Many years ago when I first began making images seriously, my grandmother bought me a subscription to Modern Photography. (I don’t do very much that I don’t do seriously — grammar Nazi, parse that!) It was probably my first exposure to a fan magazine, a magazine that floats the area somewhere outside the professional’s trade magazine or journal. It was a source of a lot of information that I used as I learned how to handle a camera.
The good parts were that they reviewed and tested a lot of cameras, lenses, and films. They also had a solid testing regimen. (I’ll get to that in a moment.) All the big boys advertised in it and the back was filled with the discounter’s advertisements. Those were places I spent quite a lot of time, because I had a lot of time and no money. I do not recall if I ever bought anything from the big-city discounters. But I sure poured over those multi-page advertisements.
I hadn’t realized it, but learned this morning that Modern Photography is long gone. When I read about this morning, I felt that old familiar sadness that seems to come more these days. Something good is lost. That is the nature of life. Everything dies. It’s a good thing to remember that and enjoy those things that come into your circle. Because they are fleeting and might be there for a moment or a lifetime. But they will pass.
While researching lenses, I came across an interesting site, adaptall-2.org. This is a Tamron fan site dedicated to Tamron manual focus (best I can tell) glass. They have a lot of data posted and comparison test results with many legendary OEM lenses.
The Modern Photography connection is derived from the adaptall-2.org connection. The site curators are on the lookout for test results published by Modern Photography because the magazine’s testing regimen was more, um, regimented that that of the other big fan magazine, Popular Photography.
So, my experience with Modern Photography has come full circle, it seems. I started out reading (voraciously) the contents of that magazine decades ago. I lost the thread somewhere along the line, although I still read an issue now and again. Now I find myself back as a very serious amateur, researching cameras and glass once again. The work the Modern Photography staff did remains pertinent because my love of the art is not in the modern auto-everything technology, but in the technique and art of using cameras (analog or digital) and good glass to capture something interesting.
The camera is only a box that holds film or sensor. The magic is in the intellect, soul, and skill of the photographer. The connection between medium and subject is the glass. The box has to do its job — carry subject to medium and provide the exposure the photographer intends. The glass is the key connection and the better the glass the less distorted the image will be on the medium.
And that is my circle. Decades ago I was exposed to the slick pages of Modern Photography. We parted ways somewhere in between as my life changed and life imposed itself on me. Now that I’m back after the image again, I find myself confronted with the ghost of Modern Photography through the curation of the adaptall-2.org site owners. That fascinates me.