Marty Forscher  -  1921 - 2009

Martin Hubert Forscher was born in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 1921. His father, a furrier and gambler, ran off with his bookkeeper when Marty was about 6, leaving his mother to weather the Depression by selling lingerie door to door in financial district offices.

The Dean Emeritus of the Camera Repair and Innovation business is Marty Forscher. No doubt about that. He died on Sept. 30, 2009 in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 87 and lived in Pittsfield.

His contributions to the industry are too much to mention in this humble venue.  I met him many decades ago in NY and usually saw him once a year at the PMA. (see picture) 

Watching him work was a distinct honor and maybe with the addition of some input from my uncle caused me to become interested in taking things apart. The difference is he can put them back together. Hopefully in my next life I will tackle that. 

For more than 40 years, Mr. Forscher ran Professional Camera Repair Service in Midtown Manhattan. Founded in 1946, the shop was a Mecca for generations of camera owners, from the world’s most celebrated fashion, advertising and news photographers to wedding portraitists, threadbare students, bejeweled celebrities and anxious tourists.

Many fine Pentax and Minolta lenses work on Nikons now. If you had a Nikon and wanted a hot Minolta 250 mm ƒ5.6 mirror lens to work on your Nikon he could do it, with or without power steering. Albeit things were possible in the old days and he was the master machinist and problem solver. I borrowed one of those Minolta 250's from my friend Tom who had one and what a street shooter combo that made.   Little bigger than an 85 mm and a 250.  With today's propriety branding built in, nothing fits nothing!

In World War II, Mr. Forscher worked in Washington as a repairman for the Navy photographic unit run by the eminent photographer Edward Steichen. After the war, he opened Professional Camera Repair Service. Originally at 480 Lexington Avenue in Midtown, the shop was located for many years afterward at 37 West 47th Street.

When the shop went out of business in 2001 (Mr. Forscher had sold it to colleagues when he retired in 1987), the photographic community heaved a collective shudder of panic.

Whether one’s camera had plunged into the sea, fallen from a skyscraper, been smashed in a riot or been otherwise sorely treated, Mr. Forscher could almost always find a solution. 

The Polaroid's he adapted for 35mm and medium format opened the eyes and the doors for professional photographers.  It's rumored some still shoot with their eyes closed.  Look at their work!

Just making it work with the NPC line of backs is more than you might think. It took fiber optics when few even knew what they were.  In this copy cat world, his approaches and ideas were out of the box and they worked.

The shape of a 35mm SLRS film track and viewfinder eyepiece mean that the focal plane for Polaroid material lies at least 12mm behind the focal plane for conventional film. With the emulsion lying so far away you can never achieve proper focus. Various solutions were attempted. Few worked. In the early '80s, Marty Forschner had the brilliantly simple idea of bridging the gap with a spring-mounted block of fused fiber optic bundles.

It could be said he was a man before his time and after it too… Marty's first job was with the National Geographic. The Big Cheese (Gilbert Groxxxx) could never remember to extend the lens on his Leica before making a picture, and gave the camera to Marty to make something which would always remind him to extend it. Instead, Marty fitted a collar around the lens barrel so it couldn't be collapsed at all. They fired him on the spot.  So he opened his own shop.

Jan 1, 2013, 2:48 PM