I am Bob. More than you want to know, Perhaps

Robert_Maxey

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Vastly more than you want to hear perhaps . . .

I am Bob and I live in Utah. I grew up in the photo business working for the oldest commercial photographic firm in Utah. We closed and I was miffed. We left tons of stuff behind; I wish we had eBay back then. I could have sold you a case of vintage Agfa cameras, new in the boxes--complete with flash bulbs, a roll of film, leaky batteries, registration cards, instruction book and the dealer invoice from Agfa.

When I say ‘tons,’ it is a literal description. Tons of stuff was lost forever.

Like an unbelievably heavy cast iron and brass stand for a 16 x 20 portrait camera. Or a 10 foot tall Kodak Christmas tree decorated with little Kodak glass ornaments, or boxes filled with Linhof parts, or the 1200 or so sheet and plate processing racks and odd sized wood film holders. Or 10,000 or so rolls of outdated film. Or stuff Kodak says they never manufactured. We even left behind several flash pans and accessories required to take pictures by flash indoors. In this case, an explosive powder provided the light.

Or perhaps I should have grabbed the seldom used Eastman Kodak auto exposure black and white printing behemoth that was manufactured in the late 1940’s or a tad earlier. Big funky thing that printed either on cut paper or roll stock. Auto print exposure and very cool. I think I wanted it along with the 20 x 30 x 5 inch stainless steel print trays, but I was not a forward thinker. Well, I did grab the optics.

Just vast amounts of stuff, gone forever. We did not believe in tossing anything away, ever. I did save the dealer Coloramas, however.

My days were joyous and never the same. If you wanted a Leica CL, we had them in stock. We stocked Gold Leicaflex cameras and new M3/M4/M5. If you wanted a 140-degree Goertz Hypergon from around 1900 or a three color Kodacolor Movie filter no problem. We had new camera cases going back to the early days.

Above our store was Loftus Novelty and Magic's manufacturing plant. They made fake doggy doo-doo and other silly crap. Puns, sorry.

Eventually, Loftus left the retail end of the business. They decided to become wholesale only. So we did the only logical thing an old time photographic concern should immediately consider doing: we bought the expletive deleted retail magic store, but that is for another thread.

Between printing, selling the occasional camera, walking up stairs to move a tray of doggy stuff in order to pull a archived plate or negative from a Army reunion because someone’s ancestor wanted a fresh print some fifty years later; mixing a batch of Dektol, running for coffee, occasionally eating lunch, I was selling magic.

We mopped the front entry every day; washed the windows every day with a bucket of water and a squeegee. We cleaned the top of the windows every day even though it did not need it. We opened late for customers that forgot their pictures and we delivered for free. When our window was broken, we had a sign painter recreate the original painted logo and gold leaf. It was a very different business and I learned just how profitable great customer service can be.

The end of business arrived when the group we sold the extensive negative and plate collection to started hauling the cartons representing our photographic history out the back door. It hit me hard. Rumor has it, the images were being converted to digital and the plates/negs tossed. Just a rumor, I suspect, but then again...

The negatives and plates were stored in liquor boxes or on shelves in Kraft envelopes. I made thousands of prints from these negatives over the years. For you collectors listening in, the collection was stored in a large basement that also included steam heating and no worries about proper preservation. Been that way since 1890 or so and every negative and plate was perfect; every shot documented. Even the nitrate stuff was in amazing condition.

So I left the photo business and started with small company, Megahertz. Just a handful of people in the proverbial garage. Eventually we invented the X-Jack, went public, bought a huge new building and went through several takeovers. (3Com, US Robotics, MSL) then we went out of business. At the time, we probably built your laptop modem. We likely built your Palm Pilot. I was a technical trainer for all subsequent companies after USR bought us.

Experience:

Knowledgeable and skilled in using all kinds of cameras, like Kodak Cirkut cameras, 11 x 14 view cameras, stereo cameras, banquet cameras, 35/medium format, and the run of the mill stuff like Leica, Hasselblad, Linhof and Contax. I am one of the few people who has actually carted around a Cirkut Camera and used it on location. Because I had to learn. At the time, I hated the beast.

I was lucky to work for a really old family firm that believed if you want to do something, you use whatever technique that gets results and it does not matter if it is hard. Customers rule and we are wrong if the customer says we are wrong.

I think the last new cameras we sold a week prior to locking the doors permanently was a brand new Leicina Movie Camera, a Polaroid Instant Movie Camera, a Kodak Retina 111C new in the original box and a new Bolex H16 Reflex. If you loved Visioflex, we had lots of that stuff, mostly new in the boxes. A few books printed in the 1940’s were still on the shelves, never sold, but always carefully dusted and cared for.

Most of our commercial work was done using a Kodak Master 8 x 10 View Camera, a 4 x 5 Kardan or Hasselblad. I learned to use the view camera on location; it was trial by fire.

I am (or was) an avid Stereo Photographer. I prefer Realists and Viewmaster Personals. I am considering going back into the 3D printing business.

Lab Experience:

I was the only printer in our lab. We used deep tanks, racks and hangers for roll film and Tri-X film packs and Kodak hard rubber tanks and hangers for sheet film. Aerial work was done using stainless steel Linhof processing tanks and larger roll film was processed with the tried and true, ‘Dip and Dunk’ method. Some stuff was desensitized with uranium desensitizer and processed by visual inspection. We would pull or push at no extra charge if required; if available, the customer could also select a specific paper, like “A” weight paper or Deckle Edge Greeting Card Papers. We produced greeting cards from vintage Kodak Greeting Card Masks.

If the negatives varied much, I would open a new box of graded paper just to handle poor negative contrast for a few prints; a harder #4 for bad cases and #1 for at the other extreme. I probably made more than 100,000 prints from 4 x 5 Polaroid P/N negatives on Velox, for Christensen Diamond Products. Admittedly, those jobs took longer because they send us so many negatives at one time and we had time.

We charged $1.50 for custom roll film processing and $.17 cents per print. Totally custom hand printing to the customer’s needs, not our convenience. The prices stayed at that level until 1985 or so then they went up to $.22 cents or so.

I’ve printed tens of thousands of rolls of film: Minolta 16, Minox, 35mm, 110, 126, 120, 220, many other sizes I’ve long forgotten about. Not to mention, long rolls of 5 and 10 inch aerial. Everything except 120/220 and their variants were printed on a Focomat enlarger. Other roll sizes were printed with the Beseler.

My work flow: mix chemicals, clean enlarger, dust the negatives, pull the required paper, pick up a piece of paper, lift the easel, insert paper, lower easel, expose, lift easel, remove paper, write a number on the back of each, develop, stop, fix, add to the tub of Hypo Clear, wash for a long time, put into a tray of Pako-Sol, load the drier with wet prints, gather and sort the finished prints, reprint the bad ones, steam straighten, assemble with the work order, package the negatives, tally the cost, and take upstairs.

Over and over, and over again. I avoided Carpel, not sure why.

You name it; I developed it and printed it. Vast numbers of copies and plenty of repro work using a Polaroid Copy stand with a Polaroid specialty camera that would handle 4x5 sheet film. We often used 8 x 10 for some things. It was all about quality; 8x10 would likely never be used these days to create run of the mill and routine copies of an 8 x 10.

If requested, prints could be toned with sepia toner, blue toner, or some other toner, depending on the paper. We charged double the standard print prices. All prints were spotted if I were a tad sloppy. I did allot of spotting. That is how I learned how to keep a spotless darkroom. Saves me time.

The 8x10 stuff was printed using an 10 x 10 inch argon lamp Morse Contact Printer. This is a heavy printer to die for. There were 40 argon lamps that could be individually switched on and off depending on the negatives. Paper negatives can be added to help fine tune the print or you could use tissue paper and pencils to reduce exposure in one tiny area. It had a bladder you would fill (think inner tube) so contact was assured.

In by 10:00 AM and you had prints by 5:00 PM, for most run of the mill processing. Usually.

Almost until the day we closed, we took passport photos with a Speed Graphic and 4 x 5 Plus X. We processed these images by hand. We even helped “smuggle” a customer’s daughter out of a foreign country and perhaps one day I’ll post how a clever con artist took us for a big pile of Hasselblad stuff. Other stories for other threads I suppose.

All customer 35mm printing was done on a Focomat enlarger, tray processed and we used individually graded Kodabromide paper and a Leitz easel for run of the mill 3R prints. All glossy prints were dried on a ferrotyping PAKO heated drum drier and every print went through a Kodak Steam Bath Print Straighter to eliminate the curl. My prints lay perfectly flat. The Kodak steamer was manufactured around 1930 or so. We even made murals. I hated those things.

I worked in several darkrooms: a sheet film loading room, a room for processing huge images, a sheet film processing room, a deep tank room, and a copy/repro room. Each space had baffles and no doors. Painted black, the entrances were made so light did not chase the dark away. We also had a large sink area, a place once used to process E-almost everything; as well as Agfachrome and Agfacolor, when color was new and a PITA. We also were setup for Dye Transfer work, a framing and dry mounting area and a 40” x 80” (?) backlit opal glass retouching station that also served to properly align DT matrices.

Other things we did were custom slide mounting in glass and tape mounts, stereo slide mounting, and some 16MM film work.

We also shot stuff on the Utah Salt Flats during speed runs and tire tests for Goodyear/Firestone tires, back in the day. Our follow/chase car--a Duisenberg Convertible--was the only car that could keep up with the test cars. A scared and often concerned still photographer hanging out of a car, taking pictures of tire rubber flinging off the tires, while becoming covered with salt. We shot thousands of images on the Salt Flats.

We were photographers for the Salt Lake Tribune, The Deseret News, and the Salt Lake Telegram--both morning AND evening editions. Once we had the film in hand, prints were an hour or less away from the editorial desk. Before my time, however.

My current interests include Dye Transfer, Vectographs, and fine quality printing. I also collect odd EK things like Coloramas and large prints Kodak once sent to dealers. I am writing two books. I love dogs and I adore banjos. I have all of my hair, a good set of teeth, and I’ve never been in jail.

I love high tech but I still long for the good old days.

Too many years and far too many adventures; I'll not bore the list any further.
 

GeorgieGirl

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You will have plenty of friends here Bob. Plenty.;)
 
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Robert_Maxey

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You will have plenty of friends here Bob. Plenty.;)

Perhaps now, yes, but we just met. I can be quite a handful. Smiley!

I do have strong opinions and sometimes, people cannot tell the diference between a strong disagreement and being rude and mean. I am never rude or mean, but I tend not to back down unless it is clear that two immovable opinions do not further the goals of the forum. I generally know when to give up and live to e-fight another day.

Anyway, my intro tells the tale. Perhaps I can help a few folks and hopefully I can learn something, too. Lack of film will mean I need a digital camera, so I'll ask a few questions from time to time.
 

mishele

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WHOOOahhh!! That was a long post!! Sorry, I don't go past the second paragraph on the first post!! LOL Stay awhile and I'll read more.....:hug::
Welcome to the party!!!
 
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Robert_Maxey

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WHOOOahhh!! That was a long post!! Sorry, I don't go past the second paragraph on the first post!! LOL Stay awhile and I'll read more.....:hug::
Welcome to the party!!!

I believe in full disclosure. Read it . . . I mention racing on the Salt Flats, stolen Hasselblad stuff and rescuing a damsel in distress from the clutches of a foreign government.
 

MLeeK

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Oh, what I would give to stand in the middle of that warehouse and just stare!
Welcome to the group!
 
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Robert_Maxey

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Oh, what I would give to stand in the middle of that warehouse and just stare!
Welcome to the group!

Sadly, the building (118 South Main Street) was demolished. We were in a three story building with a large basement. A poor quality luggage store on one side, jokes and magic on the other side.
 

Robin Usagani

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Hi Bob! Welcome!

Where can I find the short version of your intro? I can only think of 1 member that will read the whole thing. Kmh.

:)
 

Zajac

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Bob your full disclosure reads like an awesome novel I'd really like to hear more about how you help a customers daughter out of a foreign country. any way welcome.
 

Kerbouchard

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Hi Bob! Welcome!

Where can I find the short version of your intro? I can only think of 1 member that will read the whole thing. Kmh.

:)
I read it. Fascinating.

Hope you yokel's don't run him off.

Welcome to the Forum, Bob.
 

ChefCanon

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Welcome to the fun. Keep shooting
 

Big Mike

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That's quite the introduction.

Welcome aboard Bob. :)
 

o hey tyler

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Seems like an eventful life up to this part. Will there be a test later? Does anyone have the spark notes?

Just kidding! Welcome to the forum!
 

BlackSheep

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I know how you feel, Bob. I don't work in the industry any more, but I just found out that the big custom lab I used to work for is closing it's doors after many decades of success. It's the end of an era.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your stories!
 

c.cloudwalker

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I, like Mishele, will read this one chapter at a time :)

But I know how you feel about the first chapter. I recently bought all the gear from a portrait studio, about 2 tons worth, for less than a fistfull of Euros :)

Amazing, amazing pile of equipment that the owner couldn't find any taker for. The guy closed his studio (a well known one in this area) after getting ripped off a few too many times by customers after he switched to digital... He hates digital with a passion. The funny thing though is that I found him and his cache of gear by accident, about 600 miles away by going to a restaurant that is ran by his daughter, who was our waitress, who I happened to start talking to about art somehow, who happened to mention a garage full of gear, ...

Said garage was so full of stuff I could barely see anything that was in there but I did manage to see a few things that I thought interesting and I made an offer. Low ball offer. But the guy was so happy to talk to someone who liked film photography and intended to use the stuff, he accepted.

Life is funny.


See you in the next chapter.
 

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