Photography

Photography has been a big part of my life from way back in another life as a teenager in my home town of Dundee. I started off  in a business called Lindsay's Chemists/Photographers who had a shop at Castle Street, Dundee and where I worked at their photo lab out the other end of town, Step Row. I was employed initially as a darkroom assistant, processing black and white film (monochrome). It was a very basic set up not much automation and manually clipped the film to rods and lowered them in to the ceramic developing tanks which were sunk below floor level. Timing the process was done with mechanical timers which were set before the lights were turned off.

Film was hung up to dry and then transferred to the printing room, where we had an automatic Kodak printer which used reels of photo paper, making the process much quicker, this was done in a room with at least a yellow filtered light fitting. From there the printed reels of paper were run through developing chemicals, rinsed and then fed on to a large heated chrome plated heated drum where the finished product was dried and glazed. Finally the individual prints were chopped up, put in to wallets ready for delivery to the various chemist shops we had as clients.

The method of delivery being via a BSA Bantam motor bike and a large shoulder canvas bag to hold the finished work. It was a small business, but you had to bear in mind this was back in the early 60's and colour photography was just beginning to emerge. It was a learning experience and with a great bunch of lads made it memorable. Alas the business went in to decline, failure to modernise and also several changes of manager saw the decline and it was time to find further employment before the inevitable P45 was issued.

Lindsays, Castle Street Dundee
The sale of Lindsay's Photographers/Chemists to a new company Elena Mae, shown as the shop front is being changed to the new owner.

BSA Bantam maintenance with myself
Maintaining the BSA Bantam

Moving on and found myself applying for a similar job in town, I was successful in being able to get offered a similar job with another Company, JD Brown of Castle Street, Dundee. From the start it was a very progressive company  I was offered the job of darkroom technician initially, but this time I was working with automated machinery, still had to load all the film on rods in the dark, but this time the machine did all the processing work on a conveyor belt system with electronics for the timing of the developer solution, then it was into a wash bath, then a fixer bath and finally a thorough wash. The machinery then loaded the wet film onto another conveyor belt which took the film through a heated blower phase, finally dropping the rods of film into another room where the lady printers worked. I unclipped the dry film in the printing room, clipped it to the customer details docket and passed them on the the ladies for printing.

JD Browns   Me at JD Browns

As time went on, my work included developing sheet film 5 x 4 which were used for wedding photos and commercial photography, we had two main photographers at the time. Harry Garland and Ken Leiper also the lab manager Stuart Hill did some of this work. Other cameras used were Rollieflex twin lens reflex cameras 2 1/4" square format and also Leica 35 mm film cameras. Another of my jobs was to load the sheet film slides and the 35mm film in to reusable cassettes.

Following on from JD Browns, I moved on to the retail side of photography and joined the team at Elena Mae in Reform Street, Dundee as a salesman. A friendly bunch as I recall, but always in the background was a sense of pressure to sell. A far cry from the easy time as a photo technician and not so exciting. I was only there a short time before on walking back from lunch one day, I suffered a lung collapse, due to a heavy lifting episode, all my own fault. The firm decided that as I was off work for a time, they would have to let me go (got sacked) , so not a good start to married life at all. I managed to get a temporary job as an insurance salesman to tide me over however.

Elena Mae Reform Street Dundee 
Elena Mae in Reform Street, Dundee.

So it was, back to JD Browns in Castle Street, Dundee and back to the job I should never have left. By this time, colour photography was just starting and although I was not involved in this department, it was good to see progress in the new medium. I continued where I had left off, developing black and white film and was helping out in the enlarging room, DeVere cold cathode sheet film enlargers for the sheet film being a new learning curve for me, but I was tutored by a chap who had years of experience, thoroughly enjoyable it was too. I remember taking on a job for university students, which involved using a Patersons spiral film tank and Kodak Ektachrome film with the appropriate chemicals and this involved after development exposing the film for a few seconds to a photoflood light source, this reversed the negative image and turned the film into transparencies (slides).

Paterson developing tanksIt was time to move on, itchy feet and wanting a change inspired me to apply for another go at sales. Managed to secure employment at Largs in Whitehall Street, Dundee, a business which was initially musical instruments and supplies, but had branched out in to Photography and also a Record sales department. It had a more relaxed working experience, no great pressure to sell and also a great bunch of folk to work with.

Work was steady and exciting to be able to handle the latest cameras and equipment, we also did a good trade in passport photos. I found out that they were wanting someone to run the photographic and musical supplies department at another branch, so a new experience awaited and I took up my new role at Largs, Lochee, Dundee.

Largs, Lochee                       Largs, Whitehall Street
Largs, Lochee, Dundee                                                                               Largs, Whitehall Street, Dundee

This would be my last photographic job before enlisting in the RAF in 1971, had a great time with this firm and learned a lot about sales and much more. My department at the Lochee branch was well stocked and sales were steady, I also had the pleasure of being opposite the record department so was well up on the latest singles, albums et., I sold loads of guitar strings, photographic film, kazoos and other popular stuff. I helped out in the rest of the shop, selling fire surrounds which were very trendy in 1970.

I have lost count of the cameras I have owned since becoming interested in photography, but remember my first 35mm camera was a Halina 35x film camera, it had a very good lens and sharp results. The last two cameras I had were digital a Canon 350 and finally the only camera I own is a  Lumix FZ200 bridge camera with a superb Leica lens and all the modes I require.

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