Category Archives: history


One of the most iconic images of the 20th Century has to bee Dorothea Lange’s image, Migrant Mother…


She took this as part of her work for the US Farm Security Administration – who were tasked amongst other things of documenting the effects of the great depression on the poor – a task generally considered as a platform to provide political support for the social reform of the rural poor in America in the 1930’s.

Believe it or not a vast number of images of this era from the FSA have been digitised but like all things a large collection of 170,000 images is nothing without some way of finding your way around. At Yale University they have created Photogrammar which for the meta-nerd in us does a spectacular job of bringing a decade of photographic  history to us in a wonderfully time-spacial way. Enjoy.


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Welcome to the 80’s

Cue the flashback…

Red suspender belts, Gordon Gekko, synthesized pop music, this was indeed the 80’s. In the midst of this decade was the time when photography was in a stage of transition. Not the big bang digital revolution that was yet to come, but a smaller one that was to set the stage for further change as the years progressed.

At this time I had the generosity of parental support to buy my first camera. For reasons I don’t quite remember it was a Minolta – the slightly featured X300 SLR (called the x370 in other parts of the world). The standard feature it had for the time was an inbuilt light meter and the ability to go manual or to switch the dial to “auto” to give the user aperture priority. The viewfinder gave the user a LED bar graph to judge exposure.

What we had here was a low end camera that had started to incorporate a level of electronics that was above the norm for cameras in the previous decade. In a way this camera represents a decade of transition where electronics and microprocessors, rather than mechanical devices, start to give more and more assistance to the photographer. I suspect that level of electronics unwittingly gave camera manufacturers the platform to better adapt cameras to the future digital world.


The X300 you see above isn’t my original one. I recently found this great condition unit in a camera swap meet. For the princely sum of $40 dollars I had to pick it up, if only to replace my missing one. It reminds me of where I have come from – and where the technology of what I use has come from.

Things that caught me by surprise when I returned to it were the amazing brightness of the viewfinder – invaluable since autofocus wasn’t an option on the old MD mount Minoltas. The viewfinder used a focus screen fitted with small “acute-matte” prisms to give the photographer a good idea of sharp focus. The machinery of taking a picture gives the unwitting feeling of a heavier mirror and shutter mechanism moving in a metal body. The tactility of advancing the film leaver is a paragon of a smooth and refined haptic action.

The unfortunate thing is that over time the little X300 will have a harder life to keep in working order than it’s mechanical predecessors. One of the capacitors in the Minolta X series cameras can fail but thankfully it can be repaired with a bit of skill. I hesitate to say that the more modern the camera the less chance for repairs when the increasingly complex electronics fail.

My Camera collection isn’t a huge one and it never will be (think fingers of one hand) but this X300 is now an important part for all those reasons above. It will be used regularly and enjoyed for being part of the little revolution.

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