Refurbishing, Personalizing and using Classic Press Cameras.

Watching the old movies and newsreels from the forties up to the sixties from the last century, I'm always  impressed by the huge crowd of pressmen, taking pictures from the events taking place. The photographers used to wear their Press Hats while  carrying their enormous press cameras with one or two huge flash guns, trying to get the best possible position to take a picture. Some 20 years ago I purchased my first Speed Graphic on a fair in Holland, where I live. First of all, previous of taking pictures, I had to take care of the camera itself. I had to repair the shutter, clean the lens and adjust the range finder and the infinity stops. At the same time I studied the working mechanism in all sorts of photographic manuals, including the history of press photography in general. The first attempt to cover a public event in London using a camera was the funeral of Prince Albert in 1861. In the 20th century from the first world war I up to the eighties the classic analogue press camera was very popular with the press.
Despite the fact that these cameras were huge and heavy they were also used for street photography. As an excellent example you'll remember the famous Arthur Fellig, nicknamed WEEGEE, who covered day and night the events in the streets of New York back in the thirties.

Today an increasing number of famous photographers, some of them with a world fame reputation, have rediscovered these classic cameras, not only using them to distinguish between digital simplicity and analogue craftsmanship, but mainly to create unique photographic work of art. 

In the next pages you'll not only meet all types of classic press and other large format cameras, which some of them survived two or at least one world war, but you will also enjoy  meeting with young photographers, who are searching to reach levels they have never experienced before, using these perfectly build reliable photographic apparatus. Further more, you'll find pages to guide you through the labyrinth of technical problems, specifically for restoration and refurbishing these masterpieces of camera building.  I've tried to explain most of the well know problems, being convinced that it is impossible to expose all the solutions for repairing, restoring and using these cameras. These pages are published for those who want to share my love for these extraordinary beautiful, timeless designed and hand powered, non electronic, photo cameras. Please enjoy and I'd welcome every contribution to these pages when sent by my feedback form.

Jo Lommen


The Netherlands