Pretty pictures

Tom Camfield
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Posted 6/14/19

BACK TO PAUL AND THE OLD DAYS in the interests of local history. He outranked the Torka Brothers, who arrived on the scene before War I, commercialized their work heavily via picture …

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Pretty pictures

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BACK TO PAUL AND THE OLD DAYS in the interests of local history. He outranked the Torka Brothers, who arrived on the scene before War I, commercialized their work heavily via picture postcards—but being German, moved on as the town’s Fort Worden achieved prominence and the U.S. moved into the war. Paul was my neighbor, about two doors away, on Morgan Hill back around World War II. He continued working from his home during his retirement years. I mention all this because as a long-time photographer and lifetime collector/publisher of local history, I’ve seen a large assortment of photos of and within Fort Worden—and this one by Paul is one of the best. Looking south past barracks, over part of officers’ row, at Morgan Hill and the point that is sort of a juncture of Admiralty Inlet and Port Townsend Bay.

The wonder of its day in the photographic world 109 years ago was a 1910 baseball photo taken by Richardson with his antiquated equipment. It was said to have been the first-ever stop-action photo of its type ever taken. Copyrighted and titled “Caught Off Third.” it was displayed in poster form throughout the country. The ball was pictured just short of the glove of Frank “Rah Rah” Revello, third baseman of the Port Townsend Colts semi-pro team, who was about to tag the runner. If you have my second volume of Port Townsend history, it is on page 445. (I also knew Frank well back in the ‘60s; he was another of my links to olden times.)

Jan’s family, the Klockers, also have been near neighbors of mine, here Uptown, about a block away, for 50+ years. Her father Walt died Feb. 10, 2018, at age 98. Walt, incidentally, also pursued baseball zealously during much of his life, but playing opportunities were sporadic. He is pictured in my same book of history as an “old-timer” in a 1953 game at Memorial Field (page 439).

Prior to Richardson’s beginning in the early 1900s was professional photographer James M. McMurry, who was on the scene at least by the mid-1880s and whose work illustrated the local community on into the ‘90s. James G. McCurdy, local historian/author, also began adding illustrations to the scene about 1900, along with a photographer named Wilcox. The earliest photo I have of Port Townsend (in the mid-1860s) is by an unidentified photographer.

A few other professionals flashed on and off the scene over the early years, but not much of their work remains to give them any historical prominence. Today, cell phones make everyone a photographer of sorts, but few have the artistic touch, and little of what they record applies to the main line of local history.

There have been a number of local photographers of repute around town during my lifetime. During my early Leader years there was John Kreidler, a semi-retired old-school type from whom I learned a lot. His studio was across from that of George McCleary on downtown Taylor Street. George left town some time before I rejoined the Leader in 1954 and was replaced by Burdette Redding (whose photographic right-hand man was Claude Pray). Burdette was the town’s leading photographer for many years. Hugh and Helen Swearingen also operated a studio of sorts out of their home and did some finishing work for the Leader along about the late ‘60s. Worthy of note through some of my later Leader years was George Leinonen, a top-notch free-lance professional who worked some with me, largely on the sports side.

I was shooting action shots of the Fort Worden football team down at old Flint Field below Lincoln School around 1942, on my mother’s old Kodak roll-film “Brownie” camera. No purpose other than the challenge.

I became a press photographer and donned various other hats at the,Leader in 1954. My camera was a bulky old Speed Graphic of the type seen in use during movies depicting the 1920s—complete with the big flash-bulb unit. It was armed with a container of two sheets of 4- x 5-inch film.

Pull a slide, estimate field of focus, shoot . . . replace slide, reverse container, pull slide—shoot again if the subject is still in the neighborhood. That’s how things went for some 14 years, until I was provided a roll-film camera with an electronic flash. For production efficiency I soon assumed the darkroom work that actually pushed the captured scenes onto the printed page. You’ll find my work, without bylines, in Leader files from 1954 into the 1980s.

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Marge Samuelson

Great blog Tom. One of my favorite photographers and newsman was Patrick J. Sullivan. His sports photos and others received many awards. Was sorry to see him leave the Leader. George Leinonen was also a terrific on the spot photographer for the Leader. My favorite though are James McCurdy's glass plate negative collection at the JCHS research center. His photos captured some pretty private moments in life. Not a portrait photographer, but a real artist. And of course your articles on history, your photos were always so much fun to read. You make history come alive.

Friday, June 14
Tom Camfield

Thanks, Marge. For years, in the dark-room at the Leader, I made contact prints from the old 6- x 8-inch glass plate negatives of J. M. McMurry. About 16 of them still adorn my living room walls. I still have a handful of such negatives. Most of that collection wound up in the hands of Dick McCurdy when he came back from Mallorca in the 1960s.. I hope they didn't get mixed in with Dick's uncle James G.'s material before making it to the Historical Society. I was always fascinated by the great detail preserved by those big old negatives.

I also recall having seen at the research center many years ago the personal photo album of Paul Richardson. I couldn't draw on it for my own books as the photos weren't readily available to the public. Somewhere in my attic is a suitcase filled with the old 4= x 5-inch negatives from the Leader, mostly photos I took myself during the 1950s and early '60s. We originally had such film processed at Redding's Studio. These are some I rescued when I caught Burdette hauling boxes of them to the dump along with other clutter from his shop. No one much around any more that makes prints from such things, so I just let them rest in peace upstairs. I sent some off to Kodak some years ago, and they just sent them back; weren't equipped to deal with printing from them.

I forgot one other amateur photographer of note, George Welch, local banker and businessman. I believe he was born about 1890. I haven't seen a lot of his photo work, probably from before and after 1920, although I do recall mountain-area scenics. I knew George, also. I caddied for him at the local course back around 1940-'42. He was a key promoter in development of the course in the early '20s.

Friday, June 14
Tom Camfield

I love to talk about photography. I carry an old flip-top cellphone in case of emergency on the road, but my camera is a Canon digital with 30-power telephoto built in (great for birds and other wildlife). And I can crop and tweak the photos on my computer. My favorite there is a sharpening feature that enhances such things as facial detail in the eye area of individuals. Jan Klockers has a camera I'd like to have; it will run off several shots in succession, among other things. A boon for both photographer and personal subjects. True, a camera is a bulky thing in comparison to a cell phone— but I think it still wins the race for clarity and detail.

I also have a scanner attached to my computer. And I regularly "steal" images off the internet via screen-grabs. The truly older photos are no longer covered by copyright and are in the public domain, no matter what some museums, etc. may insinuate. I have nicked the Library of Congress and elsewhere down the line.

And. oh yes, I do enjoy the work of the various photographers here at the Leader. The images they capture (and the stories appended) will someday be about all that remains. filed away historically, of many of the indivuduals involved. I take great pleasure every morning, also, in checking the photo bylines in the Seattle Times, as I have corresponded with photographers Bettina Hansen and Alan Berner. I used one of Alan's photos in a blog year or more ago.

Friday, June 14