Agh, we've lost Peter Gowland. I just heard. Glamor photographer, camera inventor, all-around photographic raconteur, a fixture on the scene.
I'd like to take this opportunity to re-publish a brief piece that our friend Oren Grad wrote for this site about Peter on the occasion of Peter's 90th birthday, in April, 2006:
The multitalented Peter Gowland—Hollywood bit actor, renowned glamor photographer, camera builder extraordinaire, and all-around fun guy—turned 90 last week. I leave it to the more scholarly types to opine on the esthetic and cultural significance of the Gowland photo-oeuvre; his cool cameras are just as worthy of celebration.
Gowland developed at least five distinct large-format designs—a lightweight monorail view camera, an architectural camera, an aerial camera, a single-lens reflex and a twin-lens reflex—most of which have been offered in multiple formats and with a wide array of custom variations available to meet the needs of each purchaser. Perhaps the most exotic are the 4x5 Gowland SLR and the monster 8x10 Gowlandflex TLR. (Click here and scroll down a couple of rows to see the 5x7 TLR in action on the beach, photographing Raquel Welch.) At the other extreme is the ubiquitous 4x5 Gowland Pocket View monorail, co-marketed for a time by Calumet, which turns up regularly on eBay and on used equipment shelves and which can still be purchased new from Gowland.
I've owned three Gowlands over the years. My first, a very early 8x10 monorail purchased used, was a truly spartan design—little more than a bellows riding on a pipe. (With time, the Pocket View design was refined to make it easier to use and more functional.) Later, Peter built for me an ultralight 5x7 short-rail view camera intended for field work with a 180mm lens, and then a bag-bellows version of his 6x9cm 'baby' monorail. Each time, it was a pleasure doing business. Peter would answer the phone himself, and spend the time to understand what I was hoping to accomplish and brainstorm about what he might cobble together in his shop that would be a good match.
I've linked to a few pages from the Gowland website, but it's worth the time to explore the whole thing, starting from the top. It's chock full of fun stuff about his life and work, with plenty of surprises for those who don't already know about him. Have a look and join me in a toast to Peter Gowland: a very happy 90th, and best wishes for many more years of good health and photo fun!
(Thanks to Oren)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by David A. Goldfarb: "When I bought my first large format camera on eBay—a Gowland 8x10" PocketView that I still use—I had to order a few small items like lensboards and an extension rail, so I sent a letter to an address I found online, and Peter Gowland called me himself to check on the details of my lensboards. I think he really just wanted to talk to someone who was using one of his cameras, because he loved chatting about them and finding out what people were up to. We've periodically stayed in contact since then through e-mail. He was a true gentleman."