in a grand opening (as a result of a grand wrapping) a few days ago.

Unfortunately, the photo belies both my acumen as a professional photographer and the hard work spent in restoration. Interestingly, and as an aside (albeit one of great importance), all the cameras you see here are of the folding (or bellows) type. Their combined timeline spans just three decades of the twentieth century and they represent a fascinating history of the camera.

Allow me to elucidate (from left to right):

THE CONLEY was produced in Rochester, NY around the beginning of the twentieth century. This particular model dates from 1909 with an unknown provenance. The case is seal leather (ouch!), the bellows leather, the base floor Indian Mahogany and the lens surrounds nickel plate. I have all six original plate holders which are double sided and the obscured glass (which is used to correctly frame and focus prior to exposing the plate) is perfectly intact. The camera is now fully restored: the wood cleaned and polished, the glass cleaned, the leather dubbined and the shutter still works perfectly. In due course I will purchase sheet negatives for the plate holders and fire off this 106 year old beauty.

THE KODAK AUTOGRAPH No 3, SERIES H also produced in Rochester but by Eastman Kodak. This model dates from around 1910-12. Seal skin (yikes again) leather casing, leather bellows and brass fittings. Six hours of massaging with 'Autosol' uncovered a most stunning lens fitting, the likes of which I have never seen before. The camera can be modified (with some degree of difficulty) to take 120 film (medium format) but I'm in no hurry: this gorgeous addition can sit proudly as a showpiece, not a workhorse. Provenance is unknown.

KODAK VEST was mass produced in the first decade of the twentieth century until around 1924. This particular model dates from 1910 and is almost certainly of the type that was widely used by soldiers on the battlefields of France and Belgium in the Great War. I would love to think I own a piece of that history, but alas and alack I have no way of knowing. Bellows are leather and the camera is encased in a metal body. With some modification to the film, the camera might accept 35mm for pinhole type lomography.

ZEISS IKON 'IKONTA' OR IKON 512 dates from around 1938 and was manufactured in Germany. Accurately dating and identifying the different Ikon models is a maddening experience: the factory in Dresden (destroyed in 1940 by Allied bombing) pushed out over 100 models in one year alone. Provenance is unknown, but I guess that it is an export model given that i bought it from the USA. The camera has leather bellows, a Novar/Compur shutter with Zeiss lens all encased in a hard leather case that folds down to the size of large box of matches! Excitingly, it accepts 120 film. Watch this space!

THE BURLEIGH BROOKS, KNOWN AS THE BEE BEE, was manufactured by Certotrop in Germany for export around 1938. It is a stunning plate camera packed with many features: rack and pinion horizontal adjustment, removable lens, spirit level, double extension leather bellows all packed in a hard leather casing (what else?). I have all three plates to which I will add cut sheet negatives; the obscure glass is intact and clean as are the attached black curtains  which helps to block out some light (but too small for me to poke my head through).

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