Posts Tagged ‘Americana’

Route 66

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Charles Custer had been employed as a street photographer as a high school student, and after he met his future wife Irene when studying at the University of Chicago decided he could make some money so they could get married by working as a roving photographer. Irene told him she would go with him and the couple got married and began an extended honeymoon travelling along Route 66 in 1950-51, stopping off at small towns along the way to make and sell photographs to shop owners and others.

Apparently, according to the Chicago SunTimes story, they walked into businesses and announced themselves with the message “Hollywood’s Calling!” and Irene then posed the staff for a portrait while Charles set up his Agfa camera and took the photograph.

The camera he used was an Agfa Ansco view camera and the pictures were I think taken on 5″x7″ sheet film. Probably they used an orthochromatic film to make it easier to develop by inspection in motel rooms crudely blacked out using blankets, drying the negatives and making contact prints to supply to their clients the following day.

The lens used had a surprisingly wide angle of view, essential for photographing the workplace interiors, and which gives what the CST writer describes as “one point perspective” but is simply what we always get with a wide-angle lens, accentuated by the generally frontal viewpoint. Almost all show some vignetting at the corners, suggesting that the lens used was one designed for a smaller format where its angle of view would have been less.

The Back to the Past page gives similar information about the photographs but includes many more of the roughly 150 that survived and were recently rediscovered and reprinted by Oscar Larrauri Elías and Khela de Freslon — of  OK More Photography who discovered the box of old Kodak negatives when visiting their friend Charley Custer, whose father Charles died this January. They are hoping that putting them on line will get people to come forward with information about the people and places shown in the pictures taken around 70 years ago.

Thanks to my friend Derek Ridgers (a photographer whose work you shouldn’t miss) for posting a link to the Chicago Sun Times article on Facebook.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr