Posted 6 years ago
"Now then, look perfectly natural, and remain very quiet for just a moment" the photographer says in a deliberate voice after posing his subject and preparing the tripod mounted polished wood camera with brass lens. In a nonchalant motion, the bulb is squeezed and both photographer and subject await the final result.
It's a scene that has replayed itself since the invention of photography. But if the subject is posing in front of a c1910 - 1930 DeMoulin camera, the outcome is always surprising. Instead of the soft sound of a shutter opening, a strong stream of water suddenly erupts from the lens showering the formerly smiling and now startled subject.
The rare 8” x 8” Trick Camera looks like the real thing. In preparing of a shoot, the faux pneumatic shutter release is filled with water and attached to a tube in back of the camera. The photographer then goes through the usual ritual by pretending to focus while looking through a peep hole in the lens.
The Trick Camera was one of many novelty items, costumes, gag devices, and furniture sold to Lodge and Fraternal orders by DeMoulin Bros. & Co. of Greenville, Illinois. (Note: The company is still in business and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1992.)
And yes, the camera really works! One day, I decided to show off a newly acquired "vintage wood camera" to one of my sons. Yet somehow I failed to mention the true nature of the camera as he eagerly posed for a demonstration.
Mounted on top of a vintage tripod, the camera looks very convincing even when closely examined. Indeed, a strong stream of water shot out from the lens and drenched my son! I won't describe the retaliatory chase around the house and having to explain a wet son and wall to my wife.