During the past few months, while we have been working to build the new Visual Departures web site which launched just last week, I knew that a personal blog would be part of the project. I have always been certain that the blog would not be just about our company and its products but about a range of topics including (but not limited to) photography, film and video; the people who make and edit the images; travel; food; and observations that one makes after nearly 50 years of working as a photographer and in television.
But just as we started the design process, I learned of the death of an old friend and one of the truly great people in the history of 20th century photography, Marty Forscher. During the 40 years that Marty presided over Professional Camera Repair Service in New York City (the business continued for about 15 years after Marty’s retirement in 1987 and closed in 2001, largely because of the vast changes in technology), thousands of emerging and established photographers looked to Marty and his staff for support, advice, and the technical skills that kept us going in remote locations or in the studio.
He was always a lovely person, and on the days when PCRS was swamped with customers at its West 47th Street offices, everyone waited his or her turn (usually by reading the bulletin board that was an early ancestor of Craig’s List). To understand Marty’s importance, you have to know something about equipment in the days before electronic shutters, auto-focus, and sharp-as-a-tack zoom lenses.
Once upon a time, when only Nikon and Leica were the 35mm cameras of note (with Hasselblad, Rollei, Linhof, and Deardorff as the larger format options), all our gear needed regular maintenance. I used to travel on extended assignments with as many as seven Nikon and Leica bodies and at least as many lenses. Even when the earliest zoom lenses arrived, they were slow, not particularly sharp, and very limited in their zoom range. My first was the Nikon 43-86mm, and it was quickly relegated to the drawer where it lives today.