Female War Correspondents, Uniforms

Discussion in 'WWII' started by MissQueenie, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    period correct cameras

    I'm sure the other camera collectors & I could have a HUGE posting flurry on cameras. And most of it would go over everyone elses head. Just like if you guys started discussing cars, this non driver would be left in the dust.

    A correspondent would have a professional camera of the period.

    Usually magazines & newspapers back then prefered images from large negative cameras. LIFE really didnt want anything smaller than a rollie TLR.
    Its all got to do with the engraving process back then. Most images were heavily retouched to make them print clearly.
    So thats why you see all those press guys carrying big4x5 Speed Graphics. Big negative, big beautiful tonality.

    But Eisenstaedt at Life Mag changed a lot of that in pursuing 35mm photography. His candid style changed a lot of things.
    Note his pic of the Sailor Kissing the Nurse in TimesSquare was a Leica camera shot. This is way before nikons.

    Capa used a Leica inthe SpanishCivilwar, but by WWII he had two contax 35mm cameras & a rollei. CarlMydans & most of the other Life photogs seemed to prefer contax to leica. Whereas a GI might have a brownie or an argus.

    I've seen pix of a Yank mag photog w/ a leica & a SuperIkonta and a pistol ;)

    I knew an old war photog who couldnt stand the SpeedGraphic, so usually used a Rollei. When his rollei was damaged, he scavenged a leica.

    The russians made leica counterfeits, but certainly scavenged th real thing. The pix of the russian soldiers waving the flag over the captured Berlin used a leica & had brought along the flag to get his own version of the Flag over IwoJima. Joe Rosenthal shot that w/ a Speedgraphic.

    You can often get copies of vintage style cameras made inthe USSR up til the early 90s.They captured th contax factory during the war. But be careful, the russian workforce is not known for its quality control.
    I have a $50 russian 35mm lens thats clearly a contax zeiss copy. Its about as sharp as anything I've ever used.

    I'll leave motion picture cameras to someone else.
  2. Rigby Reardon

    Rigby Reardon One of the Regulars

    Near the QM
    Wow, Mr. Berns, sir, just - wow. You are a FONT of knowledge! :cool:
  3. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...
    Lee Miller was among the greatest of all of WWII combat photographers, right up there with people like Capa and Rodgers. Miller was perhaps the greatest female combat shooter of all time and a true legend.

    She started out working with Steichen in New York

    She was a high fashion model, before the war.

    Became a fashion photographer.

    A surrealist artist.

    Man Ray's muse and introduced him to the Solarisation effect in printing.

    (that's Lee Miller's eye)

    (Lee Miller's lips, by Man Ray)

    A cocktail glass was designed, based on the shape of her breasts.

    Became a combat photographer in 1944 (D-Day+20) and shot thorough some of the bloodiest fighting in Europe, the liberation of Paris and two concentration camps (Dachau and Buchenwald). Her experiences in the camps, scared her emotionally for the rest of her life.

    Shot primarily with a German Rolleiflex (6x6cm film, 120 format).
    I have two of these. A vintage 2.8F and current 2.8GX, now 70 years in production. Along with the Leica, Nikon F and Hasselblad, it's the greatest camera ever made.

    Took a bath in Hitler's personal tub, in Munich.

    Married Sir Roland Penrose after the war.

    More info here:


    PM me if you need more info on WWII Combat photographers etc.


    Robert Conway
  4. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...

    Technically, the photographers weren't part of the armed forces, so many of them had their outfits custom tailored, by civilians. George Rodgers, Bob Capa come to mind. As a matter of fact, when Robert Capa went in with the first wave during the D-Day landings, he was carrying two Contax cameras AND A BRAND NEW BURBERRY trenchcoat, which he discarded moments after he was dumped in the water! http://www.skylighters.org/photos/robertcapa.html

    So, it seems that sometimes their outfits were a hodge podge of different styles i.e. not fully regulation, or they simply wore what they could get their hands on, when things became filthy and wet.
  5. MissQueenie

    MissQueenie Practically Family

    Los Angeles, CA

    Thanks, Fred -- that's not a bad suggestion at all. The price is certainly right, and I've found quite a handful of vintage jackets on ebay after taking a browse after reading your post. The only trouble (and this is the trouble Lauren has, too) is that I'm terrified to wear vintage things in situations in which they may be damaged. Lauren and I are in the same boat because we're both very hard on our clothes, vintage or otherwise, and neither of us wants to run the risk of destroying an historical garment. Gr. Maybe it's something I will just have to get over...
  6. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

    Hudson Valley, NY
    I see that the camera angle has been well covered, but to sum up:

    4x5 Speed Graphics were by far the most common pro cameras of the early 40s. Some Rollei TLRs were in use, and a smaller number of 35mm Leicas and Contaxes. (Note that these German-made cameras became very scarce in the Allied countries once the war was underway.) A number of less "pro" rollfilm cameras (some of them great shooters with fine lenses) and 35mms (e.g., Kodak Retinas) could be found too, but the aforementioned were the iconic cameras of the war.

    My father did photography with the Army Air Corps, eventually making the rank of sergeant and running a darkroom staffed by civilian women in Mobile, AL (after having first been in Hawaii in '42-'43 [he had enlisted before the war, and was out of basic training and had already volunteered for the Air Corps at the time of Pearl Harbor]). He's got a couple of albums full of wonderful pictures that I will get around to scanning one of these days... But the thing worth mentioning here is that he's told me over and over that virtually everything, apart from some aerial photos, was done with sheet-film Graphics - mostly 4x5, but some smaller 2-1/4x3-1/4 (6x9cm) models too. By and large, 35mm wasn't yet taken seriously by pros.

    (Actually, he never took 35mm that seriously even in his later pro years, always leaning towards 4x5 for anything "important". We had Nikons from the mid-60s onwards, but they were only used for documentary location work and such... Even for catalog work that would be used at very small sizes, he preferred using our Mamiya medium-format cameras! [And my own efforts with the miniscule Minox negative were a source of hilarity to him... Of course, now that I'm the only one using his darkroom, he's amazed with what I pull out of my Minoxes!])
  7. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Sunny California
    Wow! It's crazy how far thi thread has gone in a day! I'm having a hard time visualizing everything, but hopefully it will make sense in time.

    Queenie, I've got a few vintage uniform pieces I've picked up for myself, and you'd actually be surprised how well they hold up, and how strong they are! I think I'd have no qualms about wearing them out, and if I am ok with it, that's saying a lot :p

    I just got this cute little camera. Set me back a whopping $10. Don't know if it works, though

    I'm really not into buying an expensive vintage camera, so I guess that will work for now.

    I've been hunting for uniforms on ebay, but they seem to be few and far between for WAC stuff. I need to get a uniform together for my regualar impression, let alone corrospondent. When Kirsten went out as a corrospondent in the photos I took, it looked like she wore wool trousers, a tan shirt, and I believe an overcoat and wool or canvas gaiters (I don't remember). I hope she pops her head in this thread and can set me straight.

    Unhappily, I am clueless about neary everything regarding uniforms and re-enacting. It's like a whole different world than my regular studies of fashion and costume history, so I can't give very knowledgable advice. Hopefully in time, though :)
  8. maisie

    maisie Practically Family

    If any of you are collecting any sort of womens uniform I definatly suggest getting the books by Jill Harcome Smith. They are quite expensive, but have loads of very good period pictures and information. They are called "Dressed for Duty" and there are 2 volumes.

    In the second volume there is about 10 pages of photos and info on women war correspondants.
    let me just say the uniforms they are wearing are very varied! Some them are just wearing womens basic field clothing, just like that issued to WAC's and ANC's. There is also pictures of the insignia & dress uniforms.
  9. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...
    Some more info:

    You can brake the cameras used, in to three categories:

    4x5 Press cameras like the Graphic.
    (size of a shoebox. The film is 4x5 inches big! 2 shots per film holder and a pain in the neck to reload in the field)

    6x6 (120) Medium format cameras like the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord
    (About the size of a can of coffee or vegetables. 12 shots per roll)

    35mm (135) cameras like the Leica and Contax.
    (size of a modern film point and shoot, 40 shots per roll)

    First a little history:

    In 1925 Leitz revolutionized the field of photojounalism, with the introduction of the Leica 1a, which quickly evolved into more sophisticated models. This is the birth of 35mm photography and for the first time there was a compact, lightweight camera with sharp optics and a large film capacity (40 shots). Up until this point shooters were limited to large 4x5 press cameras and some smaller plate cameras, like the Ernostar. Leica is still in business and produces the Leica M series, which is a workhorse for PJ's to this day.
    This is a post war Leica M3, with 50mm lens:

    Very quickly Zeiss joined the fray and introduced the Contax I, which failed in the market, due to poor reliability of the shutter. The Contax II, from the late 30's was a huge improvement. Zeiss also introduced the legendary Sonnar 1.5/50 lens, which offered unprecedented performance for it's time, rendering crisp, high contrast images, even in low light.

    Professional shooters in Europe were the first to adopt the 35mm and 120 (6x6cm) format, begining in the late 1920's.

    American publications insisted that nothing short of a 4x5 negative was capable of provinding the quality and lack of grain needed for print.


    They were forced to change their tune as American photographers entered combat. Nobody wanted to lug around a heavy 4x5 camera, with a one-shot at-a-time filmholder, under fire. So, many shooters switched to medium format, like the Rollei and 35mm Leica and Contax cameras.

    Here is a Leica IIIc mounting a 3.5/50 Elmar lens. This particular camera is marked 'Heer', which means it was property of the German Wehrmacht. Many of these Wehrmacht cameras are painted dark grey, to cut down on reflections in the field...


    The Leica was extremely reliable and simple to use. It was compact and featured sharp lenses. It also was a favorite of Allied shooters and many were 'liberated'. George Rodgers and Henri Cartier-Bresson were Leica men.

    Robert Capa prefered the Zeiss Contax. He had two of these with him, when he landed on the beach on D-Day morning.


    Here is a photo of Robert Capa (Left) and George Rodger in Naples, 1943.
    Capa has a Contax II. Rodger has a Leica III around his neck and a Rolleiflex over his shoulder. Note Capa's non-standard, English/American uniform. George's uniform is also a civilian tailored piece.

    Capa, Rodgers, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Seymour Chim went on to found the legendary MAGNUM photo agency, after the war.

    This is a close-up of a Rolleiflex:

    You look down through the chimney on the top, looking out through the top lens. The actual picture is taken through the lower lens.

    It took 12 shots on a roll of 120 film. The negatives were square and 6x6 cm big. The optics are first rate and the large negative area made grain a non-issue. The camera weighs about 2.5 lbs and is extremely reliable. Again, this is a German made camera, which is still in production to this day as the Rolleiflex 2.8FX.
  10. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...
  11. Zemke Fan

    Zemke Fan Call Me a Cab

    On Hiatus. Really. Or Not.
    Fantastic information gents...

    To Mr. Berns, Robert Conway, and Dr. Strange... Thank you for your fantastic contributions to this thread. I am truly amazed at your knowledge in this arena. Any chance that any one or more of you might be at the Reading Air Show (WWII Weekend) this June? I am thinking of getting a Fedora Lounge booth together in the main hanger. Would LOVE it if part of the focus could be on WWII photography/journalists. ZF (aka FH)
  12. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    You mentioned that Capa is wearing a non-standard English/American uniform here. Actually its a totally standard american M42 paratrooper uniform & jump boots. A very elite uniform.
    He jumped into Sicily w/ the 82ndAirborne & continued with them into Italy. From there he eventually moved onto theRangers.
  13. cneil

    cneil Familiar Face

    Bakersfield, California
    Source for Cameras

    This has turned in to an amazing thread.
    So much knolege, and so well writen.

    If all will excuse this for a moment.
    I will now post a shamles plug.

    If anyone here is looking for vintage cameras. I work at a Camera Store witch caries one of the best collectons of vintage cameras. The owner is one of the authers of the Old Camera Price Guid.

    He attinds Camera Shows all over the west and also trades internationly.

    We have Lica C II , C III and F in Stock, Crown Graflex and Speed Graflex, Argus, Kodak Retinas, Kodak Hawkeyes, Rollifex all in stock.
    We also have many contacts and can fined just about anything you may be looking for.

    We even have a stock of New-old stock of Flash bulbs.
    M3, M5, B1....(This is a limeted supply, but of some I have 50 or 60 new in the box)

    Of particuler intrest to people on this tread is I currently have 2 very nice Rollicords in very good condition. One a f2.8 the othe a f3.5

    We also have someware in storage a WWII Metal Box for a Speed Graflex with some of the accessorys still in it.

    If anyone is looking for any of the vintage photo equipment, just send me a note and I will see what we have. We also do repairs.

    Thank you.
    Southside Camera.
    Bakersfield, California.
  14. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...

    Oops. I may have gotten that mixed up. I just re-read 'Blood and Sand' recently and at some point he went to Rodger's tailor and had a uniform made. I will double check that. Perhaps I got it mixed up with the uniform he had at Normandy.
  15. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...
    Speaking of the 82nd Airborne, I have relatives who supposedly took part in the D-Day landings. Also, my uncle Andy was on the beach that morning. Later he was in Patton's 3rd Army. I wonder if that morning, he came across some crazy Hungarian, taking pictures in the surf. I don't have any specific information, as I am in the process of doing the research.
  16. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    Yes, that was his dress uniform that was tailored. In the photo, theyre wearing field uniforms. Whichever unit a photog/correspondent was attached to for the moment, would issue the photog a field uniform.

    And of course, they carried around their credentials, even in the field, in case they ran into a soldier who didnt know them. Otherwise inpersonation might be suspected. Capa did once try to sneak his british girlfriend around in a borrowed dress uniform, but she was so pretty, she drew atetntion. So she was stopped & suspected of espionage & held for interrogation.
    Same in the BattleoftheBulge, Capa was off taking pix from a better vantage & spotted by some GIs. They didnt know him & hearing his Hungarian accent thought he might be a spy. In hte middle of capturing him, his credentials were produced. Then they lamented not shooting him first, so they couldve kept his cameras....
  17. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    MBW in aerial regalia

    Getting this thread back to its original intent, female war correspondents & their cameras, has anyone mentioned Margaret Bourke WHite?

    heres a page of her LIFE story on Bombers.
    Note her air crew uniform & aerial camera. That is not a speed graphic.

    her in dress uniform

    she lays claim to wearing the first female correspondent uniform:As the United States went at war in 1942, Burke-White came back to the front: "Late in spring, I was sent there as war correspondent. I was given the first uniform designed for a woman". During the Italian Campaign, both soldiers and generals are quite astonished at her being ready to sleep inside a trench, to patrol the skies on small aircrafts and to work in the field hospitals with gunners firing at them.
  18. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

  19. Robert Conway

    Robert Conway A-List Customer

    Here and there...
    >Capa did once try to sneak his british girlfriend around in a borrowed dress >uniform, but she was so pretty, she drew atetntion. So she was stopped & >suspected of espionage & held for interrogation.

    Her nickname name was 'Pinky', due to her strawberry blond hair.

  20. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    over her head

    Queenie, got your message that a lot of this is over your head.

    If Fred gets you that Yashica TLR, enjoy it, but cover up the name w/ some black tape. All those great japanese cameras came after the war.

    If you want a 35mm camera , you could try a contax, or go even cheaper & try the russian copy, a Kiev:

    Its like a car, it could be a lemon , so buy froma reputable dealer.

    gasmask bags make fine camera bags or purses.

    enjoy the light.

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