Tech #25: Photography

They say that our modern day home movie systems wouldn't be in your living room if it weren't for the male libido.  When VCRs initially became available, they were super expensive; simply not affordable to the average American.  Fortunately, men are perverts and will pay any price to see naked women.  Men bought enough VCRs to drive the price down..... and the rest is history.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, I happened across a handful of old photography books and couldn't help but notice lurking behind every page was that male libido.  Yes, the camera seemed a flimsy excuse to get the ladies, and some of the text was just too awful to keep to myself.  I simply had to share.

Plus, the very nature of photography has changed beyond measure.  The technology has experienced a titanic shift which simply must be explored.  Let's look at some books and talk about certain aspects - it's a lot to cover, but I think I'm up for it. Let's go.

Let's start with the Amphoto Guide to Photographing Models by Ted Schwarz (1979).  It's chock full of great nuggets of wisdom like this:

You wouldn't want her to think you were a pervert, would you?  Be super careful to not even ask the girls name.

Yet, at the same time it offers this advice...

Don't ask her name - we wouldn't want her to get the wrong idea.  I wonder how the models feel about being taken to a remote location in the woods?

Wow. Thank goodness I read this book.  I would've never know to put a girl in a bikini in a tree.  (Please read these sentences with an extremely sarcastic tone.)

This says to use "attractive" models.  Well, what does he mean by "attractive"?

I guess that seems about right.  I did a little Google search and it seems that the average weight today is slightly less than 120.  If you have better information, let me know.

I should also mention the fact that the 1950s and early 60s were flooded with photography magazines.  It seems you couldn't show a female nude unless you traveled through various loopholes: one was nudism (thus, a plethora of nudist magazines were published) and art (which included photography).  Basically, most photography magazines that hit the market during this time were nothing more than flimsy excuses to show women in various states of undress without getting fined and removed from the shelves.

In fact, I doubt the authors of the magazine articles even knew the first thing about photography.  Take for instance the illustration above from a 1952 magazine.  I know it's a motion picture... but get a load of the chalk board illustration for the lighting.  Really?

Of course, you have to admit, taking decent pictures back then did require a bit of instruction.  It wasn't like today's digital photography where you can take a thousand pictures without spending a nickle. Plus, they didn't have Photoshop, so any degree of manipulation was either painstaking or impossible.

Even softening an image (see above) required a degree of darkroom skills.  Which brings up another long forgotten archaic term: The Dark Room.  My dad had one.  It required a dedicated room with no ambient light, a handful of chemicals and supplies, and large amount of patience.  I'm sure camera enthusiasts who actually developed their own film still swear by it, and scorn digital photography.  I'm sure it was much more rewarding.

"Photography is satisfying fun".  Today, my daughter takes pictures with her iPhone that she then runs through various photo apps which absolutely blow my mind.  It's done in a matter of minutes and achieves things not even remotely possible a few short years ago.

Interestingly enough, the digital camera was invented in 1975 by Kodak.  It's ironic then that it was filmless photography would eventually take down this giant in the camera industry, since they were its inventors.  According to Steve Sasson (the inventor), Kodak thought the idea was "cute" but didn't go anywhere with it.

By the time the digital age was in full swing, it was too late for Kodak.  Not only did their film cameras go bust, but a lot of their wealth was in chemically treated paper which was now also going bye-bye.  They could've led the charge in digital photography, but instead chose to cling to film and thereby faded to black.

When I was in eighth grade, my dream job was to be a photographer for a men's magazine.  Thirty years later, it's still my dream job.

Remember Polaroids?  Before digital photography, they were our first glimpse into instant photographic gratification.  Sure, they looked like crap, but that was a small price to pay for not having to wait a week to get your pictures back from the Fotomat booth.

Here's another book...

The Ninth Here's How (1974) by Eastman Kodak Company

We already spoke on how Kodak completely dropped the ball in the realm of digital photography, and thereby went belly-up.  But back in the day, Kodak ruled the photography market.  here's one of the many books they put out with the Kodak branding.

Back then, you didn't have the advantage of seeing how the picture looks immediately; thus, you didn't know if you needed more flash, or if something was too bright facing the sun, etc. until possibly weeks later if you used the Fotomat, or until you developed it yourself in the dark room.  This is something we take for granted today.

Just as with vinyl records which ultimately lost out to digital audio, there was something lost in translation.  Something abstract, something indescribable about the final product that is just lacking with digital.  I can't put my finger on what it is with digital versus film photography - perhaps one of you can put it into words for me.

Also from The Ninth Here's How (1974) is this little gem.  Is there anything on Planet Earth better than a 1970s family portrait?  Tacky, awkward, uncomfortable.... I tear up just looking at them.  Does anybody actually print out their pictures anymore?

And let's not get away from the fact that photography is often nothing more than a pretense for a guy to take pictures of hot chicks.  I covered this point earlier, but it bears repeating.

Enough with the small talk, Kodak!  You obviously just want to take a picture of this girl's boobs.  If you won't say it, I'll say it for you.

Let's move to another photography book that 's a bit more straight forward in it's language.  It's also one of my all time favorites - you'll see why.

How to Make Money with Your Camera by Ted Schwarz (1974)

I want to know, Ted.  How can we turn this little camera into a money making machine?  Do tell.

Well, no offense to Ted, but he offers some awful advice in this book.  It made me question at times whether he was actually a photographer.

You got that?  Don't take full length photos of girls because the skirt length will date your shot.  (Never you mind the hairstyle and the rest of the clothing.  That won't date it a bit.)

And why are we so concerned that the picture might become dated?  I mean, who ever said that having the style and character of the time evident in the picture was a bad thing.  I hate to break the news, but I can tell this picture of Lynn is not from 2013.

Feel free to call me crazy on this, but I don't think Alison looks at all like a "demure girl-next-door" in the second photo.

At least six sales from this photo.  Nice to know.  This book is a wealth of information.

Another good tip: When photographing a restaurant, go during serving hours.  That's when the food's out.

Because what good is a band that doesn't draw a crowd? Who wants them? They don't deserve to live.

If you're really interested in making money from your photography, Ted, you'll keep the upskirts intact. 

So, how is this different than just taking pictures of girls in trees?  I'm still not clear on how this book is helping me turn my camera into a money machine.

Krazy Karen.

Am I missing something here? If you can't afford an actual posing stool, I guess you have no choice but to stand or sit on the ground.

 Of course, if you can't afford a stool, chances are a photography studio probably out of the questions as well.  At this point, let's turn away from the book and turn towards the wonders of Set-O-Matic!



  1. If what TV says is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), back in the day photographers of questionable reputation would charge me to do "photographic studies"...i.e. have a bunch of them take pictures of a model at some level of undress.

  2. My God..."film" was my real verification word on that last post.

  3. Yes, the darkroom was a huge hassle...Working under only a dim red bulb, heaven help you if you were creating special effects (thru "dodging," masks, etc...), or simply trying to gauge the level of light and dark when calculating when to remove your paper from the developing chemicals...

    Once outside, in the light, you'd often be very disappointed with your results!

    And, the smell of the chemicals! The high costs of it all!

    They say that EVERY comfort we enjoy today (fast internet, Hi-Def Blue Ray large screen TVs, DVDs, etc), are all a result of porn and its pushing of technology...

    AL Bigley

  4. AnonymousMay 03, 2013

    Ah...yes, photography!
    I think every girl has at least one "dirty lens photographer" boyfriend in her life who tries his best to convince her to pose nude "...in the name of ART!"
    "No one else will ever see these shots besides me, honest. I promise." LOL

    I think that's the major difference between us & the 20 somethings who send nude photos to each other at the drop of a hat! Where our generation would simply shake hands, these kids have already engaged in numerous sex texting conversations. Subsequently & sadly, the art of the "Dear John" letter has also been relegated to text.


  5. George EastmanMay 03, 2013

    As someone who has been involved in photography for decades, I have these observations:
    1)The darkroom process was REALLY slow; but had its satisfactions.
    2)The advent of digital photography has made it hard on professional photographers. It's because people think anyone with a camera can take a photo. No, he can't.
    3)There's a lot of bad photography showing up in newspapers, yearbooks, and the like because of that. It takes talent, skill, and time to do photography well.
    4) History was preserved because Mathew Brady and his descendants made prints that were made of good paper with good chemicals. Who knows what will happen to photos that are only on digital media?

    1. You're on the money there, George. Especially #3 - I have a calendar in my office with a) a twisted horizon, b) washed out sky and drab colors, c) poorly structured elements, and d) fuzzy focus on what should be the main subject. ...and all of that in one photo.

      You can tell the photographer never studied any of the books in Gilligan's blog entry (they were informative as well as provocative). The photographer never had to labor for the photo and therefore doesn't know how to do it properly.

  6. "At least six sales could result from the sale of this school photo."
    Yeah, to each of the girls' mothers.

  7. Ted Schwartz was a genius! LOL I'll bet there's an ad for Spanish Fly in the back of that book. Excellent and humorous post Gill!

  8. Gilligan this is hands down the funniest blog post you have ever done.

  9. You SEE digital. You FEEL film