July 12, 2013


Music | Spiritual by John Coltrane

Back in my early assisting days in the mid 1980's, I worked for a photographer that was sharing a space with an older photographer. He was one of the few photographers that was shooting professionally as early as the late 1940's. He was slowly moving into retirement and was getting rid of some of the equipment he wasn't using and taking up space. I saw this beautiful old camera sitting alone in the corner and if anything for me at the time, it would be a great conversation piece. He sold it to me for an amazingly generous price. The Camera, a Century, probably made in the late 1920's, early 1930's also had a very fast portrait lens made with the Kodak name on it. 405 mm f:4.5. I used it several times, shooting some film, but also paper negatives and contact printing them. I loved the size and the look, but for whatever reason, the combo sat on a shelf, being an art piece rather than equipment to take photographs...

I think I've had the camera/lens for over 25 years. With the desire of shooting wet plates, the camera came out of the basement and sat in my room being displayed again. I shot one wet plate with it and the results were fine. The lens however excelled more so with film than wet plates. Difficult as it was, I decided to put it out to the universe and see type of interest there would be for it. I had a few offers ranging a large gamut. I decided to keep it. As I became more involved with Wet Plate Collodion, and a growing desire to shoot larger plates, I set a price for the lens and put it out for sale. Lots of interest, but no follow up and I thought maybe this just wasn't going to happen.

I put an ad out stating my desired price, but also that I was interested in a Petzval design barrel lens, a period lense made in the 1800's. It wasn't til the last few years that these lenses started growing in price. Gems with a nice price became very difficult to find. I did get one email from a gent on the East that had a Petzval who was very interested in my Kodak. I had the feeling that the Vallantin Petzval was going to be significantly more in price than my Kodak. We initially couldn't come up with a deal we both would feel good about, and for me, merely afford.

My view on humanity changed a few days after our initial conversation. The gent, L.P. wrote back to me and said he went to my website and loved what I was doing. He thought that having this lens would enable me to produce more great work. He dropped his asking price significantly, gave me all the time I needed to come up with the difference in price and made a deal. Over a period of roughly one month, I sold a few things, worked on some unexpected gigs and sent out my lens.

3 days later, I got this beast of a lens. I'm looking forward to seeing what it can do.

Century No.4A Studio Camera w/ Kodak Lens 405mm f:4.5

Vallantin Petzval Lens

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