NBC transmitter (Jan-Dec 1939)

Record Details:

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SEPTEMBER, 1939 13 KNOW YOUR COMPANY No. 18 — Photographic Section A few weeks ago the hundredth anniversary of modern photography was celebrated. At the same time another photographic milestone was passed right here in Radio City when the NBC Photographic Section completed its ten thousandth “job.” As each job — or assignment — usually requires many negatives, that is no mean amount of shooting. And it has all been done since 1931, the year when the section was established. Of course radio fans did not go without pictures of their favorite bird imitators and hymn singers before that date — said entertainers and their agents supplying their own. But the better and greater production of artist photos was not the only reason that NBC created the photo bureau. On-the-spot news coverage was taking a more and more important place in the Company’s activities, and offered a great source of institutional publicity, providing the papers and magazines could be well supplied with pictures of the events — with the NBC microphones in prominent view. Newspaper photographers, it seems, occasionally would forget to include the mikes. Et voila ! Photography being creative work, this article’s best approach is probably through the lens-men themselves. Photo editor and charter member is Ray Lee Jackson, radio’s first photographer. What lens work he has time to do when not engaging in managerial duties is in the portrait field. Should you want examples, remember his portraits of Toscanini, or — going from something to something — of Dorothy Lamour. Assisting him in desk work is Charles Van Bergen. A special job of his is assisting outside photographers, including newsreel men, in taking pictures around the studios. Charlie also can and does use the snap box himself when occasion demands it. Assisting both Jackson and Van Bergen is Florence Schwarzer. Incidentally, should you notice in some studio shot a girl pictured as an actress but whom you know you have seen at an office desk, it is the photogenic Florence. The majority of the portrait work is now done by Frank Westhaver. With the unofficial motto, “Give that little girl a big personality,” Westhaver produces those eye-catching cheese-cakes (leg art) that so brighten the radio columns. His subjects also include fullfaces, groups, entertainers in gag poses, sponsors’ friends, and Fred Allen, i.e., anything taken in the section’s own studio. Meet now Sidney Desfor and Robert Fraser, the news men. One of their duties is snapping shots of the stars at work. For instance, Ezra Stone is supposedly riding a bicycle in one episode of The Aldrich Family, and actually peddles a jacked-up bicycle in the studio while reading his script. Now a shot of Ezra on his bike before the mike can do no harm, promotionally speaking; so up to the studio goes Desfor or Fraser and records the scene for posterity. Pictures of actresses washing dishes and digging radishes just like reg’lar folks also endear them to their public; so such work takes these two camera-men out to the suburbs. The remainder of their camera work consists of covering NBC special events. Sometimes these assignments are not only hectic but exciting — entailing such feats as flying through fog to and from some remotely located news scene in order to scoop all other photographers. (If NBC submits a news-worthy photo to the papers before any other service does, the papers will naturally use the NBC photo — mike and all.) For the benefit of camera addicts, the cameras used on these news jobs are Rollies (Rolleiflex) , Minnies (Contax, F. 1.5), and Fourfives (Speed Graphics). The sixth male member of the section is William Haussler, a six year NBC veteran. Since April he has been taking all the television shots. That his subjects range all the way from iconoscopes and boom mikes (studied impressionistically) to ballet dancers (studied longingly) gives an idea of the scope of his work. All these men do their own developing. Besides being experts on the “from soup to slop to wash” procedure, making wet prints (rush jobs — printed from wet negatives), and other technical aspects, they also are naturally well versed on all other phases of publicity photography. They know the different requirements of various outlets in regard to types of poses or how to group pix for a feature layout. Having photographed foreign royalty and almost every big-name in this country, besides artists, they know how to handle the most difficult subjects. Most artists, however, now willingly accept advice and “mug it or “hold it” according to instruction. It is interesting to note here that much photographed “biggies,” when being shot with a group, rush to the camera’s left — knowing that their name will thus read first in the caption. These doughty lens-men also know better than to let any subject pose with a tall glass of amber fluid and cracked ice or with a smoking toasted weed — smoking not being allowed in the NBC studios. An exception was made of Ben Bernie, he being considered — we quote Variety — “a torso attached to a stogie.” They know, too, how to work fast; most jobs demand it. Ray Lee Jackson once did sixteen portraits of Toscanini in thirteen minutes. All sixteen were good and were used. As to quality, anyone who has seen their three hundred picture exhibit now traveling the country can well testify. Their ability can certainly be traced in part to their con( Cont . on page 14) For the first time in history the men of the NBC Photographic Section pose together — and for an amateur! Left to right are Frank Westhaver, Charles Van Bergen, Sidney Desfor, Photo Editor Ray Lee Jackson, William Haussler, and Robert Fraser.