THE INDUSTRY TODAY AND ME


I BELIEVE IN DIVINE GUIDANCE  -  I GOT THE MESSAGE

Like Moses and the burning bush, Photography really started for me on a unique note, I call it throughout this website  “Divine Guidance”.  Someone left a plain  paper bag sitting on a park bench in the Zoo area in NYC’s Central Park.  I had mischievously become the owner of an AIRES IIIL 35 mm Rangefinder Camera, the first of the excellent Japanese clones of the Leica Rangefinder of that era.

The bag even contained a roll of film and the manual.  I was fourteen, a junior, and was naturally, playing hooky from school. I considered this a reward for my playing hooky. Initiative, I had avoided the boring teacher I had in High School and went on my own learning quest.

I escaped the park stealthily taking every trail in the park not frequently used by the public to the subway, tripping over a few sleeping drunks and made my escape.  I was home and started reading knowing my 127 Kodak fold out was doomed.

A week later (my next hooky day) and I’m off to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.  I took nice pictures of the timelines of the Dinosaurs and Cavemen exhibits at the Museum of Natural History in NYC using flashbulbs.  A tap on the shoulder told me I got busted and reported as a truant.  

The Dean of the school and I had a chat, sort of, he chatted loudly, I listened.  My defense was “I was doing something to help my education, not just playing hooky because my science teachers theory that the cavemen killed the dinosaur’s, no way, scientifically distorted and inaccurate”.  And I wanted the truth.

Thankfully he had read DARWIN and was also a cool guy.  The Dean made me a deal, I had to give a presentation to the Science classes in my HS about Dinosaurs, their disappearance and evolution.  Maybe he thought he could break me.  Two days later I proudly did a thirty-five minute plus stand-up, the 50’s version of a PowerPoint on Oaktag paper, and showed off my 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 inch prints. I was a success!  I felt I could do the Late show like Johnny Carson after that.  And  managed to get the school a field trip to the Museam.  I was a hero.

The Dean thought I did an excellent job and we worked a deal out to show my work to other classes for my salvation.  Since I was on Honor roll and Rapid Advance, I graduated high school at fifteen and three months.  I never went to the second and eighth grades since I was a reader and self-taught.  My favorite person was a librarian who was better than any teacher I had.   I wanted to further my interest in photography. I was also interested in the shops the school had to offer and extended my working knowledge in mechanics and electronics   

I LEARNED FROM THE BEST
I owe my ability to use tools and build things to my grandfather who taught me a lot from five on.  He was an immigrant and spoke little English but what a smart man.  By seven I was helping him rebuild bread toasters and soldering using a blow torch and a really small hot handle.

And then I expanded my development with the first tools I made at the brand-new state of the art George W. Wingate High School in the metal shop.  We had Zip before the post office could spell ZIP.  You figure that one out. It was incriminating. 

I got an “A” in metal shop for the projects we had to make to qualify and could have gotten five years for the stuff I didn’t tell them about some of the other kids were building.  I saw it as an opportunity.

My favorite achievement was the development of the Jacobs Hubcap Remover which was  big success in Brooklyn.


THE GADGET MEISTER
I needed a job.  I picked up a few nicknames, like “The Gadgetmeister” starting my working career in a renowned camera repair facility, the best in the camera district of New York City as a delivery boy.   I gained a lot of knowledge in those early days as a kid meeting with some of the great building blocks of the analog era of photography like Master Machinist Marty Forschner and the father of Nikon,  Mr. Joseph Ehrenreich. 

Marty was the most incredible camera technician I ever met.  If you had a Nikon and liked a particular lens from another manufacturer like the Minolta cadioptic mirrors which were small, compact and light for street shooting, he made it work.

I ran into him at the PMAi trade show years later and that was the last time I saw him...  I was always building something and battery packs fascinated me.  

It was also where I found out what happens if you forget to short a capacitor from a Honeywell 770 Strobe, and an Everyday 510-volt battery, it almost sent me to the ER.    

But I learned early what works and what doesn't work and that you don't get it all from school or books.  You must get out there and see for yourself even if it means burnt fingers.  Thats how I learned to cook working in a restaurant.  All this time I’m trying to get a college education, working two jobs, honing some culinary skills,  and becoming a wedding shooter.  It got me financially through Brooklyn college.  

Older, I worked weekends for a Wedding mill in NYC on weekends as a run and gunner for several years to learn the business. I shot every kind of Wedding and ethnicity in New York.   Lots of experience and stress learning that a wedding shooter must be a master of people as well as a technician. 

I also learned about the draft board.  It was a numbers game and my number was about to be up.   I always had a passion, Aviation... and that led to another twist.   Choice:  The Air Force or carry a gun In Viet Nam.  I got a chance at both.  Maybe Aviation was a better way stay alive, maybe not,  than getting shot at in the jungle.  I can thank the United States Air Force and when my tours were completed and could afford it, later in life, I swapped rides in C-123 Providers, KC-135’s, B-52’s for Cessna’s and Piper’s and an occasional dumb pilot right side seat in a LEAR 23 Jet.  I owned seven airplanes, one at a time, and flew for thirty plus years.


THE PLAYBOY CLUB FRANCHISE

St.  PETERSBURG, FL  1981-1983 - MY BEST FUN JOB
After a brief two year stint as the house photographer at the Playboy Club, in St. Petersburg,
I leaned more into 
Journalism, covering Politics and the Military, and my roots which were in Weddings, over 450.  That’s David Chan, he was one of the first on payroll shooters as the man for the Playboy magazine and later at one time Playboy had franchised clubs around the country, in various locations.

I worked for the one in St. Petersburg Florida which was in a Hilton Hotel that folded. The funny part, almost hilarious, was when we were harassed by the City Commissioners and clergy who were some of our best secretive customers… I had to be very discreet.

I met with the owner referred by a friend...  again Divine intervention... he invited me back and I got the job. That was tough times locally downtown, when financially and unfortunately the club closed.   

Too bad it was a nice clean operation. Totally portrayed wrong to the public, nothing like the bible thumpers were saying. In fact one of the heavy attackers of the club got arrested and did ten years for the money he stole from his churches.  I saw that as a sign, something about casting the first stone, that schmuck tried it, and the Lord dropped the boulder on his foot.


STATE OF THE ONION -  IT BRINGS TEARS 
My purest interests are photographic products today that could be termed reclamation. So many good products were built before the great Wall-Mart of China took over the Photo Industry which I predicted in my blogs twelve plus years ago.  

Today cameras are not the creative tools we cherished them as in the past, but they are treated as electronic devices simply upgraded as needed or the manufacturer promising newer is better is taken advantage of, which in most cases is a big fallacy.

We denied thinking it could happen, the sobering loss of the camera retail store industry.  The largest organizations of the industry like the PMAi with 35,000 members are gone.  Two other bastions of the retail end of the business are on thin ice losing members and not showing any growth.  It’s only time before all of the retail stand alone camera stores will be gone unless you have a huge store, internet marketing, and international sales.  

The big box stores selling the entry level cameras, and getting new models faster than we could.  The rise of the cell phone as the dominant picture taker and image transfer today.  The internet tax free sales by B&H, Amazon and Adorama simply killed retail store purchases and any kind of inventory management.  

What Amazon is to Shopping Centers, B&H and Adorama is to the retail Camera Store.  Best Buy did step out of hole and Forbes rates it well. The one near me has a very nice selection well done.  In my county in Florida which is Pinellas, we had 11 camera stores at one time including mine. Today in all of Tampa Bay and surrounding areas clear to Orlando, there is one store about 600 square feet, no lab to speak of.  My condo is much larger, about 1000 more feet.