Tag Archives: pictures

Doubts no doubt

9 Feb

Sorry the photography photoroobit blog has migrated to its own domain and is now at www.photoroobit.com

 There is a new post today. Please check it out.

Kodachrome – in Memoriam – St. Petersburg and Kronstadt, post 2

4 Jan

The story of how and why I started shooting Kodachrome – belatedly, in the last months or rather in the month before its demise is in my previous post.  That post also contains pictures of St. Petersburg taken on Kodachrome while I’ll move on. Below are a few more very last pictures of a locale in Russia taken on Kodachrome, late October 2010.  Needless to say that I also took pictures of my kids and friends on Kodachrome (that was the point) but being a private person i don’t of course post those never mind I can’t see how they can be of anyone’s interest. Click any image for larger view;.

 

Russia on last Kodachrome, continued:

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg  St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Kirochanya 25

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - - building 24, a nice Art Nouveau building constructed for a Jewish rentier Back in 1904, has a few surviving Art Nouveau mosaics, stained glass - rare for the city that saw so much barbarism within a century - and decor elements, St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

 

chernyshevskaia

(phonetically Americanized mutilation Chernyshevskaya, Чернышевская). entrance too, close to midnight-.

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green

 

Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome

Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome, officially the Cathedral of Our Savior, a baroque beauty of rare quality by any standard, is popularly called Smolny or Tar Cathedral though there is not tar-like about it, the origin of the name is toponymical, it was built next to the works that produced pitch pine tar for shipbuilding purpose in the age when ship used to have sails and were made of wood.

 

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -night

 

St. Vladmir Church St Petersburg

The church dates from 1746 but its current late neoclassical appearance with numerous baroque elements is from the late 18 century (foundation laid in 1761, completed 1768) . The Cathedral and the separate Belfry is a collective work of several architects - Giacomo Quarenghi (the belfry) and the Bartholomeo Rastrelli (the main building) shared with later additions by Abraam Melnikov, Alexander Holm and Luigi Rusca. Behind the Cathedral is an ambulance station - my grandmother was born in Petrograd in 1918 and worked first as a nurse during the Leningrad Siege and after getting her doctor's diploma in 1945 as an ambulance doctor well past her retirement until 1990.

 

 

Somewhere in Kronstadt

Somewhere in Kronstadt (evil Americans and their helpful Russian idiots spell it phonetically as KronsHdadt), anyway these are ruins of apparently 19th century buildings that probably belonged to the navy.

 

Kronstadt fountain autumn scene

Kronstadt fountain autumn (fall scene) - a compact camera loaded with Kodachrome 200 that i took up to Umbria. Kodachrome 200 is a different film that acts differently and has ir rather had as Kodachrome is dead atrocious grain unlike smooth and silky Kodachrome 25 and 64

 

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind

 

Kronstadt Kronshtadt

Kronstadt Kronshtadt on Kodachrome - 18th century warehouses or packhouses and old navy canals where tall ships were repaired equipped or rigged (not like American elections though) and there are ammunition, rope, ship pine tar and other stores. In state of beautiful decay.

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - Гостинный двор - Gostinny dvor - Merchant yard

 

lada 2105

lada 2105 on Kodachrome, Kronstadt

Kodachrome – In Memoriam – The first anniversary of Kodachrome’s demise –

2 Jan

This is the first of planned   10 or 12 Kodachrome-related posts, each will display roughly 10 Kodachrome images.

I wrote this on December 30 but apparently did not publish the article (New Year Eves tend to be hectic).  The photos below were made with Zenit E camera (Kodachrome 64) and old Minolta SLR (Kodachrome 200).  This first batch consists of 10 photos of St. Petersburg taken in immediate vicinity of my St. Petersburg home.  Click the image for a larger version (contact me if you need really huge files for whatever reason).

Today is the day Kodak turned off Kodachrome’s life support.

St. Vladimir Square (Vladimirskaä Ploşad', Владимирская площадь, Vladimirskaya) Kodachrome St. Petersburg (Autumn 2010)

St. Vladimir Square (Vladimirskaä Ploşad', Владимирская площадь, Vladimirskaya) Kodachrome St. Petersburg (Autumn 2010), Russia - baroque St. Vladimir Cathedral and (ugly) Dostoevskiï (Dostoevsky) monument. Dostoevskiï lived about 200 meters to the right from this spot.

On December 30, Kodak or rather its subcontractor Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Kansas, USA,  officially stopped processing Kodachrome.  A few of my  first and last Kodachrome rolls were made for the US market and the rest was sold in Europe.  US-market Kodachrome came back as if it were processed by Dwayne’s (well, as it was), each film in a plastic box with Dwayne’s label on it while the film that was sold in Europe came in original-yellow Kodachrome packaging, each slide frame numbered and bearing  Kodak logo. Although the official date of Kodachrome’s demise is December 30, 2010, it reportedly continued to live for almost three weeks a while after its death. Apparently an avalanche of film engulfed  Dwayne’s Photo in the last weeks of November 2010 (I think the shutoff date was December 26) and the company kept processing film until January 18, 2011,  according to Kodachrome project’s blog from December 26th to 1:36 PM on the 18th (of January), Dwayne’s Photo processed 20,564 rolls of 35mm, 3,565 of 8mm and 57,655 feet of 16mm Kodachrome motion and still picture film.

Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image)

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

While for US-born Americans  Kodachrome was something of a cultural icon, for me it did not mean much. I knew that in the past there were other color film processes like the Franco-English Dufay color,  French Autochrome and Autochrome based Alticolor, beautiful Agfacolor that preceded Kodachrome by 3 years, never mind that on the smaller scale level there were a few Russian color photography pioneers from the turn of the century era like brilliant Sergueï Prokoudine-Gorsky (in US publication his name also gets spelled  as Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky) who left a workable though complicated additive color process along with thousands of color photographs illustrating daily life of the entire Russian Empire which he took well before (first!) world war and Bolshevist coup which  brought it down.   I will publish all of Prokoudine-Gorsky /Прокудин-Горский photographs in a separate gallery one day;  those pictures are amazing and they are all in public domain .  Prokoudine-Gorsky’s photographs are surreal.  It is a time machine which   for me is somewhat scary to use, I don’t like looking at those images, – I would rather not see how our past looked like.  if there is any I would prefer to have it in monochrome.

 

A corner building and full moon over  Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square -  Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome

A corner building and full moon over Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square - Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome

Yes I’ve heard about Kodachrome and its commercial success in the 40s and 50s but I thought that Kodachrome was so overwhelingly triumphant against its European competition primarily because by 1945 entire Europe – from Atlantic almost to the Urals – was destroyed and the USA got healthy and rich by sucking all the juices from the rest of the planet. Something it still does though markedly less successfully.   There are many claims of Kodachrome’s technical superiority.  That’s a matter of taste but yes, I too prefer the look of Kodachrome to say Agfacolor.  Now – after having been digital user for quite long – I realize that one of film’s greatest attractions is its  diversity. Every film has its own characters, temperament,  unique shades and different colors (if it is color film) while with a digital camera you are stuck with one boring sensor or the future of churning out   Photoshop forgeries.

Day time Kirche street from Foundry Avenue (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010

Day time at Kirche street from Foundry Avenue - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010 - (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

But I admit that out of four contemporaries – Agfacolor, Dufay, Lumière’s Autochrom in its numerous varieties and Kodachrome, I like Kodak’s stuff best. It is not naturalistic looking but it is natural,  Kodachrome is also rich, it has deep beautiful hues and tones that range from etherial otherworldly warmth to  steely blue.  Kodachrome was fantastic stuff but it took me long time to find that out.  More recent films and expensive digital reproduce  reality more accurately  but to me another attraction of old or unusual film stocks is that they don’t, film distorts reality,  life documented on Kodachrome is fairly close to the real chromatic thing but is not quite there, it is different, and it is beautiful

two girls - I see just two females in the frame more could be lurking -  Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

two girls (click for larger picture) - I see just two females in the frame more could be lurking - (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

I am not a walking Xerox copier and when I need accuracy of color rendition, my Sony A900 does the job way better than does Kodachrome.  Skin tones in Kodachrome can appear earthly grayish and the look of the film is that of remote past,  it is or rather it was a photographic time machine, it is the way of representing the present in the past, a delicious endeavor  (there are still many opportunities to make pictures with historic color film stocks though no longer with Kodachrome)

 

domes of Resurrection of Our Savior Cathedral from afar , popularly known as the Tar (Smolny) Cathedral from 18th century works that produced shipbuilding pitch pine tar. Saint / St Petersburg, Russia  2010 late October Kodachrome

domes of the Resurrection of Our Savior Cathedral from afar , popularly known as the Tar (Smolny) Cathedral from 18th century works that produced shipbuilding pitch pine tar. Saint / St Petersburg, Russia 2010 late October Kodachrome

After the United States dressed warmly  in a NATO’s fig leaf unleashed a humanitarian war of aggression against Yugoslavia (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23914) in 1999 I stopped buying products made by very large American corporations.  That it turn meant that after 1999 I only bought Fuji and Agfa films and then soon went fully digital which in practical terms meant going Japanese (I got my first digital camera in 1998, it was a Sony Mavica that recorded fuzzy images on a 3 1⁄2-inch floppy).  Since then  I mellowed down quite a bit – though only in matters that concern photography and do buy Kodak color film if it is cheap, though not their black and white stuff which is pretty awful (in my hands at least).  It would be sad to see Kodak  go bankrupt and follow other film manufacturers, of which there was a legion,  into oblivion.

A Convenience Store (a small supermarket rather)

Entrance to a convenience store (or rather small twenty four hour retail market) on Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010

That’s how I missed Kodachrome during its lifetime.  I shot little Agfa and then some Fuji but then went digital even before the wild masses began defecting from film. I remember seeing Kodachrome on the shelves though. Even in the  1990s Kodachrome was something of a fossil.

Kodachrome 64 120 box

This is a professional 5 roll pack that contained European market Kodachrome 64 in 120 format, manufactured about 1986-1987, expired 1991. This box is in my collection but unfortunately there is no film in it. The box is twice thicker that a regular pro pack as it is divided into two sections - one contained film and the other mail-in processing envelopes. Someone used 5 rolls of film but did not process them. All five envelopes are intact. Each envelope, alas not usable after December 30, 2010, was worth about 10 euros / dollars if sold alone (those envelopes had value!) but I have no idea who bought them as each pack of European Kodachrome contained such an envelop and Kodak only dispatched processed film to non-US addresses. In America processing and optional framing had to be paid for separately. I never got hold of any 120 Kodachrome film though.

In Europe it was always sold with a processing envelope (something as I recall Kodak was prohibited from doing  on its home turf because of a mid 1950s antitrust law suit that it lost ).  It used to cost – as it appeared to me then – a good fortune.  In Europe a roll of Kodachrome retailed for the equivalent of 20-25 euros or for whopping 30 US dollars in today’s terms or perhaps for 20 dollars with parity currency rate.  Kodachrome was only sold in “real” old Europe if we were to use Donald Rumsfeld’s terminology –  between 1945 and 1991.  With the exception of Finland, which is a new state but was in the “Kodachrome zone” this category actually included entire “real” Europe without Russia that existed before 1917-1918.  German Democratic Republic aside (on which territory a number of historic German states were located in the past), Soviet Union only held lands of newfangled states that did not exist before 1917.

Kodachrome

Surface scan of a Kodachrome slide, processed in France (they stopped processing Kodachrome in France in the late 80s or ealry 90s). This slide dates from 70s and comes from my "collection" (a box of unsorted) slides of French origin. I have no idea whose photograph apparears on it - I just grabbed a random Kodachrome slide out of the box.

The  Kodachrome border ran along the Iron Curtain and that wall that was never breached. Except for the territory of the annexed GDR, Kodachrome was never sold in the former Warsaw pact “states” or in Russia, not even after 1991. That of course was almost of irrelevance because by 1990s only some pros in the USA itself and Kodachrome enthusiasts were shooting this film.  Numerous E-6 process films, probably first introduced by Kodak itself, killed Kodachrome.  The price of 20-25 euros in modern equivalent (or 20- 30 US dollars ) might seem outrageous but in really it wasn’t. In America Kodachrome sold for roughly 10 dollars per roll (from 7.99 to 9.99) during the same period of time but did not include processing or framing. European price included processing, framing and return postage. So as it looks now it might have been even cheaper to shoot Kodachrome in Europe than in the US but very   few did and at the end  Kodachrome’s share of the film market went down to  fraction of a percent.

St Petersburg Kodachrome

St Petersburg (Saint Peters) Conservatory building, Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square - Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome late October 2010

In September  2010 I read somewhere, in some online blog or a magazine article, that Kodak has long discontinued Kodachrome and that it will no longer be processed. I didn’t know that. And another thing, I read, December 2010 is the cutoff date.  No more Kodachrome after that.  Now one disadvantage of the Kodachrome  versus its competitors like Agfacolor was that you need to build more or less a factory to process the stuff.  As I understand (in the plainest of layman terms) reversible Agfacolor like all subsequent films had its dyes incorporated within three photosensitive layers. You just need the right mix of chemicals to develop those films anywhere. Kodachrome had an extremely complicated processing procedure where dyes were introduced during development stage. Something that is impossible to do at home no matter how big a home you’ve got.

Idealnaä časka  - idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg (idiots write it as fantastic Saint Petersburg) - obviously Kodachrome 64 is an extremely slow film, I was shooting it as ISO 25 in dim lightining, ISO 1600-3200 would be better suited for this sort of photography, sitll quite many painterly effects - idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

Getting my hands on Kodachrome became urgent. I realized that it is now or never situation and I need to buy a few rolls of Kodachrome immediately or I’ll never process it.  I saw old Kodachrome slides from the 40s and 50s, love  how the film looks and wanted to take pictures of my kids on Kodachrome as well. I began to look for the stuff on the Ebay, placed random bids here and there, and amazingly got three lots of Kodachrome fairly cheaply – probably for no more than 2 euros per American roll or 3 euros for the European “issue” along with the free processing mailer. That was a good deal because I saw people selling processing envelopes for 5 euros a pop. I have no idea what they did with the film. Already after Kodachrome’s demise I bought a case of Kodak color film (all expired stuff, Vericolor II stuff, some Ektar, lots of film. I haven’t shot yet any from that batch). The precious case contained a retail pro pack of Kodachrome – alas the film was gone but all five mail-in processing envelopes were intact. What happened to the film? Who knows.  Prices of Kodachrome nosedived right before November although the stuff that was unsold recovered the value after January 2011 – people sell intact Kodachrome boxes for 20 euros / 25 dollars online which are now of course only good for display purposes (developing the stuff in black and white chemistry is akin to vandalism).  If I did not use my Kodachrome but kept it until today I could have made a small, admittedly a very small, fortune.

ideal cup kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg (idiots write it as fantastic Saint Petersburg) - Kodachrome 64 is a slow film, I was exposing it as ISO 25 in dark lightining, ISO 1600-3200 would be better under the circumstances - still I like the results of the experiment- idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

My Kodachrome began arriving in  October, I had about a month to waste it. I photographed St. Petersburg, then went with my kids on a ferry to the federal   German Reich,  then drove straight to Mikulov (Nikolsburg) and after a short stay there proceeded (on wheels)  to Italy. By then my modest stock of expired Kodachrome ran out. Because of urgency I felt I have to take pictures fast and   with any sort of rush quality suffers.  I packed everything and sent it off to Kodak (in Switzerland, that was the last place in Europe that still took Kodachrome and forwarded it to Dwayne’s lab in the states). I got it back right after new year.

ideal cup kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg fisheye lens (that's one of the things you must get but then won't use). Zenit camera

I believe I might have been the last person who used Kodachrome in either Russia or the Czech Republic (where it was never sold anyway). Flickr has few, very few,  fantastic Kodachrome images of Leningrad, all taken by tourists in the 1970s and early 80s. Time frozen. But nothing afterwards.

I am   crazy about historic film and for me the experience of shooting Kodachrome and getting it developed was almost a divine pleasure. I am also happy that I now got some Kodachrome photos on my own.  I am thankful to Kodak that they kept it going for so long.

At 75 years (1935-2010) Kodachrome  is or rather was the longest surviving photographic process. With its 59 years Agfacolor which later became a ‘chrome (such as German Orwochrom) came second but a disclaimer should be made that it is still possible and in fact is fairly easy to process any Agfacolor / Orwochrom type filmstock at home.  If years of film production are to be counted, and that would be fairer, Kodachrome’s lifespan would  have to be reduced by a year to 74 but factually by 8, from 75 down to 67 as  most of Kodachrome production stopped in 2002.  I couldn’t locate any film fresher than that for my experiment. Nonetheless, even with that reduction Kodachrome still outlived its Agfa contemporary by almost a decade. I am unsure if color film stays in production for three more decades from now, that’s how much time is needed for the current C-41 and E-6 films to beat Kodachrome’s longevity record.

Kirochnaya 10 Kodachrome Russia

A rare example of private urban architecture (http://www.citywalls.ru/house1855.html) albeit much mutilated one. The townhouse or private house of architect Theodore Demercev (hated Americanized "spellers" might render his name in the language of Donald Rumsfeld and Obama as Fyodor Demertsev or worse), built in 1792. This elegant neoclassical building was apparently mutilated for commercial ends - in 1826 another massive floor was added on top of the structure. Kodachrome Zenit camera October 2010

Lifespan of commercial photographic color film processes:

Autochrom / Alticolor (France) – from about 1907 to 1955 = 48 years

Dufay / Dufaycolor –   France / Great Britain – from mid 1920s to until 1940, about 15 years.

Kodacolor (C-22)  1943-1972  (first Kodak then internationalized) =29 years

Kodachrome – 1935 to 2010 =75 years

Agfacolor reversible / Orwochrom – 1932 to 1991 = 59 years

Kodak C-41 and similar international processes (Fuji, Agfa) 1972 until today, the current most common negative process, 40 years, still alive.

Kodak E-3 reversible, about 1950 to 1972 – 22 years

Kodak E-4 reversible, 1972-1974 – 2 years

Kodak E-6 and its international derivatives, 1974 until today,  38 years, still alive.

European market Kodachrome 64 120 format box

European market Kodachrome 64 120 format box

Kodachrome 64 120 5 pack

Kodachrome 64 120 5 pack - Kodak officially discontinued the film in 1996 but probably stopped making it even earlier.

Hubertuskapelle in Feldsberg – the Chapel in St. Hubert near Valtice in Southern Moravia

27 Dec

I am going to use those  entries for a separate site on Southern Moravia and Weinviertel or the Wine Quarters in  Lower Austria, primarily concentrated on the immediate area around Nikolsburg (Czech Mikulov, also Nicolsburg) but because they are all illustrated with my own photographs, I’ll post them in my photography blog.

St. Hubert Chapel or Hubertuskappele near Feldsberg (Czech Valtice, Kaple svatého Huberta)

St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle

St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle - side view, Feldsberg, now Valtice, Moravia, Czech Republic, formely Austria - Hungary

Click  image for larger version (and contact me if you want huge ones or an actual print of some image. This story is illustrated with eight black and white analogue photographs ).

The Chapel of Saint Hubert or St. Hubertuskappele
Designed 1848
Built 1854-1855
Architect Hans Heindrich
Designed by Georg Wingelmüller
Sculptor (St. Hubert) Joseph (?) Högler
Getting there – ideally by car and then on foot. Or on car through the forest if you are adventurous enough and can find a breach to penetrate the forest.

A  (somewhat) Longish Introduction

The Chapel located on the hunting grounds of the old Liechtenstein estates between Feldsberg (now Czech Valtice) and Eisgrub (Czech Lednice).

Feldsberg was a German speaking town which was ethnically cleansed by Czech ethno-nationalists in 1945.  Though expelled locals hoped for a quick return, the exile turned out to be permanent and it will remain permanent as long as Austria, Germany and the world do nothing (and so far Germany acting as American puppet did nothing, lest American neocon ally in Prague gets somehow embarrassed or worse, inconvenienced). The “permanence” factor is there  because of so called Beneš decrees. Edvard Beneš (or Benesch) was a misanthrope and a Germanophobe who ordered disenfranchisement, expulsion and murder of some 2.5 million of own citizens because of their wrong (German) ethnicity and language.  Vaclav Havel, who died  recently (and I wrote a fitting obituary for the villain) did make an  apology, sort of, to those expelled by then democratic and pro-American Czech regime but his cheap words were soon forgotten. Beneš decrees have not yet been repealed .

This monument as well as two castles near-by – the  one at Eisgrub and another one at Feldsberg (Lednice and Valtice in Czech) belonged to the Princes von Liechtenstein who were neither Nazis nor Germans.  That fact notwithstanding their ancestral estates were expropriated and the theft was not committed by Stalinist communists but by a regime that was so-called democratic and was (as it is in its revived form) very much pro-American.

To me the story of postwar ethnic cleansing in Czechoslovakia is the ultimate example of double standards in media and education. When in the year 1968 Soviet Union and Warsaw pact quashed a fascist putsch in Czechoslovakia, the events were described as an act of beastly Oriental barbarism and a rape of a little democratic nation. The entire  comic opera Prague Spring affair of 1968 left less than 100 victims. As a comparison –  NATO killed twice as many kids per one hour in Libya. Besides half of the Prague Spring victims were Warsaw pact military personnel. On the other hand the disenfranchisement of 2.5 million people, murder of a quarter million of human being, with adolescents and children being rounded up and machined gunned among other nasty things, wholescale robbery (in fact it was probably the world’s largest single instance of robbery after Bolshevik putsch of 1917 in Russia) is either described as a triumph of popular democracy or is not talked about.

St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle - Valtice, Feldsberg, Moravia, Czech Republic - an angel

St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle - Valtice, Feldsberg, Moravia, Czech Republic - an angel

The chapel is located within three kilometers from Feldsberg on the so called red tourist route or red hiking path. Most people would reach it on foot. You can get there also by a car or better still by a small 4×4 if you drive through forests and swamps (as I did it my 4×4 Fiat Panda – a large SUV will  attention, displeasure of the law enforcement personnel if they see you and hopefully swift punishment. Which might as well be deserved. All big SUV owners deserve to be shot or hanged or both.

If you intend to reach  the monument by a small car the deed is probably not legal but you can always pretend you got lost and claim that you ended up there by accident.

driving into forest clearing

driving into forest clearing

The chapel is  stunning (Americans today would say awesome) because most people don’t expect to see something like that smack in the middle of a forest.  I did not expect to see something like that in a forest.

On the other hand one should keep in mind that for the past few centuries this has not been  a real forest but a carefully preserved hunting estate which admittedly had the appearance of a wild forest.

When it was built the chapel was dedicated to Saint Hubert or St. Hubertus by Princes of Liechtenstein  and it was the shrine where grace  for a successful hunt would be said to thank the Saint Hubert and no doubt to the generous Almighty himself.  I find that whole notion slightly bizarre but that’s beside the point. In Austria, and this was once Austria, and I assume also in sections of Germany the idea of hunting is different from what it was and still is in Russia (or Finland or Norway or say Canada). The element of adventure is taken entirely out of the equation.

A few months ago I met a gregarious bunch of hunters, they were either from Upper Austria or from Salzburg as they amid a party were saying thanks to Saint Hubert at an inn in Falkenstein. The tavern, a remarkably nice one, was full of hunters. The joint is called Siebenschläfer, and it has a good selection of local wine (or British would say wines, in plural) and Belgian beer (though Austrian beer is, or the British would say beers are, outstanding). The public house is named after a mouse they eat as a delicacy in parts of Western and Southwestern Europe. Siebenschläfer translates as edible dormouse and apparently folks in Slovenia still feast on those mice (never saw it on the menus there though), the Italians used to roast mice and cook them on a spit or prepare them skewered, shish kebab style, alternating little rodents with piece of eggplant (that’s aubergine to the British), succulent cuts of summer squash (or marrow) and tomatoes  while the French tossed mice into boiling water and then devoured them as midnight snacks –  or something like that if we are to believe this article about those cute squirrel-like mice and their culinary relationship with the most civilized part of the mankind (I know you are supposed to say humanity instead of mankind, but humanity is something else and that’s why I won’t –   mankind’s  crimes against humanity is a fine sentence but  in the act of boiling mice the humanity is sorely lacking) .

It was bitterly cold outside though glowingly warm inside of the cavernous stone womb of the Dormouse /  Siebenschläfer tavern,  we began talking over delicious Falkenstein wine, Grüner Veltliner went neatly down first probably, my little Nikolai was playing with other kids, or rather with their parents at the same counter,  the  tables were pulled together in a communal fashion – this was a hunters’ party. It was good. As I interrogated talkative hunters about their venatic   exploits in the shadow of their patron saint,. St. Hubert, I discovered that their adventure was so prosaic that I would hardly call it an adventure. All those good natured folks had pricey uniform-like hunters clothing, camouflaged jackets,  and were armed with high powered expensive rifles of the kind Russian defense ministry is now buying (you have to read Russian or use translate.google.com to figure out what the story is about).  The hunt took place in a private forest (well I guess the owner of the forest put a restriction on what his game can be hunted with, otherwise hunters might have as well showed up with machine guns, flame throwers, and grenade launchers). Most forests in Austria are private – and that’s good. Forests need owners. Russian forests are officially a national property but in reality nobody’s, they are mismanaged and abused by corrupt and mutated Soviet bureaucracy for the benefit of bureaucracy itself and  Russia’s thieving classes. The owner of the forest permitted the hunting party to shoot one wild boar. That’s it.  So those twenty odd or thirty people obtained a permission to exterminate one swine. Big deal. Now each of them paid 100 euros (or was it 150 euros, either or, I remember it was an outrageous amount) for the privilege of murdering a pig. The owner of the forest (and of the pig that dwells in it, I guess he has more than one) got something like 2000 or 3000 euros for letting those armed people enter his forest. Then the platoon-sized well armed gang went into the woods, found a pig and executed him (or her if that were a sow, as I did not ask what was the gender of their porcine victim). They did not get to keep the meat of the creature because the contract covered just the murder of it though not its flesh, but as I recall the man who shot the piggie got  the boar’s head as a souvenir because the brave huntsmen and huntswomen (the platoon had a few Amazons  ) were toasting to the fellow whose steady rifle shot brought the wretched swine down.

Chapel of Saint Hubert (Hubertus, Hubertuskapelle) - angels  front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

Chapel of Saint Hubert (Hubertus, Hubertuskapelle) - angels group, Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

A while back I met (an) American who joined the US military to kill darkies (he wanted to kill people, that’s why he said and that why he joined the infantry).  Wars waged around the globe by the Bush regime and its successor provide ample opportunities for this sort of fun in the poorer areas of the globe or even in some places that were recently affluent, like Libya, by which were reduced to poverty by American bombing, foreign invasion and imported warfare.  For  the sake of fairness it should be said that (obviously white) American also got paid for the “job” and he hoped that the taxpayer would also reimburse his tuition while my huntsmen – and huntswomen – paid, and in their case  paid a small fortune, for the dubious privilege of killing.

The Saint.
I am unsure whether rapists, child molesters, pedophiles and  murderers have their own heavenly protectors, but hunters do. Hunters got their own patron saint. He is Saint Hubert or Hubertus.

One can read about Hubertus orSt. Hubert in the Catholic Encyclopedia 

One note of coincidence – St. Hubert was a bishop of Liège (German Lüttich).

The city of Liège is located in what once were the Austrian Netherlands
but they became Belgium in the 19th century.

Here is the timeframe
Germany launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Russia on August 1, 1914.
On August 2, Germany invaded France – again without a reason or a hint of provocation.
On August 3, Germany attacked Belgium that was no threat to it.
One of the first battles of World War was the short siege of Liège which was still  longer than the Huns expected (they thought the city would fall within a day). The battle for Liège began on August 4 (Liège is right at the border) and the last fort surrendered, after having been reduced to rubble, on August 16.  Generally speaking the Belgian resistance allowed the heroic French to gain time and prevent the Bad Guys from winning the war.
Before the Germany launched its first 20th century war of aggression, Austria (or dual monarchy, Austria-Hungary) developed a special gun, a siege mortar, designed  for destruction of concrete fortifications and battering of cities that could be moved around on railroad. This was Škoda 30.5 cm Mörser M. 11 (M 11 standards for the model 1911 though it weapon was developed by 1909) and it was built by the Škoda works in Pilsen (Czech Plzeň,  it was to a large extent a German speaking town and an important industrial hub of the Austrian empire but like Southern Moravia  Pilsen was ethnically cleansed after 1945 and became fully Czech).  Austrians sent heavy 305.5 mortars to Germany together with own  crews, who wore German uniforms and manned the mortars. Those guns began the world war – by destroying forts of Liège and bombarding Antwerp and Namur.  German Nazis also used them in the Second World war against people of France and later Soviet Union, in the sieges of Sebastopol (Sevastopol) and Stalingrad but their carrier began in Belgium’s Wallonia.

The nasty part about is that Austria however was not at war with Belgium. It was at peace. Austria’s criminal ally, Germany,  forced the monarchy to declare war against Belgium only on 28 August 1914, that is almost two weeks after last fort of Liège, destroyed by Austrian siege mortars,  fell. That struck me as not exactly chivalrous.  Treacherous.  Sort of American 20th century style. Bad As bad as Austria’s treasonous neutrality in the Crimean War (another worthy subject to explore at a later time).

Here the  story of St. Hubert or Hubertus takes on many twists.
St. Hubert also happens to be the patron saint of arms makers. He was the bishop of Liège.  Liège, which Herstal neighborhood is home to  FN Fabrique Nationale,  is now the largest surviving firearms manufacturing center in Western Europe.
The guns that destroyed forts of Liege and killed its defenders and civilians were made in Pilsen.
As a result of the war which first battle was for the city where St. Hubert was bishop, Austria lost Pilsen along with the rest of the empire. In fact a new state, improbable and implausible before in 1917, that of Czechoslovakia was created and this Chapel of St. Hubertus happened to end on its territory (though on a private estate which was later stolen).

This  intertwining chain of coincidences is eerie.

Architecture

St. Hubertus Chapel - front view of  Hubertuskapelle - front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

St. Hubertus Chapel - front view of Hubertuskapelle - front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

The architect was Hans Heindrich (probably Johannes or Johann as Hans is just form of Christian Johannes) Heindrich who used earlier design by Georg Wingelmüller.  Hans Heindrich  was probably a household architect of Liechtensteins and I did not find any of his work outside of this immediate region. Georg Wingelmüller was another House of Liechteinstein architect. He rebuilt the castle at Eisgrub (Lednice) into a flamboyant neo-Gothic fantasy and  transformed old Renaissance structures into one of the world most spectacular palatial estates, no longer a castle in any sense.

Czechoslovak state (illegally) expropriated the Eisgrub castle after Second World War and the Czech state still keeps it.    The architecture of the castle or palace is majestic – though for some reason the Czechs stubbornly use the French word chateau in all of their English language pamphlets and tourist propaganda, but that’s a subject for another entry. I could never figure out why do they write chateau because the word and the context is so alien and it is certainly not a “chateau” in English.  The architecture of the palace or castle is magnificent but it is also somewhat artificial.

Like the  architecture of this chapel which also appears “imported”, alien.

Wingelmüller was born in 1810 and died young, in 1848. He left more architectural legacy than did dozens of ordinary architects who lived into their  80s or 90s.  At the tender age of 15, in the year 1825,  Liechtensteins sent young Georg to England to study architecture.  What he brought back was a spirit of (secretly Catholic, Norman and ultimately French) Gothic revival that just began to sprout in England and which later grew into such grandiose neo-Gothic fakes like the Houses of Parliament.  The  Parliament  building in Budapest is another obvious (magnificent) fake, one on steroids, and although I am unfamiliar with its history and it does look like a much newer structure,  I suspect it has similar roots and its creators drew inspiration from the same source.

When I saw the Chapel of St. Hubert (Hubertuskapelle) first I thought of a scaled down and resized Prince Albert Memorial in London, chubbier without the latter’s ridiculous spire.

Sculpture:

The sculpture of St. Hubert in the middle of the composition is the work of Anton Joseph Högler. Local guides  like the one created and maintained by Dieter Friedl , that’s just the Feldsberg part of it  – Believe me the thing is far more monumental than the Chapel of St. Hubert itself, in fact despite its modest appearance it is the size of a major Internet cathedral) attributes the authorship to  Joseph Högler. I went through the Austrian Biographical Lexicon (Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon) and found no sculptor named Joseph Högler in it but fair enough there were two sculptors with last name Högler who lived almost around the time of Chapel creation.

St. Hubert or Hubertus at the Hubertuskapelle - front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

St. Hubert or Hubertus at the Hubertuskapelle - front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

These were Anton Högler (1774 – 1850) and Franz Högler (1802 – 1855). To make matters worse there  was also Anton Josef Högler ( 1705-1786) who was German, or rather Bavarian but worked in Austria (all Austrians except inhabitants of Voralberg are linguistic relatives of Bavarians, at least Anton Josef Högler found speech in Niederösterreich relatively easy as opposed to a Prussian to whom the local tongue sounded as alien as  Dutch). Anton Josef Högler was rather famous and he worked on decorating a number of churches besides painting and drawing and he left a substantial  legacy.
(http://www.arcadja.com/auctions/en/h%C3%B6gler_franz/artist/276591/). Unfortunately any search on Anton Högler would return results on Josef Anton instead.  I  faced a dead end. I remember my astonishment when I discovered the grave of Hilaire Belloc in Parisian Père Lachaise cemetery. To me Père Lachaise is one of the most holiest places on earth, the concentration of people whom I consider great there gives me goosebumps. Now although I speak English, and I happen to speak the American variety, I’ve never belonged to their cultural sphere. There are a few American writers that I like, some whom I worship, one great  still is still among us (and let him live to 120), Gore Vidal, and  who alas –  already dead Kurt Vonnegut is in my pantheon, but I would have a great difficulty gathering more than a dozen  Americans in one place who could inspire anyone save their fellow countrymen – yes, money lenders, thieves, speculators, mass murderers, victims of political assassinations, preachers. It would be difficult to put together an American equivalent of something that was 30 times smaller than the Père Lachaise.  Britain is a bit difficult of course. You can walk around London book in hand and look at the blue signs  – who was there and when – and then suddenly it comes like a jolt of electricy, oh he was here, and you ponder life’s meaning, stuff  mortality and immortality.   of London cemeteries are “outstanding” though beats Père Lachaise.  So it was like with Högler, I was walking through Père Lachaise and saw the grave of Hilaire Belloc. Now Belloc is one of my favorite poets, he is insightful and brave author. I translated his beautiful books of verse for children into Russian (The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts and equally outrageous More Beasts for Worse Children).  I worship Belloc – though of course there are some other 20th century English poets but I would place Belloc in the first top dozen. Read his beautiful Christmas carol that I put there right below quadriptych of a fish being massacred for the sacrificial Christmas dinner .   I was astonished to find Hilaire Belloc grave in Père Lachaise  – even he got here! But then how come, and  I paused – Hilare Belloc was buried in England. It took me a while to figure out (I am not a faster thinker) that this must be different Hilaire Belloc. Perhaps a relative. In fact it was. In that case this was thepainter  and founder of the École Nationale de dessin, sculpture et architecture Jean-Hilaire Belloc, who died four years before his great literary namesake was born.  Same with Joseph Högler?

St. Hubert Chapel - side view of  St Hubert - front view, near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

Chapel of Saint Hubert - side view of St Hubert sculptural composition - near Valtice, Feldsberg, and Lednice, Eisgrub, Moravia, Austria. now Czech Republic

Anton Josef Högler ( 1705-1786) was not a Joseph and worked almost a century before the sculpture was created.
Franz Högler (1802 – 1855) was not a Joseph because he was Franz, Francis, and he died the year the Chapel of St. Hubert was completed. He is a possible author of the sculpture but since the only source I have names some Joseph Högler, how can one be sure that Franz made it?
Anton Högler (1774 – 1850) is of course also a candidate, his second Christian name might have been Joseph but alas he also died four years before the construction of the Chapel.
Summary – certainly worth seeing if you are around, a landmark of otherwise landmark-rich (a UN heritage area) Feldsberg, Eisgrub and Nikolsburg or in Czech that would Valtice, Lednice and Mikulov triangle.

Photography
Camera:     Rollei SLX
Film:        Rollei RPX 100 (it looks like rebadged cold-stored Agfapan APX 100)
Developed in Rodinal

Path in the forest or woods near St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle - Valtice, Feldsberg, Moravia, Czech Republic -

Path in the forest or woods near St. Hubert Chapel / Hubertuskapelle - Valtice, Feldsberg, Moravia, Czech Republic - once Austria (Austria-Hungary)

Camera test: an early Komsomolec (Komsomolets)

1 Sep

Komsmolets (Komsomolets, Комсомолец)

The Long Story of the Komsomolets

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is a Russian camera made by LOMO / Gomz inLeningrad,St. Petersburg, from 1946 to 1951. I own 2 specimens and both are of the 1947 vintage. One camera works pretty much like if it were new and the second one has a problem with the shutter. The release lever is loose in its socket, doesn’t fire when it is supposed to but thank Lord it looks fairly repairable, like if someone attempted to disassemble the contraption but then got interrupted by a call from the kitchen and had to put things back hastily together.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Komsolets is a first postwar consumer camera that was designed and made in a in a bombed out and burnt factory complex located in city that just lost over half of its population to the brutal three year long  Nazi siege,  one of the most horrific events in the World War. It was sold in a market that was hungry for any photography equipment and would consume anything.  Its history and its appeal has its roots in the siege ofLeningrad, the defining experience for all who survived it (the before and after thing, like the atomic bombing ofHiroshimaandNagasakibecame the before and after moment for its survivors); the survivors of the siege at the Lomo made this little camera after the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

As the Nazi hordes approachedLeningrad, in the  Fall of 1941 the Soviet authorities outlawed photographic cameras. Yes they did.  Every inhabitant of the city had to turn in his or her camera. The reasoning of that was fairly simple, there should be no record of what was about to transpire save for the official one.  By Nazi hordes I don’t mean the Germans because the invasion of the Soviet Union was an international affair let by a NATO-style coalition which at its utmost geographical stretch may be even exceeded current NATO – fromFinlandtoSpain.  WhenLeningradwas besieged the Northern approaches were encircled by the Finns asFinlandwas an enthusiastic Hitler’s ally and a leading Nazi power (more politically correct way of saying this is an Axis power). WithoutFinlandthe encirclement ofLeningradand murder of over one million civilians that ensued would not have been possible. BecauseFinlandbecame Soviet Union’s “friend” after the war all references to Finnish war crimes (which by far exceeded anything Germans did in the territory), political and popular racism or toFinland’s role in the siege ofLeningradwere suppressed by Soviet authorities. The encirclement was complete when southern approaches to the city were seized by the Wehrmacht units supplemented by a motley force that resembled the recent  Coalition of the Willing – from Estonian SS murders to Franko’s Spaniards, and from Romanian units to Norwegian SS volunteers.  Leningradremained besieged and encircled for almost three years until the siege was broken and remaining the Nazis later themselves encircled and killed off. When the Soviet authorities realized that the city is encircled, shut tight in fact,  they decided they need to do something about population control. The city had two or two and a half million inhabitants though perhaps almost half of the population had wisely fled by then. My grandmother didn’t. She spent the entire siege in the city from the first to the last day. She had to become medical doctor in 1942 but by 1942 the medical school was shut down because there were no professors and no students and the buildings were locked, frozen solid or burned out. She became a doctor of medicine in 1945, the first year the school opened.  When I browsed through her photo graduation album, I realized that out of entire group of perhaps 30 fresh doctors of medicine, there was only one, just one male graduate.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

With the city encircled in the late 1941 the authorities passed emergency decrees confiscating all photographic cameras and all radios. The punishment for disobeying the ordinance was espionage charge and death. Only one person was convicted of possessing and using a camera illegally, a fellow named Alexander Nikitin, who was turned to the authorities by his own neighbors, as usual, but got a milder five year sentence in imprisonment, possibly of starvation, in a couple of years  In 2002 three negatives he took which were kept in KGB archives all these  years were professionally enlarged and exhibited as part of a larger Unknown Siege or Unknown Blockade (Неизвестная Блокада) photo exhibition  together with photographs taken by reporters whose works likewise were classified and stored in secret archives.  Professional photographers employed by Soviet news agencies and newspapers could photograph almost freely but the pictures they took were subjected to military and political censorship with expectant results. Over 90% of all images were classified.  Nikitin’s photos (the condemned amateur photographer who escaped execution but instead died from in a camp) show that the authorities were not exceedingly paranoid in their fears of what subjects would amateur photographers pick when they permitted to.  Nikitin photographed bomb damage. There were way worse things to photograph.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

In late 1941 theLeningradauthorities turned all private phones off for fear that phones could be used to spread panic among large numbers of people.  Phones remained turned off until 1944.  I became distracted from the topic of Komsomolets camera, which is unique in the way that this was the first postwar camera made in ravished burned out and to a great extent an extinct ghost-like city, and sold to public that was deprived of opportunity to take pictures with own cameras for almost four years.  If you did not turn your camera in, there was another problem – film and photographic supplies were unavailable throughout the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Soviet film manufacturing facilities were located in the territory overrun by the Nazis, were used for the Reich’s benefit and were destroyed at the end.  This explains that although there are literally countless tons or tonnes (if those are metric) of war images taken by ordinary Wehrmacht personnel photos from the opposing side are non-existent.  All just major German film manufacturers like Agfa and Perrutz operated throughout the war and even provided mail-in processing services for the troops in the field, but like with weapons industries and automotive manufacturing, the entireEuropemade stuff for Hitler and contributed to the Nazi cause.   Czech Foma , Belgian Gevaert, Italian Ferrania and Lumiere inFrancemade film stock and supplies until at least the middle of the war when pursuing hobby of photography and cinema became a somewhat lesser priority for the Nazis.  The other side left little amateur photographic evidence: Soviet soldiers were not allowed to have own cameras until later in the war but even if they were they was no film except what they could get from the dead Nazis.  The 1945 Victory Parade inMoscowwas filmed on captured German Agfacolor stock which then was flown in to defeatedBerlinfor processing.

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

The Soviet experience of confiscating cameras and radios from the citizens inLeningradwas by no means unique.  Nominally “democratic” Czechoslovakia confiscated all private radios from its German speaking citizens right before Hitler’s march into Sudenland and in 1945 the “democratic” Czechoslovak state requisitioned cameras and watches along with other valuables from 2.3 million individuals, who were also stripped of their citizenship, all rights to property and then expelled (perhaps as many as 240 000 were murdered because they were alleged to be German). I have no idea what didCzechoslovakiado with all those cameras but apparently they still provide inexhaustible supply of merchandise for Czech antique shops.

RevLomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Komsomolets was a special camera because in the minds of people who made it and who bought it, the Komsomolets signified a return to normal life or to a semblance of normal life.  From what I understand the film production was not restored for a few years, so the situation must had somewhat resembled the digital age, getting a film camera was easier than finding film.

Komsomolets is supposedly a knock-off from German Voigtländer Brillant. Or rather from an earlier version of Brillant because it is not a true TLR but a fake, a camera that appears like a TLR but is in fact just a box camera with no focusing arrangement, the user has to guesstimate the distance and the top part of the structure with the faux focusing lens acting purely as a decoration..

Why it is supposedly based on Brillant? Well, a number of fake TLRs were produced, most notably in theUS(a number of Argus cameras or Spartus Super R-I) though Komsomolets does remind one of a Brillant in styling perhaps more than other contemporary imitations.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Komsolets, a relatively rare camera, is often advertised as a copy of Brillant. Ebay sellers form the former Soviet Union have a tendency to say this less than half truth in their description of the merchandise they put up for sale. Brillant (and I own one or two of those apparatuses) is a better camera. It produces square images that are reasonably sharp without much vignetting while Komsomolets, at least the earlier models that I’ve got, is equipped with the simplest T-21 anastigmatic lens (there was a prewar Czech tank, Skoda T-21, though it was hopefully not related to this pathetic lens). The lens produces horrific vignetting and is quite blurry, perhaps blurrier than late plastic lenses of Holga and Holga-like toy cameras.  Though technically not classified as such, for all known purposes Komsomolets is a toy camera that has somewhat complicated controls.  Brillant is not a toy – it is a better built piece of equipment that is also more useful than Komsomolec (Komosomolets).

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

The main difference between the two is of course that most later, post 1937, versions of Brillant were   true TLRs even equipped with an exposure frame counter (like the Brillant I have) while Komsomolets is a pseudo-TLR, the upper lens really serves no purpose,  in fact it could as well be a box camera.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

In an inexact translation Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is normally rendered as a Young Communist. That product name alone would be shocking to Nazis and Americans (especially of the 1950s variety, when the USA assumed the role of the global anti-Communism crusader and accepted Third Reich’s heritage it preserves so diligently and the role it so dutifully carries forward until this day) but at the same time the name was of course totally innocent sounding to most Russians of the era. Now  it does strike one, even a Russian speaker, as both grotesque and dated.  Komsomol is syllabic  abbreviation that meansUnionof the Communist Youth and Komsomolets is a masculine noun produced from that abbreviation. Komsomol had members as young as 14 and membership in Komsomol could have lasted until early 20s (officially and much later the age was extended to 28 to keep older functionaries in place). Since a Komsomolets was someone in his or her teens, it is obvious that the camera was targeted at the group of very young users.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in   Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Why did Lomo or Gomz decide to develop a fake TLR is beyond comprehension . In capitalist economies of the day where matter of market prestige was important, the advent of fake TLR or pseudo TLR was understandable or can at least be explained rationally. A person who could not afford an exorbitantly expensive Rolleiflex or even Rolleicord, or other great twin lens reflex cameras made in other countries like Semflex in France or Microflex in Britain, could always buy a fake TLR and look like the rich fellow in a Horch (Citroen, Rolls Royce) who had the real thing: a fake TLR from the 30s and 40s as a progenitor of fake mobile phones from the early 1990s. Prestige pressure was probably not that great in the Stalinist Soviet Union, especially in respect to a product made for kids and young adults, and the manufacturers could have just saved some raw materials and labor and produced a very good box camera instead but for some reason the designers at Lomo – and the party apparatchiks who had to approve every decision at the planning authority – went along with a fake TLR. Perhaps even they thought it would be cool to give survivingLeningradkids a visual resemblance of something that at least looks like a Rolleiflex.

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  some street flowers in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - some street flowers in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Nonetheless, the body of the Komsomolets (that sounds quite macabre) was later used for producing the first generation of the Lubitel cameras.  A Lubitel  means an amateur in Russian which, like in the original French sense of the word amateur, signifies someone who loves the thing he does, like photography, but not necessarily does it poorly or inferiorly to a pro, who in turn can be quite inferior to a good amateur in all respects, the difference between the two is that a professional who does the work for money, a photographic mercenary,  while an amateur is someone who does it out of sheer pleasure or love (for the occupation and art of photography in this case). Obviously in modern American English the meaning of the word has somewhat mutated from the value of its original French importation and the amateur now is just somebody who is a dilettante.

Unlike Komsomolec the Lubitel that followed it was a true TLR and quite remarkable photographic instrument considering its very low retail price.

The Summary:

Komsomolets is a twin lens reflex camera that uses 120 format film and produces 12 images in the so called 6×6 format.

From 1946 until 1950 the first two versions of Komsomolets cameras were equipped with simplest T-21 (Triplet) lenses. The lens was 6.3/80 and had centrally built shutter (had to be cocked manually before  each exposure) , and a modest exposure range of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and Bulb.

The last, 1951 model, came with a much better T-22 lens, the same lens was used in the early Lubitel cameras.

The very first models of Komsomolets were supposedly equipped with a mechanical frame counter, I never saw a specimen of those mythical species. These are proto-Komsomolets.

The second version of Komsomolets, known as the Model I or Issue I (Выпуск I) – and  from 1946 to 1948 had the inscription Ленинград (Leningrad) underneath the lower lens, I’ve got two of those and had one tested with film.

The third one, named Model – Ia or Issue – Ia (Выпуск Ia) was identical to the previous model but had no wordLeningradunderneath the lens.

The last one or the Model II or the Issue II ((Выпуск II) had a different T-22 lens and was replaced by the Lubitel in the year 1951 (Lubitels were made from the year 1950 onward so for one year at least Lomo made both Komsomolets, a pseudo-TLR and Lubitel, a real TLR in the same body, concurrently).

In total almost 400 000 Komsmomolets cameras (some 370 000 to be precise on official count) were made.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  a tram (street car) stop in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a tram (street car) stop in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

The conclusion:

Komsomolets (Komsomolec) cameras, at least the first models with T-21, are a photographic curiosity. A collector of Soviet cameras might buy one for his or her collection but as far as photographic capabilities of the cameras are concerned, they are quite limited.

If one is to shop for Komsomolets with practical photography in mind, I would suggest getting the last year model with a T-22 lens but better still go for a cheaper and more  capable Lubitel.

With shipping on Ebay Komsomolents would cost an international buyer anything from 50 to 100 euros. The price inRussiaor formerSoviet Unionstates would range from 30 to 50 euros, therefore this piece is more expensive than far more capable Lubitel.

Komsomolets like early Lubitel uses 27mm (supposedly) push-on filters but Rolleiflex 28.5 filter fits as well. A way to reduce vignetting somewhat would be getting a lens hood (27, 28 mm lens hoods are readily available).

I ran my test with two rolls of film – a black and white Ilford PAN F (was sorry to waste the film on a Komsomolets) and a roll of expired Ektacolor 160