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View Full Version : Speed Graphic and a Domke Bag!?!? Sorry it isn't that old.


Jim Domke
05-11-2009, 04:14 PM
It was Sunday and the family decided to drive to Dallas, but having put off seeing the King Tut exhibit till the last week of the show, we discovered all the tickets were sold-out. Now whaqt do we do?

Dallas has lots of museums, a natural history museum, sculpture gardens, etc. And, there's also The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza at the edge of the downtown.

Located in the very same building where Harvey Oswald shot President John Kennedy on a Friday, Nov 22 1963. The exhibit covers more than one day, it covers an era, and what happened in Dallas. It covers JFK’s presidency and leads up to the four cities he visited in Texas. Using 21st Centruy technology, everyone is given earphones so a narrator can guide you through the various stages, stopping to show videos of news photos and film taken back then. All this as you walk around the actual site where it all happened.

It brought back memories to me, I remember as an 8th grader sitting in class and suddenly hearing Walter Cronkite’s voice over the school intercom announce that JFK had been shot. School was dismissed and we all went home to watch events on the old black and white TV.

They say this marked the turning point where television beat newspapers in reporting the news. We sat around the TV for the entire week, watching everything over and over, waiting for something new.

We walked through the exhibit on the sixth floor and then discovered there was another exhibit “A Photographer’s Story” about The Dallas Times-Herald staff photographer Bob Jackson, who took the Pultizer Prize winning photo of Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas police station. http://www.jfk.org/index.cfm?objectid=1938ADB5-1D09-33F3-C8F50F7FC0486B83

Jackson covered Kennedy riding down the streets of Dallas, and was busy reloading the film in his camera as the parade ended. (No auto rewind, or auto loading, you had to crank the film back into the film cannister. Then take it out and carefully reload so the film caught on the sprockets and advanced.) It was then that Oswald started shooting and all the professional photographers missed it.

Today with motorized cameras, color and compact flash cards, it might not have happened and we'd probably gotten better coverage. (BTW, Life magazine photog Dave Burnett was changing film in Vietnam and missed getting the Pulitzer winning shot of villagers fleeing napalm bombs. However, I didn’t run out of film and managed to take a photo of POW returning from Vietnam, but since we both had similar shots I didn’t enter the photo. Associated Press photog Sal Veder did and won.)

The Jackson exhibit shows many of the same photos seen in the museum, and in the middle of the gallery is a display case showing the gear professional photographers used in 1964. And there next to a Speed Graphic is a worn sand Domke F2 Original !?!?!?

Sorry, the Domke bag hasn’t been around that long!

Thank goodness they didn’t include a tripod, but they do include a Speed Graphic, which was on it’s way out. Jackson didn't use one. I’ve talked to many who told how 35mm quality was deemed inferior. Not suitable for 65 lpi letterpress and have been told by veterans how they had to hide their Leica, Nikon or Canon rangefinders, from being discovered by the chief photographer. So he'd think they still used the company issued 4x5 Speed Graphic. If they were asked why the picture was so grainy tell them they accidentally over developed the 4 x5 film.

Also in the display case is an all mechanical, no batteries needed, Nikon F with a fixed focal length 105mm F/2.5 lens mounted on it. There is a Mighty Lite strobe and power pack (I used one till the Vivitar 283 came out in the late 70's)and also, in the display case, there's an Original Domke Bag.

All the gear is circa 1963, BUT NOT THE DOMKE BAG!

The first Domke Bag wasn't made till 1976 for the Philadelphia Inquirer photo staff. The used F2 bag they display even has the non-slip Gripper shoulder strap, it wasn’t introduced till 1988.

But still the bag is as professional as a Speed Graphic and Nikon F.

Back then photogs used their trunk as a camera bag. They’d grab a camera , put some film in one pocket and maybe an extra lens in another. No need to carry a lot of gear.

One picture shows Jackson sitting next to an aluminum, waterproof Halliburton suitcase, which was how most professional photographers carried their gear in those days. They didn’t need to change lenses, without a motorized camera they didn’t carry that much film and the flash either stayed on the camera or they left it in the car. No camera bag needed.

Some of us used fishing bags or army surplus bags to carry extra lenses, flash and film. It was like a purse with the equipment just piled together, some photogs tried wrapping a chamois around the lenses to keep them from rubbing together, and the chamois was good for cleaning lenses too, others liked to put them in soft velvet pouches they got when they bought a certain brand of brandy.

The Domke bag eliminated the need to hassle with a lens pouch.

Those were the good old days . . . newspapers ruled, the press could go anywhere and everyone stood back to let everyone get a picture for the evening paper (Everybody comes back with a photo and the editor is happy.) They were using 4x5 sheet film Speed Graphics, or a 2-1/4 Rollie, or 35mm Nikon or Leica, along with a Honeywell strobe and 125 ISO black and white film (Plus-X). Tri-X didn’t come along till late 60’s and that’s when we thought it was dishonest to use a flash.

Those were the days.

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