LACONIA — For professional photographer Ian Raymond, the rescue of his vintage 1915 camera came in the form of Thomas Dalton, a cabinetmaker from Belmont who doesn’t specialize in anything in particular and no matter what.
His mission: Fix the unexpected and overcome the challenges that get in your way.
When the height adjustment mechanism – a wooden track with a wooden knob on the platform that supports Raymond’s camera – failed after more than 100 years, Raymond lost the ability to aim or shoot. photos without wavering. This was a very unusual and pernicious problem for any photographer.
Then Raymond discovered Dalton on Facebook through their mutual friendship with photographer Alan MacRae, who lives in Belmont.
It was a match that only chance could arrange. Dalton and Raymond share a zeal for solving puzzles and an artist’s attention to detail. Today, Raymond’s Century View camera, a flashback to yesteryear that captures faces and emotions in soft focus, continues as the equipment Raymond uses to create an exhibition of portraits at the Belknap factory in October.
“You have no idea how much easier my life is with this. It doesn’t creep. It stays put,” Raymond said.
One of the photos in the exhibition will be that of Dalton, 70, a craftsman also seasoned by experience.
“I love being part of a big story. I was born and raised here,” Dalton said. “That camera belonged to a Laconia family” – specifically Sam Achber, who opened a studio camera on Canal Street in 1927. The Century View portrait camera that Dalton repaired was also used by Chet Brickett, Raymond’s partner, a World War II veteran who died in 2001.
Brickett, a locally known photographer, was a nationally known activist during the Vietnam War. “It’s nice to meet people who have a story you can relate to,” Dalton said.
On Tuesday, Raymond’s Main Street studio – itself a walk back in time, with original tin walls and ceilings – became the setting for a live photo shoot.
It was also a visual feast.
One wall features black-and-white, sepia, and color portraits of family members and locals taken with cameras from different eras. The shelves contain props for taking photos of restless children who prefer to do anything but sit still. There’s a Raggedy Ann doll, small toys and a stuffed Husky dog for wigglers, plus a miniature velvet sofa and Victorian chair for youngsters to pose for.
The range of cameras, each with a particular purpose and effect from a different period, form an unorthodox museum of image capture technology spanning 11 decades. Raymond’s personal collection contains 30 to 40, including the oldest – a circa 1900 Kodak that used dry glass plates instead of film – and current digital models linked to computers with visual enhancement software .
A 1920s RR Roberston camera, used in architectural photography, consists of a four-leg bellows sandwiched between wooden ends that hold the lens and film. It looks like a section of conduit.
When local photographer Harold Achber died in 2004, the 1915 Century camera was put into storage. Raymond had used it in the 1980s, and he asked the family if he could borrow it. The interior was covered in mold. The restoration was equivalent to cleaning with disinfectant. “The work of these is excellent,” he said. “The cabinet work is superior.”
The camera, mostly made of wood except for an accordion-shaped bellows, glass lenses and film plates, is fixed to a table with buttons, compartments and a tripod – almost everything wooden and shimmering like a museum piece – including the old-fashioned rubber bulb Raymond pressed on Tuesday to take Dalton’s photo – partly as a thank you, but also for his photography exhibit.
Dalton wore work boots and trousers with suspenders, as well as a woolen hat placed inside out. Her silver ponytail hung down her back. “You probably don’t want me to blink when you pull the trigger,” he said.
A few feet from his face, a huge “soft box” light fixture on a swinging pole helped blur the lines between light and shadow. Raymond leaned forward like a movie cameraman as he adjusted the camera angle by turning the crank on a wooden table. It was a strange contrast to the computer screens staring behind him.
For Dalton and Raymond, their collaboration is proof that this is a small world of endless possibilities, even in Laconia.
The sign outside Dalton’s shop on Middle Road near Route 107 in Belmont reads “By chance or by appointment 524-8628”. Another proclaims: “Saving homes and marriages since 1976”.
“The only thing I don’t do is the turnings” – which includes spindles and chair legs made on lathes, he said. “I started by building houses. This allowed me to do repairs for most of my career.
During this time, Dalton repaired large clocks and pianos and made island camps and kitchens for cooks – “filling not a space but a need,” he said. “I find pleasure in the mundane, including glass windows.”
“Now look straight into the lens,” Raymond said. “Now hold your hat, hand on the chair. And don’t move. From there I will process the paper negatives,” Raymond said, standing and smiling. “Then I will scan them and make a digital print.”