Rear Window – the “other” camera?

Although L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies used an Exakta camera in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”, there were other cameras present in the room – most notably the one that took the photograph on the racetrack that lead to Jeff being in a wheelchair with a broken leg. What was that camera?

From the image shown it is clear that it is a large-format camera, most likely a Graflex Speed Graphic, a type of press cameras. As the name implies, these cameras were mainstays of press photographers until the 1960s, cumbersome but often preferred for their large negatives which allowed extensive cropping and enlargement without loss of detail. Considering the closeness of the shot taken by the camera on the track, it is a wonder Jefferies survived at all.

The broken Graflex camera?
The photo of the crash

A move back to manual photography

When I was in university I dabbled in some photography. I had two Fuji cameras, I think one was a Fuji STX-2 35mm SLR. I had a couple of standard lenses, and a 300mm telephoto that I found at home and bought an adapter for. I did some nature photography, mostly birds, putting the 300mm to good use. I did some B&W and did some of my own processing (our residence had a darkroom). But I grew tired of lugging photographic gear on trips, and eventually in the late 90’s traded in that gear, and bought a compact 35mm camera. It was just handier. When my wife and I went  to Arizona in 2000, we both took our 35mm compact cameras with us. When we came back from that trip we had 12-15 rolls of film, and at that point I concluded that I was done with analogue film, largely because of the inconvenience, and cost (I think some are still unprocessed!). The next year we bought our first digital camera, a 2MP Olympus. We took it on a trip to Switzerland and Germany, and it was great. I never went back to analogue.

Now, 18 off years later, a change of plan. There seems to be an increasing trend, unlike that of records, towards analogue cameras, and film. To this end, I went and bought an Olympus OM-2 with a 50mm f1.4 lens. It feels *awesome*. Film is readily available, and actually quite inexpensive to process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ditching digital, in fact I’m going to use the analogue lens on my Olympus EM-5(II), and maybe even pick up an E-1. But what I long for is the feel and artistic appeal of the analogue camera… not necessarily for travel afar, but for local photography. I long to experiment with a camera that is very simple. I want to teach my daughter (who uses one of those instant Polaroid type cameras), about the true basic art of photography., and explore the inner workings of the analogue system. In part I believe that playing with film will help me better understand the subtle  nuances with taking good photographs, without the aid of extensive digital controls. The need for more control was brought on when I started using the Voigtländer lens on my EM-5, something that required me to manually focus. It’s easy to forget how much tactile knowledge is discarded when we give over to digital control.

olympus manual camera

Olympus OM-2

The problem with anything digital is that we hand over our innovative processes to the machine… and I’m somewhat over that. I don’t need AI to take the perfect picture, in fact I don’t need the perfect picture. Analog photography was never perfect, but that was its beauty, just as nothing in the world is completely perfect, and maybe we should stop trying to manipulate it so that it is.

P.S. If you’re looking for a manual camera in the GTA, try F-STOP Photo Accessories, in downtown TO. That’s where I bought this camera. It’s a small shop, but they have an amazing selection of manual cameras, at *exceptional* prices.