Posted 6 months ago
This is a unique and recent acquisition. I already own an Anthony Champion Stereo camera, but this particular c.1888 camera has a matched pair of 1872 landscape lenses made by Richard Morrison. Morrison is a legendary lens maker and the stereo pair themselves would make most any serious lens collector palpitate. But what’s important here is the story of what early photographers cherish most.
Back in the early days of photography, it was lenses that photographers chose carefully. Cameras (called ‘view boxes’ in the 1870s) were merely tools to make pictures. Let’s be honest, a camera body is a camera body, but lenses and optical formulations combined with photographers’ talents are what makes a fine image. In 1872, Morrison formulated his interpretation of the landscape lens which went on to be highly coveted. Any Morrison landscape lens is rare, yet first versions from 1872 are practically unknown.
The lens board (also original to the camera) was modified for the Morrison stereo pair and marked with the photographer’s name: Chas. E. Long - Landscape Photographer. Unfortunately his location is undecipherable. But what we can surmise is that Long loved this Morrison stereo pair enough to replace the standard Anthony EA lenses and mount on a newer camera. Putting older, favorite lenses on newer apparatus was a common practice.
In 1872, a large advertising campaign was launched for these landscape lenses. Depending on the size of the lens, prices started at $36 per pair and went up to $50 each - that’s $680 to $1,888 for a stereo pair in 2012 currency! It is understandable why photographers disposed of cameras more often than their lenses.
With the camera, I was also given an original lens advertisement with an actual “specimen picture" that was included in the August 1872 issue of Photographic Times. Accompanying the specimen image is an article about this image photographed by Mr. John Reid, Paterson, N.J; a beautiful study of Passaic Falls with Reid’s name impressed into the paper.