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North Side owner trying to keep focus on camera craftsmanship

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 6:47 p.m.
Bruce Klein poses with a 1930s Ansco 8X10 view camera Monday February 25, 2013 inside his Photo Antiquities Museum on the North Side. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Vintage cameras both still and movie line the walls Monday February 25, 2013 inside Photo Antiquities Museum on the North Side. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Bruce Klein shows off his favorite, a Kodak Super 6-20--the first camera with an electronic shutter--Monday February 25, 2013 inside his Photo Antiquities Museum on the North Side. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Bruce Klein is shown in this flipped image through a 1920s L. Piseroni 8X10 view camera made in Milan Monday February 25, 2013 inside his Photo Antiquities Museum on the North Side. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Bruce Klein is turning to the cameras of the past as digital photography moves constantly into the future.

“As people take more and more digital photographs,” Klein says, “they use cameras made of plastic. Cameras that are tiny little things. They have lost sight of the craftsmanship that once went into making a camera.”

The emphasis on digital equipment of all sorts — from cameras to phones — has developed an interest in hardware that he thinks might spur interest in his Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History on the North Side.

He hopes such an increased interest could generate financial or leadership support to drive Photo Antiquities to a site on nearby Madison Street. In 2011, he began a drive to enlist help that would allow the shift from the current 1,500-square-foot display and archive site to about 12,000 square feet.

The effort has faltered, he says. He hopes the change in focus to tours at the museum would give it some life.

Tours run from an hour to 90 minutes, he says, and can be customized to individual interests, looking at either equipment or the collection of antique photographs in the museum.

Because he is the owner of Bernie's Camera just doors away, and does speaking engagements on a variety of photo topics, he suggests arranging tour visits ahead of time.

“If you have set it up, it will happen,” he says. “But if you just stop in, I might not be here.”

One of the newer features of tours at the museum is a display of about 500 movie cameras. The assortment fills the greater part of a room with 8 millimeter, Super 8 and 16mm devices the everyday photographer would use, as well as a 35mm projector that could be carried to sites to show movies.

Interest in movie cameras has increased recently because of the number of films shot in this area, he says. Members of those film crews have visited.

But the camera collection is filled with many standouts:

• A daguerreotype-like camera in wood and brass from 1839;

• A wall-full of 35mm cameras that marches through the histories of manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon and Minolta;

• A 700mm Graflex that was mounted at Forbes Field in Oakland and captured shots of Bill Mazeroski's World Series-wining home run in 1960.

The tale of the equipment is only one form of history Klein emphasizes in the tours, he says.

“People now store away their photos on a computer, but what happens when a computer crashes?” he asks. “We are not only losing images, we are losing history.”

He recommends printing important photos — and doing that job on archival paper — to keep those bits of history. Contacts on memory cards corrode, and equipment changes, he says, making such backups somewhat faulty.

“Nothing is better than printing,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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