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Still Pictures 1953 onwards

Finetta camera

There were three enormous advantages for the amateur photographer working at Movietonews.

First, it was possible to obtain 35mm short ends from the cameramen to be re-wound into a cassette for use in a 35mm still camera.   These short ends could be as long as 100 feet.  They would be the ends of a reel that were considered to short to reload into a cameras, after all 100 feet of 35mm runs for little over one minute.

Of course, there were Bell and Howell hand cameras that only took 100 feet of film, but these were rolled on to a purpose-made cassette.   Any amount would have been welcome when one considers the price of buying a 35mm cassette at that time.  It meant that we had unrestricted use of our still cameras. We could shoot whatever we wanted without considering the cost.

Second, working in a building that housed a 35mm film laboratory, it was possible, in exchange for the odd packet of cigarettes to get one’s film developed.  The laboratory would attach the short piece of stills negative to the end of a length of movie rushes and pass it through the developer and, not only that,  afterwards, they would make a “one-light” print as a strip of 35mm film. Whenever I wanted paper prints, these would be done by Mr. Percy Dennis, an old gentleman in his seventies who had been producing stills from Movietone movie film for years.

Third, if one was also privileged to go out with the camera crews from time to time, one could find oneself in a favoured position from which to view an interesting event.

I was a keen photographer having started off using a Coronet 35mm camera.  It was cheap with one fixed lens.  In early 1953, I decided to buy a new camera and I found a 35mm Finetta.  It cost £25.  It was a camera that looked more expensive than it was, however, it had facilities that I had not been used to.

My Finetta Camera

Finetta with original case

It had a shoe for a flash light. It had a bulb setting then shutter speed settings from 1/25th to 1/250th of a second.  It could be mounted on a tripod and it had a detachable lens.  At the time, it was said that additional lenses would become available, but I never saw another lens for that camera.

I was able to detach the lens and use it on my enlarger.

It had a frame counter, which automatically reverted to zero when re-loading and, of course, it took a standard 35mm cassette.

I used to retain my old cassettes after my film was removed for developing and re-used them by winding my own from the short ends I got from the Movietonews cameramen.  To do that, I needed a changing bag.  I would attach the film to the spool with a small piece of adhesive tape.  Then I would insert the spool into the cassette’s outer cover and start winding until I could not get any more on the spool.  Finally, I would place the end cap on and seal it with tape.

The amount of film I could get on to the cassette was no more than three feet.  Usually, it was around two and a half feet long.  However, this would give me 36 exposures.

In early 1953, I did a lot a photography, just to make good use of my new toy.  However an opportunity came along which enabled me to record some historical events.

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In June 1953, I was assigned to work with Movietonews cameramen Alec Tozer and soundman Derek Stiles.  The occasion was The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. This was the first opportunity to use my camera alongside a Movietone cameraman, a week later I worked alongside Norman Fisher for the new Queen’s first Trooping the Colour after the Coronation.

I also got to take pictures at the 1953 and 1954 Derby .  Although I attended a number of Cup finals at Wembley, it was forbidden to go into Wembley Stadium with a camera without a specific photographer’s pass. What a pity !

I now have a huge collection of negatives which I am slowly going through to identify them and to add to my collection. As you can see, I still have my Finetta camera.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Joyce Clarkson #

    What wonderful memories, keep them coming!

    April 21, 2015

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