Buried Treasure

One of the joys of lifting old floor coverings is finding the magazines and newspapers that were used decades earlier to level the surface before the lino, vinyl or carpet was laid. When we moved into our current house, we found newspapers with articles about setting up the NHS and the Berlin airlift.

I recently acquired a couple of magazines that my parents had discovered under their flooring. I was very pleased to discover that they were old Amateur Photographers, which provide a great snapshot of the state of the art nearly sixty years ago, not only through the articles and features, but also in their copious advertising.

As you will see from the scan, October 1962 included a lighting and flash guide, illustrated on the cover in much the same way that almost every subject used to be illustrated on the cover of photography magazines (a tradition that some camera magazines still maintain).

The adverts highlight what was new and exciting about the early sixties technology – both with respect to high end capabilities of the cutting edge cameras, and also the increasing availability of more affordable mass market equipment.

Affordable is of course a relative term. A movie camera that cost £36 might not sound too pricey to modern ears, but in the early sixties that was a couple of week’s wages for someone on the average male manual wage. And the advanced capabilities of the Kodak Retina Reflex III would set you back a couple of months of hard earned pay packets. And then a few more for the extra lenses, flash, close up, and other accessories.

The expenses didn’t stop there either. We’ve all got used to the fact that now, once you’ve bought a digital camera, or a phone, you can take thousands of photos without spending another penny. You might even print one or two on your low cost printer. But it was a different matter when a twenty exposure film cost a day’s wages to buy, process and print. Most amateurs wanted to make every shot count.

Only the professionals could afford to click away merrily and take hundreds of photos for the sake of the one or two that really worked. But now we are all David Bailey. Assuming we can find the menu item that makes the photos black and white.

(author : Dave Smith)

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