Ebay camera 12


Sony ProMavica MVC-5000 camera

This formidable weapon is one of the earliest digital cameras to be put on the market. It’s a Sony ProMavica MVC-5000, released in 1989. It’s not really a “digital” camera, since the image is not recorded in pixel photosites, it’s really a “still-video” camera because the recorded image is magnetic like on video tape.

“The images were captured on the disk by using two CCD (charge-coupled device) chips.  One chip stored luminance information, and the other separately recorded the chrominance information. The images could be stored on the floppy disk either in Frame or Field mode. When Frame was selected, each picture was recorded on two tracks and up to 25 images could be recorded on each disk. When Field was selected, each picture was recorded on only one track, allowing up to 50 images to be recorded.” (http://www.digicamhistory.com/1989.html)

The camera sold for $10,000 – about $20,000 in today’s money. That should buy a lot of camera, yet its 2-inch floppy disc stored images of only 720,000-pixels. That’s less than one megabyte! Despite that the camera was often used by the press as images could be sent internationally over phone lines – this is before the internet. Click here for a history of digital camera technology.

The camera no longer costs $10,000. It can be yours for only a few hundred dollars here on ebay.

My Penguin cover design


Greg Neville, Penguin cover design for the 1960 novel.

Jane Graham is unmarried and pregnant when she is turned out of her comfortable suburban home by an angry father. She lights dejectedly on a bug-ridden room at the top of a squalid house in Fulham. She cares nothing for it, or herself, or her neighbours. 

Lynne Reid Banks’ first novel, the L-Shaped Room, was a best-seller when it was published in 1960 and a movie was soon made starring Leslie Caron. Penguin Books published the first paperback edition in 1962 with a cover drawing by Terence Greer. A later edition featured a too-literal photograph.


Designer Paul Murray has posted the Penguin template on his website which you can download and insert your own image and title into; you can pretend you’re a real Penguin designer from the 1960s. The cover layout is in the famous Marber grid, designed by Romek Marber for Penguin Books in 1961. Baby boomers will recognize it because Penguins dominated the paperback market in the postwar decades.

The image in my design is labelled Repaired Photograph and can be found on John Foster’s site at Design Observer. It’s clearly from about 1960, and shows a young woman of about the same age as the novel’s character Jane. The torn up portrait, clumsily repaired with sticky tape, suggests the character’s own journey in the novel, from despair to recovery.


Death by developer



The Camera Clue, by George Harmon Coxe, Dell paperback 27, 1943.

This cover illustration features a man apparently drowned in a developing tray – surely a first in crime fiction.

It’s a 1943 Dell paperback from the US, an imprint that featured some of the best covers of the era. This one is by Gerald Gregg, an expert in their small format poster-style covers. Bernie Salbreiter did the lettering. The 1940s and 50s was a golden age for paperback cover design.

The book’s author George Harmon Coxe was a successful pulp and popular fiction writer who specialised in crime novels. The hero of some of his novels was “Flashgun” Casey, a crime photographer for a morning newspaper. ‘With the help of reporter Ann Williams, he solved crimes and recounted his stories to friends at The Blue Note, their favourite tavern.’ Flashgun was apparently a more hip version of the more famous crime photographer Weegee.

Feast your eyes on these gorgeous photography-themed covers from 70 years age.


Murder With Pictures, by George Harmon Coxe, Dell paperback 1946 


Silent are the Dead by George Harmon Coxe, Dell paperback 1948 



Coincidence on the street


Melanie Einzeg, Spring Corner, New York, 2000

The great street photographer Garry Winogrand famously stated that he took photos to see what things look like photographed. In other words, to see what the difference is between the reality in front of the lens and the record of that in the time-frozen two-dimensional print.

In the genre of street photography this distinction is made clear. Elements that are in flux in real life – people passing on the street – are held together in a fixed relationship in the photograph. So it’s not surprising that one of the main drivers of street photography is coincidence – the fortuitous combination of fleeting events. The interest in these photographs is how they compress daily life, bringing together revealing fragments about how we live. Seeing and responding to these moments of intersection is what makes the genre so tough to master.

It is a quirk of history that Cartier-Bresson was a hunter before he took up the camera because it’s the hunter’s instincts that make a good street photographer: the alertness, the sense of approaching possibility, the readiness to pounce. Let’s look at three photographs to see how the momentary combinations of subjects on the street are captured by alert picture-hunters.

Melanie Einzeg (above) has captured an unlikely combination on a New York street corner. A dog looks on from the left as a couple embrace tightly. Obscuring their bodies and seeming to comment on their joy, a heroin addict on the nod freezes in mid step. To the right a tall figure looks in to the scene, echoing the dog’s gaze, while a parrot perches on his shoulder. It’s an implausible combination and Einzeg’s image is a bulls-eye of alertness and timing. The problem is, it’s not an elegant picture, the parts don’t come together in a pleasing whole. It’s literally a grab shot, a record of an event.

Now look at these images by the great street photographers Winogrand and Meyerewitz and see how they form a composition out of the chaos in front of them. This takes very special reflexes plus the willingness to be completely immersed in the street. Now, they do have an advantage in shooting at public events that are dense in subject matter, but see how the elements of each shot present themselves to the camera – to you – flattened out like a frieze.


Joel Meyerowitz, Easter Parade, New York, 1964

Joel Meyerowitz A woman in a white hat pouts to the cat sitting on her husband’s shoulder. She looks up, he looks down. The cat’s white lead loops around guiding the viewer’s eye. Over to the side, small a girl also in a white hat looks up at this small event, balancing the composition. Above her a photographer snaps the same subject, echoing the photographer, Joel Meyerowitz, who at this same moment is snapping the image we’re looking at. It’s a series of figure-eights, looping in and around the image.



Garry Winogrand, Hard hat rally, 1970

In Garry Winogrand‘s photograph of a rally in 1970, a confluence of small events builds a remarkable image of public discourse in America during the Vietnam War. A conservative blue-collar worker bellows at the media from the centre of an almost X-shaped composition. Amongst this frightening melée, a small girl looks up quizically at the press as though questioning their purpose; she’s a little piece of innocence submerged in the conflict. Over to the right, in a sort of compositional compartment, a woman in a white dress appears, lost, as though she has stumbled upon the angry scene by mistake.