“On land or sea, your camera does the work…”

Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Woman], ca. 1935

The Daniel Cowin Collection of African American Vernacular Photography

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Unidentified Photographer, Bob Capa, New York, 1938

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Weegee, [Press photographers], ca. 1941

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Weegee, The boys were busy, ca. 1945

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Weegee, Weegee with his Speed Graphic camera, ca. 1944

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Graflex, Weegee’s Speed Graphic camera, ca. 1940-47

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The New B & J Press Camera, 1941, pp. 4-5

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The New B & J Press Camera, 1941, p. 21

Weegee purchased a Speed Graphic camera in 1930, nevertheless, in a 1941 promotional brochure for a new Burke and James press camera, Weegee is quoted: “I use a B&J Press Camera in my work as a free lance Press Photographer. It will photograph anything from a crying baby to a 5 alarm fire. It’s the best all-around camera that I know of – and I ought to know as I’ve tried them all.” The New B & J Press Camera, 1941, , p. 5
And Weegee offers a number of slightly amusing helpful tips, including: “At auto smash-ups don’t throw lighted cigarettes near the scene of the wreckage. Its apt to ignite the spilled gasoline and start a fire or explosion… Play ball with other cameramen. If they should miss a shot, offer them one of yours. This will make friends… And in conclusion, always act like a gentleman. Don’t worry about a press card. Your B & J Camera will get you through any police or fire line. That’s what the boys on the papers use and you will be one of them.” p. 5

In the last chapter, “Camera Tips,” of Naked City (1945), Weegee wrote:
“The only camera I use is a 4×5 Speed Graphic with a Kodak Ektar Lens in a Supermatic shutter, all American made… I always use a flash bulb for my pictures which are mostly taken at night… I also use a Graflex flash synchronizer and the exposure is always the same, 1/200 part of a second stop 1/16, that is, at a distance of ten feet… If you are puzzled about the kind of camera to buy, get a Speed Graphic… for two reasons… it is a good camera and moreover, it is standard equipment for all press photographers..” pp. 239-40

Speed Graphic cameras were made by Graflex, a company based in Rochester, New York, from 1912 to 1973.

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One Response to “On land or sea, your camera does the work…”

  1. Jim Empson - Anglia Cameras says:

    How interesting – I had quite forgotten about WeeGee. He was often in the press when I was a boy interested in cameras in the late 40′s. After using Speed Gee’s in the RAF, I continued as a Camera Shop owner starting in 1964. Much of my trade was in used equipment and on one occaision, I bought in three 5×4 Speed Graphics from Eastern Electricity, along with De Vere 5×4 cold cathode enlargers and other camera equipment which was sold all over the UK. I closed in 2008, after over 44 interesting years.

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