Return to the Dhobi Khana

Don’t like doing laundry?  These people earn a living doing laundry the old-fashioned way.  At various “dhobi khanas” in India, washing clothes – but more often things like sheets, towels, and occasionally uniforms – is still done by hand at facilities like this one by “dhobis” – who have been doing this for generations.

This particular dhobi khana or “dhobi ghat” is said to be India’s second largest, and Chennai’s oldest – dating from 1902 – with 128 washing stones and over 1,000 dhobis.  I came here previously in February with some old cameras and took black-and-white photos – this time I brought a digital camera and a quadcopter to overfly the area.  Unfortunately, the copter shut off during filming (stray wi-fi signals???) but you can get an idea of what the place looks like from the minute or so shown below.

Posing with Sheets

This lady folds blankets and sheets. Small hotels and hospitals are among the customers of this dhobi khana.

Stain Removal


Washing Clothes

Washing Clothes

Washing Clothes

The work is anything but easy – it’s backbreaking. There is some relief from a cup of Indian coffee with lots of milk and sugar, poured from a height the traditional way to make it frothy.

Kaapi Wala

The work is a family effort.

Family Affair


Husband and Wife

Pump Pose

And here the video:

Posted in Life in India | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Found Film Friday: Brownie Hawkeye

This week’s found film comes from the inside of a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

The Brownie Hawkeye is a camera made in the 1950s.  It takes 620 rollfilm, and this camera contained a roll like the one below, which uses a process called C-22, no longer used nowadays (modern film is developed using the C-41 process). So what I do is develop this (color) film using black and white chemicals, based on what others have suggested on the internet. When the film is developed, it ends up pretty opaque, and the resulting image is difficult to pick up using a scanner.

Found Film 1

So then I have to use a homemade lightbox (described in this post) illuminate the image from behind, and take a picture of it.  This has to be converted from negative to positive, then to black and white, and then made more contrasty using software.

It’s the only way I’ve figured out I can develop C-22 film.  sometimes it turns out relatively well/clear; and then there’s times like this time.  The murky images that came out of the process are kind of a bummer though.  They date from 1970, at the earliest.

The first image is pretty unclear, and the second shows a man standing near a car whose make I cannot identify, but appears firmly rooted in the 1970s.

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

The final images show the reason why the roll was shot. First appears to be some flowers, which turns out to be a grave marker.

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye
We don’t know who Mildred Rita Collins was, but it seems she passed away in 1970, if I’ve read this correctly.  May she rest in peace.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vintage Camera Test: Franka Werke Bonafix

A few months ago I picked up this Franka Werke camera for “next to nothing” (20 bucks or so) that appeared from the photos to be in near-mint condition.  When it arrived, it looked like it had been stored in its original box since manufacture some 65 years ago.  The metal body is covered with rough vinyl made to look like leather, and parts of it were peeling off.  But the bellows, all of the metal parts, glass, appeared to be perfect.  I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try it out.

The Franka cameras were generally inexpensive cameras made in Bayreuth, Germany from 1909 to 1966.  This particular camera is marked as a “Bonafix”, which was made for years, and there’s not a lot of information out there to identify when this one was made.  I’m guessing it’s from 1952 or so.

Franka Werke Bonafix

The weird thing about this camera is that it has two little windows in the back where you can see which picture you’re on – one in the corner and one in the middle.  So I thought this meant I could use the middle window and the pictures would automatically be half-frame – giving me 16 pictures on a roll rather than 8.  The numbers in the middle of the film go from 1 to 16 and are spaced half as far apart.


So I happily went out and shot a roll of color film, and discovered that I was sadly mistaken.  Apparently you need to do something on the inside of the camera to make this work – maybe some sort of adaptor or something.  So all my pictures ended up overlapping.

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

So that was no good.

A couple of weeks later, I loaded up a roll of Kodak Professional Tri-X and decided to use the other film window and only take 8 pictures. This time the results were much better.



The picture above is an effigy of the type which is commonly hung at building construction sites. Its purpose is to ward off the “evil eye.” While we were in the village, we also discovered that there was a temple procession ongoing. A group of young men carrying some sort of decorated deity over their heads were going from house to house with several percussionists. At each home, people were waiting to anoint the procession’s feet with (what looked like) turmeric, and also engage in rituals such as smashing a coconut in the street. It’s all pretty unclear to us outsiders, but it makes for great photos.

Temple Procession

Backs of the Procession


Although I felt the pictures had come out pretty well, I had noticed while unloading the film that there seemed to be lots of dust on the inner lens.  Later I would inspect more closely, and it turns out there is fungus growing on the inner glass surfaces of the 3 lens elements:


It looks pretty bad on this picture, but you can only really see it when you put a light behind it and view at an indirect angle. I made this picture and enhanced the fungus to send to a friend to confirm this was the problem. Apparently it can be removed with some work, and it only “softens” pictures supposedly – doesn’t really show up otherwise. But it seems the spores can spread the fungus to other cameras – so I’ll need to take care of this when I can get my hands on some peroxide.

In any case, to sum up, this is a pretty good find I think. For a 1950s camera I’m quite satisfied with the results!


Posted in Vintage cameras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film Friday: Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

This week’s roll of found film came to me from “Mike” – a collector of old slides who was giving up on a “found film” hobby, he sent me a half dozen or so rolls and acknowledged there was a small chance one of the rolls might be his own. Up until now, none had, but something prompted me to ask him if he’d ever been to Santa Fe.

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

From the photo below, he was able to date the roll to the late 80s.  After a bit of back-and-forth, it seems this set of photos came from the “Fiesta del Porsche”, an annual event started in the 1970s by the local Porsche Club of America chapter.  It was later renamed the “Fiesta de Enchantment”, and now, the “Fiesta New Mexico.”

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

And the car reflected in the window was his contribution to the show. I guess this is another shot of the same car:

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

And here’s another car in the show:

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Here, a bunch of the car enthusiasts hang out with some wooden life-size cowboys – I thought they might be mentioned as a tourist attraction, but couldn’t find anything on them, or the mural immediately after. It has been 25 years or so, so who knows?

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

I’ll finish up this post with a picture that made me chuckle. Snack break!  For the rest of the photos in this collection, see this Flickr album.

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Found Film Friday” on a Sunday

Since around May, 2013, I have been posting “found film” finds pretty regularly – and for the last 8 months, it has been every Friday like clockwork.  This weekend is the first time I missed a Friday, thanks to an outage by my internet provider.  We get great high-speed internet, but sometimes are surprised by how this happens.

Apparently a fiber optic cable was cut on Friday.  Our provider has subcontractors it sends out for repairs.  Basically it’s a bunch of guys with some fancy tools that come out on motorcycles and work till it’s done.  We couldn’t figure out what was taking so long, and brought them some drinks and snacks to rush them along (it didn’t work).

I believe in many places, fiber optic cable gets buried, or runs though some sort of hardened tubes?  No idea, really.  I was surprised to discover it’s really just black cable that looks like any other cable – it gets run along from tree to tree, around poles and mail boxes and anything else that can be used to anchor it down.  When it gets cut, it has to be isolated and re-run.  Here’s a picture (from Hyderabad, not from our neighborhood) that illustrates what a task this can be:

Tangled Wires

So anyhow, it’s “Found Film Sunday”.

This week’s roll comes from a random roll of 35mm that came into my possession with a pile of other unidentified film.  Basically, we’re just talking about a trip to the Goodwill Store, I think.

img194Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

I’m not sure who took the pictures – many may have been taken by this little girl – though obviously not this one:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Here she is making a call on one of the many phones for sale, none of which are particularly old:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

This might be Mom:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

And this could be Dad. Or it could all just be random people. Cool multiple exposure though.

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Here’s my guess. This family was walking around the Goodwill Store, and they picked up an old camera which still had film in it. They took pictures of each other, as well as random pictures like this one:


And they either bought the camera – or, even more intriguing – placed it back on the shelf. And somehow the film ended up with me, with pictures of their day at the Goodwill Store, and a couple of really weird pictures like this one:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Update:  This film was part of a batch of film rolls sold to me by “Mike” – a collector of old slides that is pretty unique and cool in its own right (see his Flickr site) informed me that he recognized that this is indeed the inside of a Goodwill Store – in Bonner Springs, Kansas.  The Goodwill moved out to another building in 2013 and the building is now occupied by the Salvation Army.  I have one more roll of film left from the batch Mike sent me, and we have since discovered that this roll was actually shot by Mike himself.  Check for that this coming Friday.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Photowalk: Gritty Black and White

One of my favorite camera/film combinations is a (relatively) cheap Ricoh Kr-5 Super II – at just over 20 years old, one of my newest cameras – and Tri-X black and white film.  Lots of people go for “fine grain” black and white films, but I like the gritty look you get from this particular film.


I wish I could remember the settings I used on the photo above – it has a washed-out quality that reminds me of watercolor paintings.


The first few shots were taken at different parts around town.  This one below is my favorite on the roll.



It’s not an unusual site once you’ve been here awhile, but all over Chennai, women are employed using these odd brooms to sweep the streets. They can be seen sweeping the streets at all times, day or night.


The last few were at the Thousand Lights Mosque, supposedly one of India’s largest mosques, but utterly deserted in the morning when we stopped by for photographs.




Posted in Photography, general | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This week’s roll of “found film” comes from a Kodak Six-16 Brownie Junior, made between 1934 and 1942.  From a technology standpoint, it’s virtually indistinguishable from a Brownie Target Six-16, made between 1946 and 1951.  Given the pace of technology these days, it’s odd to think that a camera would have one so many years without any real technical improvements.  Update: it turns out the “Brownie” website I used as a reference was likely wrong – another site lists production dates as 1933-1940, which coincides with Kodak’s brief run with 116 and 616 film.  But this still represents one of the last models in decades of box cameras that were, from a technical point of view, nearly identical.

Kodak Six-16 Brownie Junior

Kodak Brownie Target Six-16

The camera came from a seller on eBay, who, when asked about the camera’s origins, explained, “We purchased the belongings that were left in the basement of the home we bought in Hegins Pa. The original owners resided previously in Quakertown Pa and did a lot of traveling.”  The camera has a a piece of tape that seemed at first to serve no real purpose; but it covers a small pull-tab which, when pulled out, causes the shutter to stay open until the shutter release is operated a second time.  There are no markings to help you remember which way is which, and having it pulled out when it should be pushed in can ruin one of the pictures on a roll of only eight exposures.  On the newer model, that tab has been moved to the bottom of the case.  Which doesn’t make it any easier to remember if you don’t use the camera often.


The first three exposures on the roll were blank. Could this have been the owner trying to remember which way the tab was supposed to go, ultimately leading them to install the piece of tape? Then we get a picture of a young girl:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This is followed by two identical landscapes:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

And then a photo of a car:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This is a 1949 Chevrolet, with Pennsylvania license plates. The final photo appears to be the same little girl (though it could be a sibling), now a couple of years older. I think it’s the same person, probably the photographer’s daughter – which is what led me to think the photographer didn’t use the camera all that often. I’d guess the car was new at the time, meaning the camera was at least 7-8 years old when the pictures were taken. And the little girl would be about 70 today. Neither she nor her parents ever saw these photos.

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

The last bit of the film was folded over when it was rolled up (somehow), which is probably what caused the lines on the last photo.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shooting with Expired Film

One of the folks I often get “found film” from accidentally shipped me unused film.  Typically people will discover a partially or fully shot roll of film that has been completely forgotten inside an old camera.

Sometimes (rarely) the roll will be inside the camera without having been exposed at all.  You know you’ve messed up when you are spooling the film for the developing tank and the leading edge of the film is taped to the backing paper.   When that happens, you should roll it back up and see if you can shoot any pictures with it. Will it still work, you ask?  Well, that depends on how old it is, and how it was stored.

Color film dating back to the 70s and 80s should still produce images, but they will have strange color shifts.  With black and white, you can probably get away with film from the 60s.  It tends to get grainy in my experience. I recently shot some old Dynapam film that was probably from the 1960s (but I’m not sure).


The camera I used was a Kodak Duaflex II:

Kodak Duaflex II

It gets pretty crisp photos with new film – you can compare on this blog post.  But with this old film, it’s an entirely different story:

img781sm img782sm img783sm img784sm img785sm

There is a point when there’s no need to bother trying…for example this film:



And here the outcome:


Posted in Photography, general | Tagged | Leave a comment

Testing the Kodak Brownie No. 0 Model A

It seems that camera naming conventions have never been simple.  The Kodak Brownie No. 0 Model A was manufactured between 1914 and 1935.  It was a small cardboard/wood and box camera with a rotary shutter and two reflecting finders. It sold for $1.25 and is said to take remarkably sharp 6 by 4 cm exposures, “if held correctly.”

Kodak No. 0 Brownie Model A


This particular one, a gift from my parents, was made between 1914 and 1917. You can tell by the square decorative markings on the front, and the location of the tension spring that holds the roll of film in place.



A few weeks ago I loaded this one up with one of my last remaining rolls of Efke 127 film and carried it around on my next couple of photowalks. As tends to be the case when I use these old box cameras, a few of the shots were ruined because I didn’t take them in bright enough light. There is a little lever you can pull that allows you to keep the shutter open for a timed exposure, but I’m not confident enough to do that; so I need to use enough light to get into the f/11 aperture and 1/60s (or so) shutter. Here’s what I ended up with:

In the Shade

Wagon Wheels

The first couple of shots are from Marina Beach in Chennai – a couple of kids trying to catch some shade, and the wheels of one of the dozens of snack carts that ruin sit on the beach. I also tried a couple of shots of a pedestrian bridge, thinking the patterns would work well in black and white.



And finally, a shot of Thousand Lights Mosque, and a human subject, again on the beach.



I thought the camera did OK for being 100 years; but given what I have seen other people do with these old cameras, I still feel like I’m not quite getting the hang of it. It’s a shame the film for these things is starting to be in such short supply – many of the cameras that use 127 film still work perfectly fine. And on top of that, they’re cute!

Posted in Vintage cameras | Leave a comment

Processing Your Own Film

I recently had a query from someone on whether I would teach him how to process his own film.  Unfortunately I’ve only been at it for about 9 months, far too short to be in any position to teach on the subject.  But I can share what I know so far – and thought I’d summarize it all and put it in a blog post, in case anyone else needs the information.

First of all, why take photos with film, anyway?  My own reasons for taking up film photography had more to do with making old cameras work, than any particular attraction to the medium itself.  Though I do get a touch nostalgic sometimes.  And the cameras are basically free.  You can buy a 100-year-old camera, use it, and sell it for the same price you bought it for.  The DSLR you bought 5 years ago?  Throw it in the trash, nobody wants it.

The main reasons I shoot with film are:

  • working with completely manual cameras (I don’t even use a light meter) teaches you a lot about photography that you’ll never learn from a fully automatic digital camera.  In fact, much of what we know about photography is being forgotten, because our cameras do it all for us.
  • Shooting with film forces you to think differently about photography.  Rather than going out and shooting hundreds of photos in the hopes that there will be 10-12 real gems in the bunch is completely different from the way you approach photography when you’re walking around with a 70-year-old camera loaded with a roll of film that will give you 8 photographs.
  • there’s something satisfying and maybe a little bit magical about having good, usable images appear on photographic film after you’ve completed the entire process.

I still shoot with a digital camera when I want to be 100% sure I document something, because you can verify on the spot that you got the shot.  There are many other reasons to shoot with film.  For just about every other reason people shoot with film, check out this documentary:

So now we’ve established you want to shoot with film.  If you live in India, what’s the best way to get started?

  1. Acquire a film camera.  You can occasionally find them in big camera shops.  If you want to get a good deal, check out eBay (India).  I started with a film that uses 120 film, but I recommend starting with a 35mm camera (I’ll explain why later).  Do some googling on what’s on offer and make sure you get something that allows you to adjust everything about the photo, and consider whether the batteries are still available if the camera has a built-in light meter.  A lot of the SLRs made in the 1970s and 1980s are great to learn with.  My favorite is the Ricoh Kr-5 because it’s cheap ( a Pentax knock-off), takes great pictures, and makes a delicious sound when you press the shutter button.
  2. Acquire a developing tank.  This will be a little bit tricky but you need one.  What’s special about such a tank is that it allows you to add chemicals and pour them out, without exposing the film to light.  Old ones can be acquired on eBay (the US version) or American photo shops (see list later).  I know of no one in India that sells them (but if you find someone please let me know!)  If possible, get one where the spool can be adjusted for different film sizes, in case you decide to expand to 120 film later.  It doesn’t really cost more.
  3. Acquire film developing chemicals.  Again, I know of no place in India that sells in quantities that would be used by an individual.  Occasionally you will run across someone in this Facebook group that wants to split an order.  Fortunately almost everything can be bought as a powder.
    1. For black and white, you will minimally need a developer and a fixer.  I suggest Kodak D-76 and Kodak fixer.  You can also use a stop bath, which is basically a mild acid.  It only comes in liquid form as far as I know.  Black and white processing is easiest because it can be done at room temperature.  Go for the amounts needed to make 1 liter if possible – it’s perishable.
    2. For color I recommend the Tetenal C-41 press kit.  It has everything you will need, and is the only product I’ve ever used for film processing.  Color processing needs to be done at 39 degrees Celsius.  I use a water bath.  Some people say it’s too difficult to do color film processing at home, but I don’t have any problems.
    3. You will also need a thermometer that goes up to about 50 Celsius or so, and you can use discarded water bottles to store the chemicals, but I recommend something opaque if possible.  I use these bottles.  And you need a small funnel and a stopwatch.
  4. Now you need a room that’s completely dark.  Many rooms will look dark when you first enter, but wait 10 minutes or so and see if it’s still dark.  If you don’t have such a room, it is possible to buy a film changing bag, but I think these are a hassle if not necessary.  I use a windowless room and throw a towel in front of the door to block the light.

Ideally you will need a space with two sinks.  I do my processing in the kitchen.  I put water in one sink that is the temperature the chemicals need to be to process the film, and I use the other sink for rinsing the film when the process is complete.  They don’t need to be right next to each other, but be careful about dripping the film chemicals, which are technically toxic.

Now you’re ready to go.  I’m not going to recreate the process here, but will share the websites I used to learn how to develop film.  Black and White: The website I used appears to have been removed, but you can try two very detailed sites:  this one or this one.  You may note they list requirements I have not listed above.  I’ve given the bare minimum required.  Color Film:  Use either this website or this website.

I hang film to dry using clothespins.  Sometimes the water will leave spots (you can buy stuff to prevent that) so be sure and shake the film well.  You can use a soft cloth after it has dried a bit to carefully soak up some of the water.

Additional Notes

You may remember I said 35mm is better than 120 format film in India, at least to get started.  The reason for this is, while you’re acquiring your materials (probably you bought the camera first and are still looking for the chemicals), you can still take 35mm color film to your local photo printing place and they will develop it for you.  Where I live in Chennai, I know of no one who still develops black and white film, and I’ve never tried slide film.  But you can do color.  I don’t think anyone develops 120 format, black and white or color.  Eventually you may want to try 120 film, which can be a lot of fun because you can capture so much detail.  Many large billboards and travel magazines require the use of 120 film or larger.  Believe it or not, your DSLR doesn’t have the resolution that 120 film which has been used for 100 years has.  The other reason for using 35mm film is that 120 film costs about 600 rupees a roll in India and will get you from 8 to 16 exposures, depending on your camera.  It adds up.

So what do you do with those negatives?  You can have a photo shop scan and print them for you.  Personally I have not been happy with the quality I have gotten, and bought a scanner that does film.  I used an Epson V600 but there are other brands.  I asked the folks at B and H photo (by email) and that’s what they suggested.

Finally, where do you get the stuff you need?  I was surprised at the speed the digital camera revolution has swept through India.  1.2 billion people and there is hardly anyplace left where you can buy the supplies for home film processing.  If you want to get your film processed in India, I believe you can ship it to either Idea Creative (in Mumbai?) or SV Photographic in Delhi.  There may be other places – you can check with others on this excellent Facebook Group.  Or this other Facebook Group in Mumbai.

For the stuff you can’t get in India, I personally have experience with a few places in the United States.  I have no idea about shipping, customs or duties.  But you can get anything you need from B and H Photo, or you can try Adorama.   I have also gotten some things from Freestyle Photographic Supplies.

Happy shooting!

Posted in film processing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film Friday: New Year’s Road Trip 1994

…and just like that, we go from “class”…to a little bit crass.  After weeks of posting historically meaningful post-war photos that were rescued from oblivion, we have a roll of pictures that looks like it was snapped on a three-day college drinkfest that involved a bus, a bar, and what looks like a bunch of people crammed into a hotel room.  But this is the nature of “found film.”

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

These folks are probably all by now respectable, middle-aged folks with kids – probably in their early 40s – but back in 1994 it looks like it was a wild bus ride to wherever this party took place!

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

They appear to have hung out in this hotel room for a couple of days. Somebody was taking pictures and changed the format for the auto date stamp several times, but thanks to him or her we know when the pictures were taken. Probably since they made the effort to change the format, the date is likely to have been correct.

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Other than these folks not being the most discerning beer drinkers, I can’t find a whole lot of clues about where this party trip might have taken place, or where the travelers came from. Unfortunately, they never saw their pictures, but maybe someone will stumble across this blog and recognize mom or dad, who knows? And then mom and dad can thank me for not posting ALL of the pictures from this roll. But I’ve got them if they want them. Ahhh the good old days….

Found Film:  New Year's 1994

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Gypsies in India

We regularly join “photowalks” here in Chennai, and were surprised to hear we were going to visit a “gypsy colony.”  A bit of googling informed me that the “Roma” people speak a language closely related to Hindi, and are thought to originate somewhere in or near India.


Here they are not known as Roma people; they have many names, but in Tamil Nadu are often referred to as Narikuravar.  They are described as tribal forest people who were denied entry into the forests to engage in hunting, and were therefore forced to find other ways to earn a living.

Gypsy colony

Southern Chennai is home to a colony of Narikuravar people. One among our group had visited once before to take pictures, and was immediately surrounded by a group of kids when he began handing out prints from his previous visit.

Passing Out Photos

For the next half hour, anyone carrying a camera was the most popular person in the neighborhood. Many people had kittens and puppies in their homes, and many of the kids quickly figured out that the best way to guarantee someone would take their picture was to be holding the cutest kitten or puppy they could find. The kittens weren’t always happy about this…

See My Cat


Photographers like babies, too!


I was carrying a film camera, and so had to be pickier than most. I couldn’t remember what kind of film was in the camera – I thought it might be black and white. As it turned out, however, it was slide film. I actually don’t have the chemicals (or knowledge) to process slide film, and had bought it to use experimentally. I had thought maybe architecture – old buildings or sculptures would look cool, not people, necessarily. But I do think the color cast is an interesting effect.

Visit to the Tailor


Toward the end of the roll, I asked this girl for a few close-up shots. I reached the end of the roll just as her younger friends asked if I could also snap their photo, and tried to explain the difference between my camera and probably every other camera they had ever seen. Finally I had to rewind the roll, pop open the camera, and show them where the photos were “hidden.”


We’ll definitely get the photos printed and deliver them as soon as we get a chance. It’s difficult to find detailed materials online, but you can learn a bit more about the Narikurava here and here.

Posted in film processing, Life in India, Photowalks | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Jackfruit Season in India!

-Wait, what’s a jackfruit???

You may know, but we didn’t, before we moved to India.  And if I had ever encountered one on a tree, I certainly wouldn’t know what to do with it!  Take a look at these pictures.  Weird, right?  And they’re huge!

Jackfruits are one of the “big 3″ most auspicious fruits in Tamil Nadu.  This is significant, as India produces 40% of the world’s mangoes and 20% of the world’s bananas (side note:  did you know the banana plant is officially an herb?).

Anyway, we’ve been seeing jackfruit vendors painstakingly dissecting these huge fruits and decided to finally get a closer look (and have a taste!)  We had a chat with Rajendran, who showed us how it’s done.


Cutting Jack Fruit

It takes a whole lot of skill and practice, a sharp knife and regular applications of (ginger?) oil to extract the edible portions of this fruit.  You can’t just grab one on the way home and crack it open for the next neighborhood barbecue.  Rajendran showed us how it’s done on the video below:

As it turns out, jackfruit is a staple all over southeast Asia. And yet we’d never heard of it. Go figure!

Posted in Life in India | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Found Film: Korea, 1946, roll 4 (Homecoming)

This is the fourth and final installment in a series of posts about four rolls of film that were found among items acquired in an estate sale in rural Washington state.

To recap what I think I can safely assume from the content in these photos, they appear to have been taken by a U.S. Army infantry lieutenant – probably a senior first lieutenant – who was appointed as Commanding Officer in one of the companies – probably in a boat battalion – belonging to the 592nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.  The Regiment was deployed to Australia for training in 1943, and then participated in an island-hopping campaign that included a grueling assault on Leyte, and another in Corregidor, and was one of the first units to land in Japan after they capitulated, in September 1945.  Afterward, it seems many of the troops were sent home, but some were reassigned to assist in the logistical support of U.S. troops in newly-liberated Korea, probably until 1947 or so.  The photographs in these rolls show members of the 592nd EBSR in Korea, scenes from 1946-47 Korea, and from the work they were doing there.  You can revisit previous posts here, here and here.

When I received these film rolls, I scanned them individually, and then spent many hours trying to restore the digital versions the best I could.  After doing three rolls, I took a break.  When I did this final roll, I was surprised to discover that it was also the fourth roll chronologically, as it contains a number of surprises that help close out the story told by this series of fascinating photos.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

This is what soldiers look like when they are headed home after a long deployment. It’s definitely not the first roll in the series, judging from the expressions and the general mood on board this ship. We can almost sense from their eyes that they are filled with thoughts about home as they wait for the weeks to pass on this homeward journey. Most of them will return to their families and be released from military service as a part of a massive military drawdown that followed World War II.

A number of the photos have been doubly exposed – which creates a ghostly effect that almost deliberately illustrates the previous point about what is on most of their minds:

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

The double exposures are oddly interspersed among the photos, making me wonder how or why it might have happened.

On board a ship for two to three weeks – which is about how long it would have taken this ship to travel from Korea to San Francisco or Seattle, there would have been a maximum of about 2700 crew and passengers on board, with not a lot to do besides just wait.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Some of the guys would have killed time by napping somewhere in a corner of a ship, or snapping photos to preserve memories of the trip.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Thanks to the photographer, however, we know the name of this ship. Named after US Army General Frederick Funston, a Medal of Honor recipient, and the man who would eventually be known as “the man who saved San Francisco,” the ship was launched 27 September 1941 by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation at Tacoma, Washington and acquired by the US Army as a transport ship. She was acquired from the Army by the US Navy on 8 April 1943, reclassified an APA (Auxiliary Personnel Attack, i.e. attack transport), and commissioned 24 April 1943 with Commander J. E. Murphy in command. As a US Navy ship, the “USS Funston” would be used to ferry troops to both the European and Pacific theaters of operations until April 4, 1946, when she was returned to the Army and once again renamed the USAT Frederic Funston.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

She would be returned to naval custody when the Military Sea Transportation Service was created in 1950, and would see some action in Korea, and was eventually scrapped in 1969. This is what the ship looked like in her prime:


If you’re interested in the ship itself (which could be a whole separate blog post), you can check out this video as well:

Eventually, however, the “boys” would make it back home to what could be any military base on the West Coast, and snap a few final photos of each other while they waited for outprocessing and a ride home. Would their wives or parents have met them on base the way we would nowadays? Or, due to the amount of time it would have taken for them to communicate their arrival, would they have surprised them by showing up at home?

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

And that’s where the military deployment ends. The roll was half done, and presumably the owner went back home to resume his life with his family, possibly somewhere near Cashmere, Washington (where this film would eventually turn up). Wait, did I say family?

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

The tragic thing about these mother-and-baby photos (there are probably a dozen on the roll) is that every single one is out of focus.  This guy took around 200 pictures and over 90 percent of them turned out perfectly – then he gets home and suddenly becomes unable to take sharp photos!  I’m guessing he developed other interests.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 4

So that pretty much completes what I was able to figure out about these photos. I’ve written to a few folks who may know more, but so far no one has responded. I’m hopeful someone may be able to identify the people or places in these photos.  If you can help, send me a note at  Other photos from this final roll can be viewed in this Flickr set.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day at the Beach

Marina Beach, Chennai, India

Fish Market

Day at the Beach


Day at the Beach

Made in the Shade

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Beach Photographer

Day at the Beach

Dog Days

Posted in Life in India | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film: Korea, 1946 – Part 3

This is the third installment (in what will eventually be 4) in a series of posts about a fascinating project I have been working on.  Rather than the usual “found film” which I find undeveloped, this is a set of four rolls of already-developed photographs I have scanned and gradually restored over the past weeks.

The photographs are a window into a part of our military history that does not appear to be all that well-documented (and at times controversial), from the perspective of a group of infantry lieutenants serving in an engineer/boat unit in Korea, circa mid-1946 and for the next year or two.

There’s nothing marking the rolls to indicate the order in which they were taken; but they all appear to be somewhat different, and were probably taken throughout the photographer’s deployment.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

This roll is a hodge-podge of photos taken in different locations with few identifying features. I like the shot above, which seems to have somehow been taken from directly overhead. There are a few large buildings which may still be in place in or near Incheon.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

A former adjutant of the boat battalion belonging to the same regiment as the photographer – if not actually in the same battalion - describes his early impressions of the country:

I had limited contact with Koreans when I served in the boat battalion. A boat shore regiment has two elements. It has a boat battalion which runs the boats and keeps them repaired and then it had a port battalion which furnished the beach people. In our situation it did the stevedoring both on board ship and in the tidal basin. The ships would come close to the harbor. They couldn’t come into the tidal basin because that couldn’t take any more than a LST. A Baltic class freighter, the kind of thing the “Pueblo” was, could get in. Most of the supplies came on Liberty size ships and everything had to be lightered ashore. We ran the lighters and the port battalion provided all the stevedore troops. They, the port battalion, after the big exodus of World War II veterans, began to hire fairly large numbers of Koreans as stevedores, primarily. We used some of them for our maintenance operations. We had some wooden hull boats, some command boats, and the Koreans were very, very good shipwrights, good boat carpenters. I will never forget the first time I saw a Korean shipwright drive a long screw through the outer planking of one of our things and into the hull member with a power driver. He had a look of beatification on his face like nothing you ever saw. It would have taken him hours to get that thing in. We also hired them for kitchen help, for barrack cleaning, the donkey work in the motor pool. We didn’t hire very many skilled ones and didn’t come in contact with very many educated ones.

This photo of Korean stevedores loading the American ships is one of my favorites in the roll:

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

There is reason to believe that the military unit the photographer belonged to was stationed on the island of Wolmido, which is said to be a kilometer off the coast of Incheon – but with all of the dredging and terraforming that has taken place to transform the port and coastal areas, appears to be contiguous to the mainland. The photo below may be of the fishing harbor on the island at that time. There are few photos to compare from that time, and it’s almost useless to try and compare with modern photos as the landscape has been utterly transformed. In fact, Wolmido Island is now the setting for an amusement park, a modern boardwalk and countless other things to do.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

The writer of the previous passage concerning Incheon – who would later go on to become an Ambassador to Korea – was not impressed with Incheon in the mid-1940s.  He continued:

I thought at the time that Korea was hopeless as a society. It was this curious mixture of more or less 20th century and 15th century. You could smell it forty miles at sea — the so-called honey pits — the only fertilizer they had was human excrement. Honey wagons were all over the place. Our places were serviced with honey wagons. The agricultural tools that they used were all out of the remote, remote past. If you went up to Seoul you saw street cars and relatively modern buildings and that kind of thing, but in the countryside between Inchon and Seoul why agricultural and other methods were ox carts and that sort of thing were way, way out of date.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

The people were not excessively friendly. I had a house on the side of a hill in Wome Do in what had been an old Japanese complex and summer resort. Our club had been the governor’s mansion. There were four hotels out there; we managed to burn them down. Each of our companies was billeted in one of these hotels which was joined together by wooden passageways with a long passageway out over the water to join a square pavilion where they had their parties, etc.

(photo from a previous roll)

Found Film:  Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 2

But I lived on the hillside in one of the separate cottages which they also maintained. But we let the Koreans live in all of the others. But they were very aloof and there was no fraternization, which we respected mightily. If a man was looking for a woman he had to go up to Seoul, possibly because most of Inchon was off limits. Up to the time I left, there was no inter-marriage, no real fraternization of any sort.

Anyway, I did not conceive any great love or liking for the Korean people at that point. I really didn’t know any other than those we hired. My job didn’t put me in contact with any.

The photographer appears to have had more affection – and probably contact – with the Korean people at the time.  As in other rolls, he showed an interest in photographing children.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

He also appears to have worked with this interpreter, who appears 5 or 6 times on the roll.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

She appears to have worked in the same office as this sergeant. I tried to zoom in a bit on the calendar to try and figure out the date of the photo, but it just gets blurry the more you zoom in.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

Finally, there’s the guy I like to think of as the “First Sergeant” – who appears several times throughout the four rolls of photos. At all times, he is photographed in the same position – on his back, in bed. But anyone who has worked with First Sergeants knows, he probably managed to somehow keep things under control in spite of this – and kept his lieutenants out of trouble as much as he could. This is a great portrait:

Found Film: Incheon, Korea, 1946, roll 3

For the rest of the roll, you can check out the complete album on Flickr.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indian Portraits from the 1950s and 1960s

Between Chennai and Pondicherry is an area with an especially high proliferation of “junk stores.  I suppose the owners would prefer we’d call them antique shops – but there actually aren’t that many actual antiques, just lots of oddities and strange treasures, many of which are made to look old.

In the back of one of these shops, the owner has stacked hundreds of old photographs.  Most of them are marked or stamped as having come from a photography shop in Madurai, not too far from here, and there is the occasional photo with a date identifying it from the late 1950s or early 1960s.  I thought they were fascinating to go through, and thought you might enjoy seeing some of them too.  I’ve scanned them with the attached mattes partially showing so you can see the full effect.

This is a proud bicycle owner.

Vintage Photos from Madurai

My Five Sons. I love how they have all been carefully placed into these photos by the photographer.  I imagine him instructing: “OK, stay in that position…and look natural!”

Vintage Photos from Madurai

No one looks happy – but not smiling in photos is very common in this part of the world.



I was able to repair much of the damage to this extended family photo, except for some of the faces, which are tough to fix without knowing what the people look like. I’d love to know the story behind this photo.

Vintage Photos from Madurai

What is the ITPT Company, what was Mr. Jones’s job there, and where are all of these people now?

Vintage Photos from Madurai

The selection above is only about half the photos I picked up.  You can check out the rest here on Flickr.

Posted in Found Film, Life in India | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Found Film: Korea, 1946 – part 2

Last week I posted about the first of four rolls of already-developed film I had come across via a seller on eBay, and have been scanning and restoring one by one.  This is the second roll, which provides a whole new set of clues as to the photographer and their living conditions in Korea, just after the end of World War II.  Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy; I’m guessing these photos stem from roughly 12 to 14 months after that day – between June and August, 1945.  I’ll explain why below.

I was excited to see the results of this roll, because I could tell as I was putting them on the scanner that there were a number of close-up portraits.   I could be completely wrong, but I suspect the following photo is of the photographer himself.  On the roll, the portraits immediately precede a series of photographs that show the inside of a Soldier’s room.  As a veteran myself, who has deployed overseas and left my family behind, I imagined he might be taking these photos to share with loved ones at home – exactly as I did myself, almost exactly 60 years later in Afghanistan.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

His rank insignia identifies him as a lieutenant – we can’t tell whether he’s a second (more junior, gold bar) or first (more senior, with a silver bar) lieutenant – and the crossed rifles on his other lapel identify him as an infantry officer.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

He appears to have lived in pretty Spartan conditions, don’t you think?

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

From another source, I know that the 592nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment’s boat battalion was stationed on Wome-Do, an island near Incheon. I think the officer we are looking at here was the commanding officer of one of this battalion’s companies. Why? On the chair in the last photo above, we see a seahorse on an oval background, above the letters, “C.O.” This insignia was worn by members of the Engineer Amphibious Command from October 1942, and in June 1946, became the official insignia of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade. We also know the photos were probably taken no earlier than June or July of 1946 because of the photo below:

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

This is a copy of “Coronet” magazine, printed in May, 1946. How long would it have taken to arrive in Korea back then, and why did the photographer take 3 pictures of it, only one of which was light enough to make out this detail?

And then we have this photo, which may depict the unit’s arrival at this location in Korea. Even today, Soldiers arriving at a new location will be told to grab their duffel bags from the truck and line up to be assigned to barracks rooms.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

In 1945, lieutenants often found themselves in command of companies (normally commanded by captains) – so our C.O. was probably a first lieutenant, with anywhere from two to four years of experience under his belt.

The building below is probably one of the buildings they occupied and used as barracks. Or maybe the officers stayed here – who knows? In any case, there was a reason for the photographer to snap several shots, and those look like military-issue sheets and towels hanging from the line!

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

We can learn about what these guys did from a 1995 interview of an officer who may have actually served in this unit at the time these photos were taken.  In fact, he may be in one of the photos.  He explains:

When I got overseas, they lined everybody up on the dock and told every fifth guy to step forward and I ended up in the Corps of Engineers as adjutant of the boat battalion of the 592nd Boat and Shore Regiment, which was the outfit that ran the boats in the harbor of Inchon. So I spent all of the time in Korea living on the island of Wome Do — “Do” means island and “Wome” means moon tail — located in the port of Inchon.

When they broke up the battalion and transferred everybody I went to the Corps of Engineers in order to get a promotion and then they broke up that battalion and turned us all into a transportation port company. I ended up commanding the whole thing the last eight months I was there. Anybody with any points went home and we weren’t getting any experienced boat people so I had a nice little fiefdom out there on Wome Do.

We were on an island and our looks were always to the sea. We operated lighters to and from the shore. We were on duty 24 hours a day and you may recall something of the tide problem in
Inchon. They later built the big tidal basin of which Wome Do is actually now part. Inchon when I was there was the port with the second highest average rise and fall of tide in the world, next to the Bay of Fundy, and you had to operate strictly in accordance with the tides. You couldn’t get in or out of the tidal basin unless the tide was correct. You couldn’t even get up to Charlie Pier in Inchon harbor for much of the day. You would look over the area one hour and see nothing but shining water as far as the eye could see and six hours later it was nothing but shining mud as far as the eye could see. But we operated LCMs and LCTs, which the Navy had left us. All of the supplies at that time for Korea for the 24th Corps were coming in through Inchon because the railroads were broken to Pusan. Pusan was more or less inoperative anyway and the troops were all up towards the 38th parallel.

The narrator of this account would go on to be a distinguished ambassador in the 1970s, and passed away at the age of 82 in 2005. You can read his obituary here.  The photos below closely parallel his description, almost as if he could have taken them himself. First, we can see the LCMs or LSTs (Landing Craft, Mechanized / Landing Ship, Tank), followed by the mud flats he refers to. Note the tiny figure of a man in the third photo.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Then, shots of some of the other equipment they must have worked with.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Then there are a few more portraits, such as this guy, who appears to have infantry officer insignia and is a bit older, so may have been the battalion exec or commander:

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

…and this guy, who shows up several times in this set of four rolls, and who I suspect was probably the unit’s First Sergeant.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

This was a pretty skilled photographer – there are sixty photographs on this roll, each of which tells a story, and I have only managed to show a fraction. There are probably many other clues I’ve missed, as well as several more close-up portraits. If you have a moment to take a look and see if I might have missed anything, I encourage you to have a look at the complete roll, which can be found at this link. Next week I’ll profile the third roll in the set.

Found Film: Incheon, Korea 1946 roll 1

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Random Scenes from Bangalore

We took a stroll through “Gandhi Bazaar” in Bangalore – also known as “Basavanagudi” – last weekend, and I thought I share some random – if occasionally odd – photos.


The first photo is literally a bunch of leaves. It’s “paan” – or betel leaves.  These leaves are used to wrap a mixture of substances often including betel nut that usually have a stimulant or psychoactive effect.  Often ladies are seen selling the leaves, and they will stack them as seen in the photo, which makes them easy to count, as they typically cost around 1 rupee per leaf.


What’s being sold here? It’s jewelry, of course!


This statue of Gandhi was placed unfortuitously underneath a giant tree. It looks like the cover several feet over the statue’s head was added at some point afterward. I’m guessing that too many birds were roosting in the tree, leaving their mark on the statue’s bald head. Hey, it would have been a shame to cut down the tree, don’t you think?


These young Indian women have stopped to check that the salesperson applying mehendi – a henna paste that is used to create intricate ceremonial designs on the hands and feet – is charging the tourist a fair price.  Once they satisfied themselves that he was, they smiled and moved on.


This little fella didn’t seem at all perturbed by all the tourists walking around. Just doing his part to clean up the streets, I guess.


I had to stop and snap a shot of the cutest little girl – who had fallen sound asleep on a tabletop. No worries, aunty and uncle were there to make sure she didn’t roll off!


Finally, I think the street dogs in this neighborhood must have been some of the healthiest (i.e. “fat”!) I have seen in any large Indian city. This one seems quite content and had no problem posing for a photograph.

Posted in Life in India | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film: Korea, 1946

A few months ago I came across a post on eBay where someone was selling four rolls of already-developed film.  The seller professed being unsure about wanting to get rid of the film, so I offered to buy them and scan them, and restore them as much as I could, so they would be available for both of us – and everyone else.

It turned out to be an amazing find.

The first roll had several photos with Japanese writing on them, and one or two shots with (US) military context – a jeep, a few signs…a picture showing the sea…a couple of soldiers here and there. So I assumed, as the seller had, that these had been taken by US military personnel in Japan at some point.

I decided to ask a Japanese friend on Facebook if she could identify any of the locations, either from the writing on the photos or the surroundings. After a bit of silence, she said, “I think these are photos of Korea.” Huh???

Well, this is the photo that gave it away:

Near the top, you may see “仁川” – which apparently means “Incheon” in Korean (but written in Japanese script).

Over the next few days, I learned a lot about Korean history. I learned that Korea was a Japanese protectorate from 1910 to 1945, under Japanese occupation. And that some of the policies in the latter parts of this period had led to an increased phasing-out of Korean script. Here is a produce shop covering all its bases:

This first roll provides an interesting insight into life just after the end of the second World War – in fact, in mid-1946. Key clues to the time period will come in future rolls, but for now I provide the date for context.

Additionally, there are several military unit signs. Based on photos I scanned later, I am pretty sure the photographer snapped this photo because it identified his own unit, the 592nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.

The 592nd EBSR, a part of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade, had seen action all over the Pacific by the time these photos were taken. The 592nd EBSR had been the 592nd Engineer Boat Regiment until it was redesignated the 592nd Engineer Amphibian Regiment on 1 October 1942. On 18 February 1943, the Regiment left San Francisco by ship headed for Australia, where they trained from June to October 1943. On 4 July 1943, it was redesignated as the 592nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. They headed to New Guinea in October 1943 and participated in military action in the Admiralty Islands, the assault on Leyte in the Philippines, as well as many other landings in the Philippines including Corregidor, for which they were awarded a Presidential Citation in May 1945. Along with units of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 592nd EBSR was one of the first units to land in Japan upon its surrender.

Apparently after the war, most of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade was sent back to the United States and deactivated. However, I am pretty confident that elements of the 592nd EBSR came to Incheon close to the time when General Hodge landed there on September 8, 1945, and stayed at least until May 1946.

Politically, the role of the U.S. in this period of Korean history is somewhat disputed – the Cold War was well under way by this time, and a “People’s Republic” had been announced two days prior to the arrival of the Americans.  This had been viewed with distrust, and the Americans came, got rid of all the Japanese bureaucrats, and replaced them with the Koreans who had worked directly for them – effectively leaving in place the police structures the Japanese had used for 4 decades to maintain order.  One Army Civil Affairs specialist at the time described it (in 1990) as follows:

We didn’t know much about Korea in those days. However, in the first few days, we all recognized that Korea was a friendly country and not an enemy. We realized this because 90% of the Koreans were friendly. There were a few who were committed Communists, who viewed the occupation askance. We had some problems with them, but generally speaking the atmosphere was very friendly. It is ironic, of course, that the Japanese, who were the defeated enemy, governed themselves under the general direction of MacArthur and his headquarters, whereas the Koreans who were our friends were governed directly by an American Military Government, with Americans directly in charge down to the county level in the beginning.

As I look back on it, I am not sure the issue of whether to have a military government — as contrasted to the Japanese pre-war model — was given much thought. I was strictly at the working level and had no policy responsibility, but we must have recognized that someone had to run the country.  Once the Americans had decided not to accept the People’s Republic which  had been proclaimed two days before we arrived, then who else except the Americans? The process then established was that the military government would be imposed as a transitional phase. The Japanese who had governed the country were sent home. They were to be replaced at the lower levels by Korean bureaucrats who had worked for the Japanese. That was a poor decision, but at the American working level it seemed sensible at the time.

Some historians argue that Korea would have plunged into civil war without intervention, and the Korean War in 1950 was in some ways inevitable. But through these photos, I prefer to focus on what life must have been like for the people who took these pictures, and how they might have experienced the world around them, which must have seemed so foreign to them back in 1946.

It’s a fascinating series of photos – I’ve spent hours trying to reach back and research who they might have been. The next few rolls hold a few more suprises, and I haven’t even scanned the fourth roll yet as of this writing. As an aside – the pictures were all taken on a “half-frame” camera – i.e. one which took photos half the size of a standard 35mm frame. Those cameras were not widely available until they were popularized by Japanese camera companies in the 1950s, so I have no idea what kind of camera this might have been. But it does mean that this particular roll of 36 “normal” exposures has resulted in 60 quality, scannable exposures in “half-frame” size. You can check out the rest of this roll here.

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Impressions of Koyambedu

Koyambedu Wholesale Market Complex is one of Asia’s largest perishable goods market complexes.  Spread over an area of 295 acres, the complex consists of more than 1,000 wholesale shops and 2,000 retail shops.  The market has two blocks for vegetable shops and one each for fruit and flower shops. In Phase II, a textile marketand in Phase III, a food grain market have been planned to be developed in the complex.


Flower Transport

The vendors conduct their sales on the inside of the complex, and each shop has an outward-facing door through which they can bring their goods.


Bananas and Plantains

These photos are just a sample. You can see the rest at this link on Flickr.



Posted in Life in India, Photowalks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photographing Chennai’s Kids

A number of different photographer groups in Chennai regularly organize photowalks – walks through various neighborhoods in Chennai. The potential photographic subjects will vary – sometimes it’s market vendors, or stately old buildings, still life, fishing villages. In certain situations, exercising your abilities as a photographer can be difficult, because – rather than you seeking out subjects and situations to photograph – the subjects will instead seek you out.

This is often the case in neighborhoods where there are lots of kids. If you’re walking around with a camera – especially if you already stand out as a foreigner – and there are kids around, you’re an instant target!  Occasionally this can be overwhelming.

We went walking on “Burial Ground Road”, a street on the “Island Ground” - more than half the island in the Coovam River is a parade ground, and there is also a military base, a couple of cemeteries, and a small, working-class neighborhood.  With lots and lots of kids.

First it was moms and dads asking us to photograph their kids – but once the other kids saw, everyone wanted in on the action.

Father and Daughter


Mona Lisa Smile


With shouts of “Uncle! Uncle!” or “Auntie – photo!” or tugs on our sleeve, the kids never tired of first posing for pictures, and then crowding around to see the result on the LCD screen afterward. I had a film camera as well, but quickly realized the kids would be frustrated by my inability to explain why they couldn’t see their photos. When I showed them their pictures on the digital screen, many of the kids would try and “swipe” the screen to advance to the next photo; but trying to explain film processing proved completely impossible.



It wasn’t only the kids who asked to be photographed, either!



In the photo just above, the husband insisted on having a picture taken with his wife, but his wife kept pushing him away. He kept insisting, and the photo above represents the compromise.  We plan to print the photos and come back for another visit to pass them out.

To see the rest of the photos we took on this photowalk, check out this link and this link.

Posted in Life in India, Photowalks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Found Film Friday: Yellowstone Part 4

This is the last of four posts on a big pile of found film I got recently – 13 rolls of Ektachrome slide film requiring processing using E2 and E3 chemical processes, neither of which have been available since the early 1970s.  The photos were mostly in and around Yellowstone National Park; a few rolls were marked “eclipse” (they didn’t turn out) – and then there was this roll with an odd mix of photos on it.

This batch of photos all came out way too dark after processing (in black and white chemicals) – with a thick additional layer that I could probably have worked to remove, but was afraid to damage the image (see part 1 in this series).  They were too dark to be picked up by my scanner, so I had to use my Coca-Cola case lightbox trick again.  I photographed them with a backlight, which produced something like this:


I then used photoshop to invert the digital image (using black and white processing turned what should have been “slide film” into negative film – which produced something like this:


This was then converted to a black and white photo and then I adjusted contrast, brightness and a few other things, and then rotated 90 degrees, ending up with this:

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

In the end, I had images, but I didn’t really know what they were of.  Most of the photos in this batch were similar.  Was the photographer photographing mushrooms?

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

Then there was this odd shot – some sort of amusement park? Does anyone know what this is?

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

And finally, my favorite in the bunch – a guy working on his model train.

Found Film: Yellowstone Trip Extras

The best part of this picture is his buddy, on the left – who appears to be wearing an engineer’s hat! Am I right?

Posted in Found Film | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What do our TV ads say about us?

70 or 80 years from now, what will people think of us when they see the television commercials that we use to sell products to each other?  If attitudes shift as much as they have over the last 70 to 80 years, it’s truly hard to imagine.  Take a look at these television commercials from yesteryear – they’re public domain files available at The Prelinger Archives, but I cut the file apart for individual viewing.

Posted in Historical films, Random Thoughts, Observations and Weird Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Your Own 3-D Camera!

I was checking out the latest copy of Photo-Era Magazine (the latest I own, anyway) – dated April, 1929 – here’s the cover:


It’s chock full of interesting articles on photography – and ads for the latest cameras, including this ad for an unfortunately named Voigtlander.  One of the articles that caught my attention was a description of how you can make “your own stereoscopic outfit – for less than two dollars!”  Stereoscopic viewers allowed people to view dual side-by-side photos as a single, “3D” photo, as early as the late 1800s.  If you’re old enough, you may remember the “View-Master”, which operated on the same principle.  I wrote about stereoscopic photos in this previous post. 

It is, of course, possible to use ordinary digital cameras (identical ones is best) to make stereoscopic or full 3-D photos, viewable through 3D glasses after processing with one of any number of computer programs.  But that’s boring.  I thought it would be fun to do the project as described in the article.  Here’s the first page, for reference, with the rest of the article below (click on the images if you want to see them in full size).


For my “stereoscopic rig,” I decided to use two 1930 Kodak No. 2 Model C “Anniversary Edition” box cameras. These were reissue models of a camera originally released in 1913 and sold for about 2 bucks each. Technically the 1913 model is not in keeping with the tone of the article (“less than $2″ total); but the 1930 anniversary edition was given away for free! Assuming I had two kids turning 12 in 1930, and managed to snag a couple of the cameras being given away in May of that year. Or on eBay, 83 years later, where they cost well more than 2 bucks each. A handful of rubber bands to hold them together and a bit of masking tape to keep them from sliding, and voila:

I loaded them both with some Ilford Pan 50 and went for a walk around the neighborhood.  And got some odd stares as I was taking photos.  But ultimately came up with a handful of usable shots (some were a bit blurry, or dark).  I had to do a little work on them – you can see if you look closely at the masking tape on top that the two cameras are slightly out of alignment – which makes enough of a difference as you move away from the camera.

Once I processed the film and corrected for alignment, I had two options.  First – and the option which ultimately worked really well – I printed the images side-by-side in a piece of 4×6 photo paper (matte would have been best, but I only had glossy), and viewed the pair through a stereoscope.  I didn’t pay attention to which was the right or left eye – I suppose it matters, and maybe I got lucky, because the images I printed POP into 3d.

Since you probably don’t have an 1890s stereoscope laying around, I turned some of the images into gif files where the two images alternate back and forth.  As you see the pictures below, they probably don’t flicker on your screen – but if you click on the images individually, they should open in a new window, and after a few seconds, start flickering.

These are the two that, in my opinion, turned out best.



street dog

street dog

And this is what the printout looks like for the stereoscope:

rickshaw dual print

This should be pretty easy to do with any camera, provided you have two of them and fix them about eye-width apart; or figure out a clever way to take two pictures right after another, about 3.5 inches apart.  Here is the tutorial on making the gifs.

Posted in Random Thoughts, Observations and Weird Stuff, Tips and Tricks, Vintage cameras | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment