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Thread: 100 Year Old Photo Studios

  1. #1
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    100 Year Old Photo Studios

    I used to live near Essanay Studios Chicago, Illinois

    Never got inside, I tried

    However early last decade when all LF gear and Pro studios were dumping everything, I got into many very old giant brick studios, primary ULF and LF

    Most are Condos now

    One on Chicago Ave just east of Western had a second floor basketball court size studio space, I was getting a pile of free paper. The very high ceiling had an 8X10' hot light of many fixtures, it was on a big cast iron beam to move by motor the length of the studio. An impressive artificial skylight. They turned it on and moved it.The ramp elevator was a powered platform in the middle of stone steps rising 2 stories to the studio. It could move full 2 full pallet boxes. Never saw the Darkroom, but it was there.

    Another was in the old/new photo district. I got there late, a lot was gone, the husband/wife photographers were going out of business and getting divorced, Both there dividing cash sales as they happened.

    The space was also huge with 2 stories, west windows and surround second floor lighting/walkway. Safety rails.

    Also 8' Crescent Moon swing from ceiling. Not for sale...

    I paid cash for 2 Sinar kits with lenses in custom travel boxes. I had no idea what I was buying. They insisted I take anything left. I took sandbags, Majestic tripods, lighting stands. 2 of 16 chrome leather chairs. They were rejects from Salvation Army taking only perfect chairs, tables and who knows what. They were loading right then. Made a couple more cash buys from the next door studio. Two 12' built in SS sinks I couldn't get out. No time. I wanted her phone #!

    I started LF when I joined here and still have a lot to learn.

    There were other studios dumping, I bought and now use.

    I almost got into The Chicago ave Montgomery Wards studios, which claimed 100 Studio 11x14 Deardorff set up. 500 were made in Chicago. I and 5 others here have one.

    The day I got it assembled

    Deardorff S11 Just set up by TIN CAN COLLEGE, on Flickr
    Tin Can

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Re: 100 Year Old Photo Studios


    Kent in 3
    In contento ed allegria
    Notte e di vogliam passar!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: 100 Year Old Photo Studios

    When I was just starting out I visited a studio in Collingswood NJ where a friend knew the photographer. He was in an old movie theater. Dark, high ceiling, lots of space. He had eight different setups going at once. Several were devoted to regular customers. For instance one steady job was shooting car radios for one of the big manufacturers. He had a full-size store window mounted in his studio with a hole drilled in it mounting an invisible bracket to hold the radio. Behind the glass a few feet was a painted background. Lights and tripod always in place, ready for the next radio. I asked about the cost of doing that and he laughed, said they regularly paid $1000 or $2000 (1970 prices), don't remember which, for a single chrome that needed absolutely no retouching that he could shoot in 10 minutes, so he could afford to dedicate a corner of the studio to that.

    Another visit at the same time was to a famous guy in Philly, John Condax, who specialized in large dye transfer printing whose brother Louis worked at Kodak and was famous in my field (violins) for research he'd done on violin varnish. The thing I most remember from his darkroom was the 50 gallon barrel of hypo crystals in the corner.

    Different times. . .
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format:
    Mostly 35mm:
    You want digital, color, etc?:

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: 100 Year Old Photo Studios

    My Post about expired film, triggered a memory of the studio.

    Another giant space, way bigger than the first 2. A warehouse with 6 City Truck loading docks. That's how I got in, barely, as I was in no condition from handicap to climb up, but I did.

    It was perhaps 6 stories, the Studio I saw was 2 bottom floors with very high ceilings, stairs and freight elevators

    The Darkroom was big, but tiny compared with the other LF studio Darkroom. The bottom floor had huge amounts of Hot Lights on casters, stacks of Gobos, furniture, etc.

    The second floor had 20 Motor Drive Hasselblad on 15 ft Arkay Stands. I counted! No lenses anywhere in sight, front and rear caps on. The cameras were way up and out of reach.

    Everything was for sale or in a corner roped off with a sold sign. Big lots sold.

    This studio may have had a second Semi Trailer loading dock and a ramp for cars on the other side of the block.

    Almost nobody in sight, the buyers were gone. The lights dimmed.
    Tin Can

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2021
    Morgantown, WV

    Re: 100 Year Old Photo Studios

    This reminds me of the few years I lived in Chicago in the mid-late 90's, while I was attending Columbia College for audio recording (never finished there, but ended up with BA in "Music Technology & Digital Arts" from Stony Brook 20 years later). This made me think of all those big recording studios. Similar vibe and similar fate. I try to keep an equal love for both.

    Speaking about Stony Brook and big studios. They have a nice decent sized lighting studio there with high ceiling and big skylight. One of the best things about taking photo courses there. Had to wait until night to really have fun with the lights, because of that skylight, but I came to enjoy having space to stretch out and make some fun shots with lots of different light options available. Their darkroom is wanting, though, and I recall seeing alot of unused space and equipment; large format cameras and such, locked up in a cage never to be touched, etc...

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