image by Nasir Hamid (Image rights)
California glamour and celebrity photographer Peter Gowland (1916-2010) was also very active as a camera tinkerer and inventor throughout his career, addressing the unusual needs of his own and other photographers' work. He claimed he had invented 30 cameras, which included aerial models and lightweight view cameras. But he is certainly best known for the Gowlandflex large-format TLR, and in particular the Gowlandflex 4x5 Glamour Camera.
For magazine-cover and pinup work, a negative of 4x5 inches was considered standard (as retouching often was done directly on the film). But having originally used a Rolleiflex, Gowland wanted to preserve the mobility and continuous viewing of 6x6cm twin-lens cameras, as he often worked outdoors and on beaches in California's mild weather. Thus the Gowlandflex was constructed—evidently in Gowland's own home workshop—in lightweight aluminum and at 8 pounds can conceivably be handheld.
The large spacing between viewing and taking lens inevitably leads to significant parallax error, but later Gowlandflex models raise and lower the viewing lensboard using a simple ramp-shaped cam, to correct the viewing frame while focusing. This was one of several refinements over what was said to be 30 years of small improvements.
- See an archived page about his cameras from the still-active Alice & Peter Gowland Photography.
- Only 21 of these models were sold to others, according to the 2023 "about" page at PeterGowland.com.
- Typical of this style is one July, 1948, Popular Photography cover by Gowland of a favorite model, Pat Hall.
- For the "30th-anniversary" model announced in 1985 this had been further cut to 6 pounds (December, 1985, Popular Photography page 108); via Google Books.
- Photographer Philippe Halsman had worked with Fairchild to create prototype 4x5 Fairchild-Halsman TLRs; but available images suggest they were likely quite heavy.
- A 1968 visit from Popular Photography's Norman Rothschild indicated this was then still a new feature (Vol. 63, No. 5; pages 132-133).
- These details are from the Cameras Page of the Alice & Peter Gowland Photography site, although no cameras are currently available.
- A camera of this design appears at Barry Toogood's TLR-Cameras.com
- Stated in his 2010 obituary in the LA Times.
- Sketch of Peter & Alice Gowland's careers at PeterGowland.com
- New York Times obituary of Peter Gowland
- A 2004 LA Times profile of the then 88, still-active Gowland.
- Gowlandflex pictured with accessories, 5x7 adapters and viewing hoods, from S. Katz on Flickr
image by Japan Camera Hunter (Image rights)