LF Camera store ambiance

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello! A recent post got me thinking about camera stores that have a historical commitment to LF. You know, LF "candy shops" with the stuff dripping from the cielings, cluttering the counters and stacked in cardboard boxes on the floor, just like old time hardware stores. Years ago(decades, actually) I visited Adolph Gasser in San Francisco...the Holy of Holies where Ansel Adams supposedly bought stuff. As I recall, Gassers also sold electric toy trains. A wonderful place located in a 1940's time warp part of the City. On a recent trip to SF I learned that there were now two Adolph Gassers and I called to find out which one stocked the LF gear. The adress was, I think, South of Market in a trendy area of new sky high office buildings. I went anyway with fear and trepidation, only to find the new Gassers as cramped , crowded, and musty as the old. A place where you could ask a clerk about hard rubber three gallon tanks and hangers and they'd know what you're talking about. I left with a lensboard for the 'dorff. Another Icon thats recently moved is Freestyle. I've never been to the old Freestyle but a friend had described the place as being "glorius." By the time I got to Hollywood( the purpose of the trip was to take my light meter in for calibration at Quality Light-metric) and Freestyle, they had moved into a new building. While the place didn't have the "smell" and lacked the used merchandise it was certainly seemed like it was on it's way "there." I can't wait to get back to see how the place "aged." I can think of a few other places worth looking around: Pardee's in Sacramento. Camera Club in Santa Cruz(or is it Soquel?) I was wondering what other "shrines" the LF "pilgrim" might want to visit? Is there a camera store you know of that keeps old 8x10 film holders in a cardboard box? Has a showcase shelf full of Wallensaks? Maybe they still stock parts for the D-2 Omega and Bay 1 filters for old Rolleis? Or better still: the Owner can chew a cigar,fire a Speed Graphic and tell you why 120 Kodachrome never caught on ALL AT THE SAME TIME! If you know of such places, please share them. I'd like to pay a call if I find myself in the area.

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), May 25, 2002


Midwest Photo Exchange, Columbus, OH. No cigars, though.

-- Dan Fromm (76266.333@compuserve.com), May 25, 2002.

The Pittsburgh Camera Exchange in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA. Three + glorious floors stacked to the ceiling (and we're talking 20' ceilings) and even an 1890's operating photographer's studio set up for you to ogle. An incredible find. They are the Pittsburgh Camera Exchange 529 East Ohio St. Pittsburgh, PA 15212 (412) 231-6850

Take a peek at their web site : http://www.pghcamex.com/

-- Wayne Campbell (wtcamjr@aol.com), May 25, 2002.

John, I know exactly what you are talking about. Whenever I traveled to a new place, I would look through the yellow pages in the phone book to see if there was a local photo shop I could visit as part of my sight-seeing itinerary. I visited a lot of stores across the country over the years. Sadly, the type of camera stores you describe are disapearing. As a teenager, I fell in love with cameras. I would take the streetcar to downtown Detroit and hang around the Detroit Camera shop for hours just looking at all that stuff. They had dusty old used Speed Graphics stacked to the ceiling. Finally, I was able to buy a 4X5 outfit from them in 1948. The sales clerk gave me a very low price just to get rid of me (as well as the beat-up old press camera that nobody else wanted). I don't look for those stores anymore. It's much easier to sit here at my computer and surf the web for the equipment and supplies I need. Most of the people who work in camera stores nowadays get very annoyed when asked about large format equipment or accessories. They don't want to admit that they know nothing about the subject. If there is someone in the store who does know, he, or she is usually busy trying to adjust the one-hour photofinishing machine which has just ruined the last batch of 4X6 color prints.

-- Eugene (TIAGEM@aol.com), May 25, 2002.

The camera stores in Toronto and southern Ontario tht used to have that ambience are now gone, the rack of bizzzare lense boards and lense displays and unkown reducing backs have gone into the hands of the receivers.The only place to actually see the stuff is at the camera swap meets that occurr 4x a year. Those great camera stores are gone. In fact the sales people are so hell bent on selling digital that I have seen doctors with big bucks who go in o buy a Hassselbald be sold on a digital by the sales persons. The large format stuff is half way between obsolete and museum pieces and until it hits museum status the ability to find it up here is dwindling.

-- ED (zeke@idirect.com), May 25, 2002.

Quality Camera in Atlanta.It's not a large store but they pack a lot of stuff in there.The staff is very friendly and well informed about large format.They run an ad in View Camera Magazine every month.Their business is mostly mail order,but they are always ready to drop what they are doing and help you.They have a web site;but it's been"under construction"for at least the last year.

-- asher galloway (asherg@bellsouth.net), May 25, 2002.

I remember growing up in Clearwater, Fl. and going to Murrays Camera, what a place! Although Murray was not the most "Friendly" of people (maybe it was just me though - who wants to help a 17 year old High school student?). But the old stuff that he had, and the smell of the store...It just smelled like Photography (and Mothballs). Its been many years since I've been back - who wants to live in Florida when you could have "Sunny" Rochester, NY instead!

-- Jeff (jchad@frontiernet.net), May 25, 2002.

I'll second Midwest Camera in Columbus. Great store, great people. And have you ever been in the basement?! More assorted, random, and weird old photo stuff than I've ever seen anywhere else. Definitely a place to visit.

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), May 25, 2002.

Midwest Photo Exchange, that is.....you'd think I could remember the name of the place....

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), May 25, 2002.

If you visit the UK give Mr Cad (www.mrcad.co.uk) a try. The only problem there is not tripping over the stuff all over the floor. Another though rather better organized aladdin's cave is mxv photographic (www.mxv.co.uk).

-- colin (cicarron@aol.com), May 25, 2002.

Thank you all! It was interesting to note that most of the places listed are also reputable mail order merchants. Its nice to know that when I order through the mail(because local stores would rather not be bothered with LF, or at least thats the impression I get) that I'm supporting the kind of place where LF and tradional photography is given it's due. I'm surprised that no businesses in New York City were noted. I hope to discover more LF time-warps this Summer. They may be few and far between, but it's always a good time. Cheers!

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), May 27, 2002.

Lens&Repro in NYC. Worth a trip there all by itself.

-- Mark Sampson (MSampson45@aol.com), May 28, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ