Next month:
February 2018

January 2018

Shooting Russian spies

 Discover Rewarding Photography Photosniper

Discover Rewarding Photography came free with Russian cameras in the early 70s. I got my copy when I bought my Zenith B in about 1972; I was thirteen and it was, I think, my first book on photography. I read it and reread it, and absorbed every morsel of knowledge.

I pored over the lens specifications again and again and was convinced that one day I would have a large collection of big powerful lenses. This never happened and I prefer wide angle and short telephoto lenses now.

What I didn’t realise back then was that along with a great deal of good advice from the author, some of it was a puff piece for Russian equipment.

Well, fair enough. Not too long ago I went to a free street photography workshop run by one of the Japanese camera companies, who told us how wonderful their cameras were. Same difference.

Discover Rewarding Photography Ham Sandwich

But it seemed to work, because I later bought a Zenith enlarger and a Zenith Photosniper, which was a Zenith camera, long telephoto lens, standard lens, and accessories in a metal case.

The book said about the outfit, “An idea which won instant acclaim when introduced is the Photosniper, basically an SLR in combination with a 300mm lens in quick focus mount with a steadying gunstock.”

Despite its appearance, SLR stands here for Single Lens Reflex, not Self Loading Rifle…

The 300mm f/4.5 long lens was very good, as were the standard 58mm Helios lenses that came with both my Zenith B and the camera in the Photosniper outfit.

Also very good was the lens on the Zenith enlarger. In the 80s I went to a small camera shop in Aylesbury, thinking to buy a 50mm Nikon enlarging lens to replace the original Russian one.

The honest man in the shop advised me to stick with the original lens as I’d see no improvement. Later, I realised he was right.

Discover Rewarding Photography was published in 1971 by Technical and Optical Equipment, importers of Russian equipment. It was widely believed but without much evidence that they were a front for the Russian secret services.

Discover Rewarding Photography by Ronald Spillman

James Bond, the woman, and the Club


The Spy Who Loved Me spine

“Vivienne Michel writes: the spy who loved me was called James Bond, and the night on which he loved me was a night of screaming terror in the Dreamy Pines Motor Court in the Adirondacks in the north of New York State.

“It’s all true-absolutely.”

Of course, Vivienne Michel only exists in this book.

When Ian Fleming sold the film rights to The Spy Who Loved Me, it was to the title only. The plot of the film has nothing in common with the book, but that doesn’t matter.

In the book we get a couple of grotesque second rate but nevertheless deadly Bond villains. One’s a “frightening lizard of a man”, and the other is a completely hairless man who “looked a young monster”, but our heroine show herself to be a tough cookie too, in this tale that Vivienne writes in the first person.

The Spy Who Loved Me title page

This edition was published in 1962 by The Book Club, who were based in Charing Cross Road, London.

My mum was in another book club in the 1960s; I think it was The Companion Book Club. Once a month the club would send her a book that they had chosen, and she could also buy other books if she wished.

I remember the dust jackets, all the same pattern but each in a different colour, on the bookcase shelves in our front room.

Mum told me that book after book was aimed just at men, so she cancelled her membership.

The books were more my sort of thing, so I read quite a few of them. I remember prison escape books, including As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me by Josef M. Bauer.

Bauer was a German army lieutenant who walked 8,000 miles home from a Siberian labour camp after being imprisoned at the end of the Second World War. There were a lot of books published about men’s wartime experiences then.

Some of the other books from the club I just didn’t understand, like the crime thriller The D.A. Breaks an Egg (by Erle Stanley Gardener) but I was just a schoolboy in the sixties.

The Spy Who Loved Me back page

Deborah Gayton owned this book in the 1980s; she’s put her name on it in four different places in the front pages. Inside the back cover she has written that she read it on Saturday 29th September 84 to… (it doesn’t say who to…)

From all this I would guess that she was a teenager then. I wonder what happened to her.

The Spy who loved me by Ian Fleming (and, allegedly, Vivienne Michel)



Easy Photography

“FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND READERS can’t be wrong. A book that needs reprinting twice every twelve months is sure to be right”  It says on the inside of the dust cover.

Ilford Sportsman and All in One Camera Book

This is a lovely book, full of enthusiasm and encouragement. It takes the reader through the technicalities of photography in an easy to understand manner.

It’s full of diagrams and illustrations, and has photos with captions explaining how to achieve similar results. I first read this as a library book many years ago, and I still enjoy reading it now.

I think this book had quite a wide reputation as a good one for beginners, as the phrase “W.D. Emanuel’s All in One Camera Book” can be found on the front cover. This 1959 edition was the 43rd, but the first edition was 1939. the latest edition I've found was 1975.

All in One Camera book 1

Photographic technology has moved on a long way since ’59. Most film was much less sensitive to light then, and very few cameras had built in light meters.

Cameras were very expensive for their price compared to cameras today, with our modern mass production techniques.

For example, the Ilford Sportsman camera in the photo at the top of the post was sold new in 1962, on a hire purchase agreement.  It’s a well made camera and has a nice lens (not a zoom), simple 3 speed shutter, scale focusing, and no light meter.

It cost £15 4s 9d (£15.21) when the average weekly wage was £12 3s 6d (£12.18) It’s quite a useable camera, but oh, the price!

All in One Camera Book 2

This book makes good, easy bedtime reading for this experienced photographer, and I like the way it explains things that beginners often found difficult. As it says on the front, "43 editions, 430,000 better photographers"

All in One Camera Book by W.D. Emanuel.



What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

The Jellymonster head

“The jelly began to grow. Soon it was too big for the bowl,and it flopped out onto the table. Soon it grew too big for the kitchen, and it burst out through the door.
WobblewobbleWobblewobble!" it cried. It had grown into a Jelly Monster, and it set off into the town to turn everything to jelly.
“Who can save the world from this terrifying monster?”
(From the back cover)

The Jellymonster rampages

It's an exciting and only slightly scary children’s story with a humorous and satisfying ending, and there’s lots of vivid illustrations of the evil creature as it goes on its jelly rampage.

The Jellymonster front cover

This is just the thing for small boys, and I read it to my young nephews again and again, doing the jelly monster’s wobble call as it jellified shops, houses, and the swimming pool.

They are now 16 and 18, and the younger one told me, “The Jelly Monster is an excellent book for children; I have very fond memories of Roger reading it to us when we were younger. It was my favourite out of all the books he read”

His brother agreed with what I've written here, but added, "I always enjoyed you reading it to me”

I found this rather battered copy at the local library, and for the amount of entertainment it’s provided, was a bargain at 60p.

The Jelly Monster by Mike Ratnett, Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley.