I went out and shot some pictures with an old Nikon F camera today – first time I’ve shot non-digital in almost a decade, and first time I’ve shot film with something other than a disposable camera in about 15 years. The camera – similar to the one pictured here. belonged to my granddad, Howard Forrest Henry. He used it to create photographs in the 1960s for ad campaigns for companies like AT&T when he worked at N.W. Ayer & Son, the first advertising agency in the United States.
Ayer was AT&T’s main agency for decades, and coined the slogan “Reach out and touch someone” to promote long-distance telephone service. The firm also created the slogan “Be all you can be” for the U.S. Army, and “A diamond is forever,” for deBeers. I don’t know if my granddad worked on those accounts, but I have some original artwork and copies of a variety of ads he created for the AT&T account. He was both a painter and a photographer. That’s a picture of him taken in 1960.
After my granddad died in 1974, the Nikon F became my mother’s camera. Now it is mine. The detachable finder/metering system doesn’t work, so I used my digital camera to meter the scene, then set the Nikon manually. I was shooting on Kodak black-and-white print film. Since I have to finish the roll and have it processed, I have no immediate feedback on how the shots turned out. I don’t anticipate using the Nikon very much at all – it was a great camera in the 1960s, and even the 1970s and 1980s, but today it is simply too technologically limited to do the things I like to do, and film and processing are expensive. Plus, the Nikon F simply doesn’t allow me to shoot as fast as I like to shoot. I shot some scenes today with both the Nikon and my digital Canon T2i. When I finish the roll of film I plan to post some of each images here.
As for N.W. Ayer & Son, it no longer exists. The Art Deco building it once occupied in downtown Philadelphia’s Washington Square neighborhood was sold in 2005 and renovated into a ritzy condo tower called The Ayer. The company however did donate 270 cubic feet of its records to the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian. The N W Ayer Advertising Agency Records include business records but consist primarily of print advertising created for thousands of clients between 1869 and 1996 – more than 400,000 proofs of advertisements prepared by the firm for various clients. Which means my granddad’s artwork is in the Smithsonian.