Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Nikon F’:

Good Ol’ Freda

I love movies, always have, and as a 50-year member of the Directors Guild, I get to see a lot of them. Every once in a while, a new film that I’ve heard absolutely nothing about suddenly appears and makes a lasting impression. So it is with Good Ol’ Freda, which I saw a couple of weeks ago at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Good 'Ol Freda movie poster

We live on the Vineyard much of the year, and the Film Center is one of the best cultural attractions on the island. My wife and I mis-read the schedule and thought we were going to see Frances Ha, the new film by Noah Baumbach. But we were already at the theater and were very glad we stayed.

Good Ol’ Freda is a documentary, centered around Freda Kelly, who in 1962 was 17 and working in a typing pool in Liverpool when she was hired as the secretary to The Beatles, and later, to run their fan club. Then, and for all the years since, she never took advantage of her relationship to the group. But now in her 60s, still working as a secretary and a grandmother herself, Freda has let her story be told, along with some great interviews and a trove of vintage photos and film clips. There’s a lot of nostalgia for me just in looking at the way the press in England and the U.S. covered The Beatles in an era when state-of-the-art photography meant the Nikon F.

My Nikon F

Ryan White directed the film, which had its premiere earlier this year, in Austin, at the SXSW Film Festival and has been playing  the festival circuit ever since. In short, this is a great movie and a wonderful story. When you look at the promotional materials for Good Ol’ Freda, note the sub-head below the title: “Behind a great band, there was a great woman.” I don’t know if the movie will get wide theatrical release, but see it if you can (or at least own it when it goes to video).  

George McGovern (and Walter Cronkite) at the 1972 Democratic Convention

George McGovern on stage at the 1972 Democratic National Convention So here we are, at the very end of a presidential election campaign which, whatever its outcome, is the most bitter in my memory. And at the same time comes word of the death of George McGovern, the Democratic nominee from the 1972 race. A highly-decorated WWII bomber pilot, and later a U.S. Senator from South Dakota, McGovern’s loss to Richard Nixon in ’72 was by an enormous margin, in part due to their opposing views on the Vietnam War.

George Wallace supporter at 1972 convention I was in Miami for the Democratic Convention. There was a lot of confrontation, both in the streets (over the war) and in the convention center (over various candidates). There was much support for George Wallace, the Alabama governor and segregationist who had survived an assassination attempt earlier that year and addressed the convention from a wheelchair. But in the end it was McGovern and his running-mate, Thomas Eagleton who stood on the podium as the nominees. Eagleton soon left the ticket, after the disclosure of his previous electroshock treatments for depression.

George McGovern, Thomas Eagleton, and their wives at the 1972 DNC

Photojournalists and their state-of-the-art gear at the 1972 Democratic National ConventionThe gear that I and others in the press corps used to cover the convention, along with a great many rolls of Tri-X, is part of ancient photographic history now; I don’t think I had a lens longer than 200mm on my Nikon Fs. But looking through my files for the McGovern images, I came across a few frames that I had never printed before – Walter Cronkite in the CBS News ‘skybox’ from which he anchored the network’s total coverage of the convention. Thought I’d include one for those of you who remember him and the days when the three networks’ coverage were all the video options available.

Walter Cronkite in the CBS News booth at the 1972 DNC

High Praise for Low Fidelity

The New York Times' front page for November 22nd, 2010

The New York Times is at our doorstep before the sun rises, particularly at this time of year, and a quick look at the front page told me that something very interesting is unfolding in the area of major newspaper photojournalism. Four photos from Afghanistan (there are six more on the inside ‘jump’), credited to staffer Damon Winter, looked nothing like images from the Nikon/Canon realm of equipment.

There is no mention in the captions, or in the long piece they accompany (about a unit of U.S. forces in that country)  that provide a clue. But a quick trip to the paper’s photo blog gave the answer: Following the lead of the troops who routinely use their cell phone cameras to record life in a war zone, Damon Winter has taken his iPhone and, with the Hipstamatic app, produced a series of vignettes (with more to be seen on the web). At the same time, he’s using his Canon EOS 5D Mk II to shoot video for the paper (as well as, presumably, still photos). In any case, his coverage on the web is very impressive.

That got me in a back-to-the-future mode. Just this past weekend, the Wall Street Journal did a piece on the latest generation of cameras (think Sony/Samsung/Panasonic/Olympus) that provide a nearly professional bridge between point-and-shoot and SLR equipment. The essence of the WSJ article is that the SLRs are too bulky and too complicated for the average user to truly master. I know this is true – even my Canon G11 and Nikon D300 have features and capabilities that I can’t begin to remember. That’s why I keep a Nikon F (from 1967) and a Kodak Hawkeye (from the early ’50s) on my desk, just as reminders of how simple things used to be.

1967 Nikon F

I’ve got nothing at all against technology; after all, I’ve built a company that provides equipment (some of it quite sophisticated) to photographers and filmmakers. But not so many years ago, I never had to carry a 200-page manual to take advantage of the features of any of my cameras. I know lots of very smart people who are buying some very expensive digital cameras and never (never!) taking them off the ‘auto’ setting. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of keeping it as simple as using my first Brownie was 60 years ago.

An early-1950s-vintage Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

By the way, in a nod to recursion, the photo of today’s NY Times front page was taken with my iPhone 4.