Talk to almost any retired advertising photographer and they will tell you the best years were the 1960s. The ‘lightroom’ has taken all the mystery out of the darkroom and anyone can be a photographer, but not so last century.
Back then, being a photographer was decidedly cool – just look at the movie Blowup to understand! Better Photography friend Ron Langman, who himself is a retired advertising photographer, worked for well-known George Nicholls as an assistant in London back in the sixties. When he finished up, George gave Ron a copy of his book, Picture if you can…, which sounds like a nice gesture, but after reading much of the book, we’re a little less certain (it might have been cheaper than a gold watch).
After losing his copy in a flood, Ron obtained another copy of the book and sent it through to the magazine, ‘out of interest’. He hoped it would bring back some nostalgic memories for the editor – and we’re still digesting that comment!
There’s no doubt George Nicholls was a character! Read a part of his introduction:
"This section should be read by all – even the non-techniphots – because it may prove more entertaining than they imagine. There is no point in my going too deeply into pure technicalities in this book. For one thing, I don’t know any. Secondly, I am working on the assumption that no reader of mine is likely to run in small Circles of Confusion desperately searching for a dissertation on the Airy Disc, and that no one’s Colour Temperature will rise dangerously at my assertion that Kelvin’s Black-Body Radiators were the original Red-Hot Mommas. Neither can I believe that anyone will indulge in bitter reflection on not finding Refraction, or complain that the Dispersionquotient of Abbe glasses is not listed in comparison with those of Zeiss, Gneiss, Preisz, Barclay, Ind Coope and Old Ben Truman.
"Those with a nostalgia for photography retained from amateur dabblings, will understand all the words in this section, and it may amuse them to read, between the lines, that simple horse-sense is in fact the most desirable technical accomplishment. Also to deduce from it all that the good professional, if he is honest, is an amateur for a’ that.
"I hope, too, that practising photographers and students will find solid and useful stuff here, and that all 203,476 better photographers than I am will run through it, and nod wisely, and at least admit that we are triers."
Read more of George's wisdom and see some of his remarkable photographs in the current issue of Better Photography magazine! Not a subscriber yet? We'd love you to join - take $20 off with our coupon code IDEAS20.