The Family Camera Shop part I

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by mike_gammill, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. For years I've often mentioned the family caemra shop and have been searching for some of my photos form those days. At last, the first installment. Our family business, F.J. Gammill Photography (later shortened to Gammill Photo & Camera), opened for business in the fall of 1974. My dad, the founder, and owner, had been doing portrait and wedding photography since the mid-1950's decided it was time to open a business. While maintaining his postion as composing room foreman at the local newspaper he opened for business in a narrow building once used for Selective Service registration. I worked afternoons during my senior year in high school and continued to work after starting college. Initially, we only did portraits and copied old photographs, but quickly got hooked up with Berkey Marketing so we were able to carry Konica, Sunpak, Tamron, and Omega products. The first image shows our storefront around 1976 or 1977. I don't remember which camera I used, but pretty sure it was a Konica since the negatives have that distinctive notch at the edge of the frame that most Konicas (SLR and RF) seem to have.
  2. A few views of the stock. From 1974 to early 1979 we occupied this building. Later we moved to a much larger location (but that's in the next installment).
  3. Whatever camera I used, I don't think I'd quite gotten the knack of focusing for maximum DOF field.
  4. I still have two or three of the orginal Super 8 sound projectors, BTW. Of course, we sold film. I hope I can find a color image later of our film since the distance from the film shelf makes identifcation a bit difficult. I know we always had Tri-X and Plus-X as well as Kodachrome 64, Ektachrome 64, Kodacolor II (remember this one?), and Vericolor II. Also, near the top you can see a couple of 100' bulk rolls (Tri-X, I think).
  5. Being a small building we used every bit of space.
  6. Here's one of my dad serving a customer. When I made this photo my dad (left) was probably a little younger than I am now.
  7. I suspect the previous image may have been made with a Minolta (possibly an XE-5) since I was constantly "borrowing" one from stock.
  8. Neat Mike. A nice look back and a great place to learn about cameras. Those were some tight quarters. I look forward to seeing the larger location
  9. I've never been there but what's funny is how much this shop resembles the first location of Davis Camera in my hometown of Indianapolis from the same era. Did your dad's store offer camera repair as well?
  10. Very very cool Mike. Thanks for sharing. I'd love to have that case of old RFs. I like the Alden bulk film loaders (I still use them), and the bulk film. That was certainly the heyday of film photography.
  11. Where was it? It brings back good memories.
    My first job (while I was still in high school) was in a mom&pop shop.
  12. Nice recall Mike! I never thought that businesses like this would close down, ever. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening the world over with advancing industrialism. Thanks for the post. sp.
  13. Great! Takes me back, to a myriad little shops like that, in small towns all round the country. Not too many still in business, these days...I'm looking forward to the next installment.
  14. That is so cool. I had nothing like this growing up. (My father sold heating oil accounts. A camera store would have been much more fun.) Looking forward to Part II.
  15. Thank you Mike for taking me back to the days I worked part time in a full service camera store in the late 60's to the late 70's.
    The picture of your dad and customer, with the display cases full of cameras, brought back great memories as we had the same type of display cases.
    When the new cameras came out, we got to "play" with them and wish we had the money to buy the big bad black Nikon35 mm camera, or the the new A1 canon camera.
    I am looking forward to your 2nd installment.
  16. Mike,
    These images are great and take me back in time to when I got out of the service. I loved looking through the glass cases of all the new stock. It was interesting that after seeing articles of the latest camera shows that 3 months down the line see could see the cameras in the flesh.
    I remember always wanting to take my camera with me. It seemed to show you meant business. They would let you try out the new lenses.
    Looking forward to seeing part II.
  17. This takes me back to the early 1960's, when as teenager I would take the tube into central London to window shop the many camera stores both small and large. They had a huge amount of used stuff like canon and nikon rangefinders and old Linhofs. I owned a Periflex Gold Star at the time which I sold to a friend to by the new Olympus Pen F. I took the Pen F with 100mm lens in '64 to Soho to the Marquee Club on Wardor Street, and took shots of Rod Stewart and Howling Wolf performing on stage (I still have the tri-x negatives somewhere).
  18. Nice article and nice photos taken aorund the same time as I caught the camera bug. Sadly I just read that the family owned camera store I used at that time closed earlier this month. (Hudson Camera in Jersey City)
  19. Yes, Louis, definitely cramped. The back room, though, was longer (no wider) and that's where we had our studio. Our setup included Photogenic power supply and strobes (two mains, plus background) and an RB 67. No darkroom facilities, though. We were still using the darkroom at home. Dan B, we generally did not do repairs in house as none of us were really qualified so most of our non-warranty repairs went to IPS Camera Repair in Tuscaloosa, AL. We could ship them or take the two hour drive if we chose. Michael, the Alden loaders are the best IMHO. When we closed in 1993 we had none of these loaders left. I have four that I bought after the shop closed. I still have the orginal Watson 66 loader (marketed by Burke & James) that my dad bought in the early 60's and it still works fine. Bill, we were located in West Point, MS. For those unfamiliar with West Point, it is about 18 miles east of Mississippi State University. I commuted to class and worked at the camera shop when hours allowed. John, Howlin' Wolf was from White Station, which is just north of West Point.
    On one of the rolls of negatives that I scanned these pics from I found a photo of my first car (which I used to commute to MSU.)
  20. Mike,
    I bought a '69' Mach I when I returned from Vietnam. What a car! It had a Cobra Jet under the hood and could get from point A to point B rather fast. Good on speed - not good on gas! It went well with my sexy Miranda Sensorex 35mm slr since both had great curves. Still have the Sensorex, but the Mach I is long gone. Wish it were the other way around. JohnW
  21. Wow! Retro flashback. Looking at the film shelf, I remember my days at a Ritz store in Monroeville PA. Those days were pre-VISA, it was Bank Americard then.
  22. Mike, great views of what appears to be a very appealing place to compare and acquire equipment, and probably to learn quite a few things from the owner in the process. Our local town camera store closed about 5 years ago, being a family business that had been ongoing longer than I can remember (orioginally begun by the grandfather-photographer of the then owner), but they (or the buyers) still have a small onetime branch store in the neighbouring city. Not quite the same, though, as the comprehensiveness of analogue and digital supplies is not as well balanced.
    One of the nice things about our local store was the occasional welcome to visit the owner's back room supply section (rows of metal frame shelves), with its more exotic films, papers and chemicals and some professional gear that space didn't allow up front. In addition to amateur clients, it served both professional and government photographers. Another different store in the city is not family run, but tries to supply both digital and traditional film, chemical and paper photographic supplies, as well as the most modern digital equipment, alongside glass cabinets of sorted by manufacture used 35mm, 120m and LF film cameras and optics, so it too is worth suppporting.
    Something very appealing in seeing all those camera and supplier signs in the storefront windows.
  23. Thanks for the images. Fortunately we still have a large "ma and pa" camera store in Glen Ellyn, IL.: PJ's Camera owned by Keith and Margaret Larson. And they still do processing of slide film on-site.
  24. John, my Mustang had a much tamer power plant: the 302 cid V8 with 2 bbl carb. It was still fairly quick and had enough torque that it still chirp a tire when starting off in second. Thanks, Arthur. We closed for good in 1993 and still had a occasional sale of leftover gear because we would get calls for a couple of years after we closed. I still get the Photo Industry Reporter magazine so I can keep up to date on new developments.
    We had a pretty broad range of customers (and browsers) over the years. We did all the developing and printing of the school's black & white. We also did work for the local police and sheriff offices. I still remember printing "mug shots" and photos of murder victims for law enforcement. Of course, they went digital quite a few years ago.
    The showcase, from what I can tell, had Yashica, Konica, Canon, and Minolta gear as well as Tamron lenses. Later we added Fujica and Olympus.
    Alex- slide processing on site, now in this day that is impressive. We never did the volume to justify that so ours was sent out.
    BTW, in the lower left showcase there are a few used rangefinders. I think the Tower 10A that I've been working recently is in that picture.
  25. Awesome post Mike! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to post this for my Photo students to see. I particularly enjoyed the "Movie Dept." photo. Those look like Eumig Super 8 Sound projectors....VERY nice units made in Austria, probably still cranking away today. If you have anymore please share.
  26. Three points of notice:
    Small shops couldn't carry Leica because of the excessive inventory requirements. This meant there were no small-townLeica dealers.
    Kodak wouldn't sell direct to new dealers for 6 months, requiring them to buy through a third party at considerably higher costs. I never did understand the logic of this.
    So-called Fair-Trade laws meant that the little shops had the same prices as the large chains, which made them more competative, but of course their volume discounts made their profits lower.
  27. Russ- we had quite a few young Super 8 enthusiasts that caught the film making bug during the late 70's. A couple of them actually persued careers in the film industry. Not Eumigs, but likely GAF or Chinon projectors (the main two projector brands we carried.). We had GAF, Sankyo, Chinon, and Yashica movie cameras. We carried a few Kodak models. The small GAF silent models were desirable because of the single frame setting for doing stop action animation. The larger GAF, Chinon, and Sankyo were sound models. The Yashicas we stocked were silent but offered lap dissolves.
    Bill- we started out obtaining our Kodak film and products from a wholesaler as Kodak's minimum order requirements were so high. This is one reason we first carried Luminous brand photographic paper. If you look at the movie table again you will see some boxes of Luminous paper. In later years we did enough business to have a direct dealership with Kodak.
    For a town with around 8,000 people, we were competitive on a lot of items with other shops, but of course, we couldn't touch the mail order houses. Many of their prices (if they honored the advertised prices) were only a few dollars above our dealer net. Berkey Marketing (sources of Konicas, Tamron lenses, Sunpak flashes, etc.) was very pleasant to deal with. We even visited our first Berkey rep in Nashville (around 1976 or 1977) while we were on vacation. He invited us into his darkroom where he demonstrated with Dichroic colorhead Omega enlarger (what else would he have had?) how to make color prints from negatives and from slides.
    For a while there were two other camera shops nearby: one in Columbus and one in Starkville, but both of them got near list price for camera gear. They both did offer in-house color processing, though, at reasonable prices.
  28. Wonderful stuff!!! thoroughly enjoyed this post, thank you so much for sharing!
  29. Bill, I bought my first new Leica from a professional photographer who sold that brand as a side business at his studio. I think he had the reflex camera, but not sure about that, as I remember seeing only the M4-2 (the model at that time) and perhaps at the most a half dozen lenses (there were only about 12 in total). He didn't have that much equipment on hand, but perhaps because he was a Bavarian and had been using Leica professionally in his work, together with large equipment, might have had something to do with it. But you are right, not many stores were handling that brand then. Later on, the family store I was mentioning, and a larger store in the city, started carrying Leica, not I think because it sold all that well, but because it allowed them to claim having a fairly complete variety of brands.
  30. Really appreciate this post as I served time in camera stores in the early seventies and this brings back many memories to say the least.
    Camera stores really don't exist here any more as cameras are really just computer peripherals these days and are sold by electronic stores. Oh to see a fully stocked film shelf again!
  31. Arthur, my experience in a camera shop was in theearly 50s when Leica was king. I wouldn't be surprised if they had gotten a lot less snooty about their dealer requirements by 1977 when the M4-2 came along.
    Even then when I got to a strange town and looked in the Yellow Pages (remember them?) to see what camera stores I might want to visit, it was still clear that the ones which listed Leicas in their advertisements were probably the premier dealers with the largest stock.
  32. Thanks Mike and everyone for a nice thread. I cannot say it brings back memories because I was not into photography (audio/radio electronics was my only hobby) until the late 1980s. But it is certainly a nice trip back in time. So this was what it was like then. Absolutely fascinating!
  33. Thanks for all the kind responses. Memories are great. Having photographs to go with the memories = greater. Sharing memories on = greatest. Thanks again.
    Part II (the new location) soon to come.
  34. I never worked in a camera store but as a youth, I spent way too many days playing hooky from school and visiting my two favorite camera stores, Linn Photo (local mom & pop store) and Kmart. Kmart was closer so I spent most of my time there, drooling over the many different cameras there, and usually being too poor to even buy the Focal stuff.
    Remember the parking lot photo lab booths? Drop your film off and wow, in only a couple days it would be back! Anyone have a photo of one? Mellers was the local flavor.
  35. Patrick, we never had parking lot photo lab booths around here. I do remember seeing them when traveling, though. I think Fox operated these booths in some areas.
  36. Wikipedia has a little of everything. I did a search on "parking lot photo lab booths".
  37. I don't know if anyone here from Montreal, or who had visited the city then, has memories of the very small family MEM camera store (1960s, 1970s?), an array of 2 or 3 of family shops run by a genial Brit, Peter Hall. As a student I worked occasionally behind the counter and was able to put in enough hours to purchase my first system camera and to apply it as an events photographer for the college daily newspaper. I recall that Peter, who I never saw wearing an overcoat (just a light polo neck sweater and period blue blazer) in spite of the raw Montreal winter, allowed very generous credit to some professional photographers who were living from job to job. One of them, artist-photographer John Max, has a number of images in galleries, including the Canadian contemporary photography museum in Ottawa, which were likely made using the Nikon rangefinder he had acquired on a flexible buy now pay later plan at Peter's main shop, a small and crowded little store on a quiet side street off the main Sherbrooke street thoroughfare.
    This type of small family run photography shop, distinct from the larger mainstream stores, probably existed in various forms in many cities and towns, serving amateurs and pros alike.
  38. Another perk of being part of a family camera shop is getting to share some of sample film, paper, and chemicals that various sales reps sent us to try. I remember trying some Fuji N100 color negative film back when Kodacolor II was only rated at ISO 80. We also got to try a few rolls of Fujicolor 400 when it first hit the market. That was the first ISO 400 color negative film we stocked as I think Kodacolor 400 was either later, or maybe the initial quantity we had to order was too high. One of the most exciting products we tried was the Cibachrome Discovery kit. It came with 25 sheets of 4x5 Cibachrome paper, chemicals, filters, and a small 4x5 processing drum (that you had to roll back and forth on the counter agitate.)

Share This Page