Louis Gandolfi’s Earliest Cameras


The cameras we think of as ‘Gandolfi’s’ are generally a variation of sizes in only 2 designs, the Universal and Imperial, designed by Louis Gandolfi around the turn of the 20’th century. That there are still so many of a century’s production around today must be due to them being very well crafted from high quality mahogany, designed to be sold at relatively high prices to serious photographers.

However before Louis evolved these high quality models, his first forays into camera-making were much further down-market, cheap & cheerful plate cameras made for the tourist market. Less robust, and with no numbers or makers logo plates, it’s not easy finding them now, even the editor of the Photo Collectors Club magazine bemoaning the fact that although he had a considerable collection of later Gandolfi’s, he had never clapped eyes on one of the early tourist cameras. Well, one turned up on Ebay recently, identified from the features in Louis’ 1897 engraved advertertisement in the BJP Almanac.


This half-plate was sold on it’s own as the ‘Special’, camera with one darkslide costing £2-0-0, or could be bought incorporated into an outfit, the ‘Briton’ shown above, for the knock-down price of £2-10-0. So what did you get for your two pound-ten? Quite a lot, in fact – although extra dark-slides are 6/- each, the outfit in it’s case included one slide, lens, shutter, & even a basic tripod.

However there’s a sense that the tourist camera market was not what Louis wanted – in producing these popular cameras & outfits, although he kept the build standard high, he was having to cut corners in quality of materials, and to compete with other manufacturers outfits the price must have been cut to the bone. This advert represents the point in time when he was changing direction – on the left-hand page is a new model, his up-market Universal, selling on it’s own for £3-15-0. This was to prove one of the enduring designs that carried the Gandolfi workshop through to nearly the end of the 20’th century, and the ‘tourist’ models were abandoned shortly after this crucial phase of the Gandolfi workshop’s career.

Gandolfi – Family Business

05/04/19 ~ The DVD of Gandolfi – Family Business is now available, an issue on public media at last after 37 years on the shelf! Produced in the DigiPak format, the DVD package is an elegantly designed collectible production, including a 36 page booklet featuring many of Ken’s pictures, the making of the film, and Fred Gandolfi’s own description of camera making.  Plus a lot more besides.
Excellent value at a RRP of £15.95 including VAT.

The DVD can be ordered or bought over the counter at Process Supplies; 020 7837 2179

Also available on Amazon;


The film TRAILER on Vimeo

As ‘extras’ to the DVD a compilation of Gandolfi archive material can be pulled up using the ‘Gandolfi Archive’ menu to the right of this page.


Earliest Unexposed Plates?


Ilford_Plates_1884Possibly some of the earliest unexposed photographic plates in existence? This sealed package has just arrived via the Ebay time machine. Dating them by the logo, these could have been made as early as 1885, when Alfred Harman was still in his cottage in Ilford, hand pouring his plates from a silver teapot.

If it’s possible to make images on them it will be something along the lines of tapping a ouija board & getting a response. Early slow blue sensitive plates can often still function – but 130 years on?

Or like the Turin Shroud should are they better left intact as an artefact  to drift on through time? Decisions…

Retropan 320 & the search for Dr Dee…

Clerkenwell_4Retropan 320 is an unusual film with a character of it’s own, grainy, but also with a strange delicacy. Possibly reminiscent of Kodak Infrared, the film seems to use a different silver halide crystal structure to impose it’s own veiled quality.

A good film to tool up with while investigating the occult, showing here the results of a search for the lingering afterlife of Dr Dee, the eminent 17th century scientist. Full-frame results of a one roll test around London’s Clerkenwell.



‘John Claridge’s East End’


John Claridge has a new book out, which goes back to his early photographic roots. ‘John Claridge’s EAST END’ collects together over 200 of John Claridge’s astonishing photographs of the old East End in print for the first time. Published by Spitalfields Life Books, it comprises a handsome 270 page clothbound hardback volume, priced at £25.

Wednesday 1st June : EXHIBITION OPENING of John Claridge’s EAST END photography from 6pm at VOUT-O-RENEES, 30 Prescot St, Aldgate, E1 8BB. (Exhibition runs until 21st July)

Friday 3rd June : JOHN CLARIDGE IN CONVERSATION talking about his EAST END photography with Stefan Dickers at 7pm at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY, W1J 9HD. Email piccadilly@waterstones.com to reserve free tickets.