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Monday, February 10

Analogue Archives: Finding a Frame of Reference for the Film Age

Those of us who have been around for a while grew up with film photography as a way of life. We know most of the great camera names from the past, remember many of the films and darkroom papers and can name a few famous photographers of the time. But what about those photographers who are having a go at film but from a digital background? How do they find a frame of reference, a link back to the world of silver gelatin, brass and glass cameras, darkrooms and earlier generations of professional snappers?

I was thinking about this whilst reading an old Photography magazine in the bath, enjoying technique and equipment features, looking at photographs and scanning the adverts. Then I thought, why not scan some of these articles and post them here?

For a lot of us who weren't into camera clubs or photographic societies, photo magazines were one of the main sources of information in the pre-digital, pre-internet age.

I've got some magazines from around the late 1970s to early 1990s and I thought it would be good to re-publish some of the content. My favourites were Photography and 35mm Photography, both of which are now defunct as far as I know so I can't imagine anyone getting too worked up about me bringing some of these pages back to life.

My favourite columnist was the late Kevin MacDonnell so I'll post some of his musings from time to time. I'll also post the odd camera review, any features that catch my eye and maybe even some adverts and letters pages - you can't beat a bit of nostalgia.

I'll kick this Analogue Archives series off now with one of Kevin's columns. Kevin, who died in 2001 aged 81, was a good but not great photographer and a good but not great writer. So why did I like him so much? Well, it was his conversational style that appealed to me. Reading one of Kevin's columns was like enjoying a pint with him in the pub where he'd go over what he'd been doing that day. It was undemanding, interesting, friendly and seemed to have the effect of encouraging me to get out and take more photographs.

Kevin MacDonnell
I didn't know it at the time, but Kevin had an interesting life. He fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco, was refused a sitting by Hitler (something he wore as a badge of honour) and presented a TV show about photography in the 1960s.

He was a regular contributor to Photography magazine from the 1950s to the 1980s. Sadly, I don't have many photography magazines featuring his columns but those I held onto are well-thumbed. Since he inspired me to take photographs, I thought he might do the same for people new to film and darkroom practices or digital snappers thinking of giving it a go.

As you read his columns, you'll maybe notice that he seemed rather fond of Johnsons of Hendon products and Tamron lenses. That's because he had very close links to the company which was the UK distributor of Tamron products.

I'm going to look out for publications which featured Kevin's writing and I'll add further material as and when I find it. If you're already a Kevin fan and have some mags with his columns in them, it would be great if you could spare the time to scan them and email them to me for inclusion here.

For more background information about Kevin, please visit this excellent website. And please let me know in the comments if you like reading stuff like this from old photo magazines.

Photography Magazine
February, 1983


morris1800 said...

Hi Bruce fond memories indeed. Photography was a great magazine ,I also loved the progressive Photo Technique magazine of the same era. Anyhow sadly I had a clear out of my collection of photo mags (1972-84)some did survive, I do have a copy of Photography mag Jan 1975 .I can scan Kevin's contribution to that issue if you don't have access to that one. I noticed the annual prize for the mags World of Colour competition in 1975 was a Durst A300 enlarger and the World of monochrome prize was a Praktica VLC with 3 finders , 7 screens and 3 lenses!

marty said...

Hi Bruce. A nice dive in the past it was reading those old magazine pages. I think they might be interesting and inspirational for the generation who was photographically born in the digital era and is now approaching film photography. I would certainly enjoy more of those readings.
Thank you for publishing them.

Cheers, M.

Dave Jenkins said...

We didn't get many of Kevin's articles on this side of the pond, but I always enjoyed reading him when I could. I have at least one of the Minolta Mirror annuals from the 70s or 80s with articles by him. I'll check.

I also have three of his "Photographer's Guide" series -- London, Kent, and Sussex. Do you know if any others were published?

The article in the Minolta Mirror that I especially remember is about multiple lighting for theatrical portraits -- a technique I have since used many times in my own work.

McDonnell seems to have been closely associated with Minolta, at least at one time, but my impression is that he may have been using Olympus OMs for the Guide series.

Thanks also for the information about his life.

John Carter said...

In the Western Hemisphere, we had some classic photo magazines. I loved read David Vestal in the 60s. I wish I'd kept his articles, I didn't know it then but he was my teacher.