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As near as I can determine, my father purchased one of these little cameras sometime during early 1958, either at a military Post or, more likely, from another GI as a part of one of his many "wheelin' and dealin'" transactions. From what I have been able to learn from my research, the Festival was built for Wittnauer by the Bosley Camera Company. It was a "relabeling" of their popular Jubilee camera, although it appears to me the Festival version produced for Wittnauer was finished cosmetically to a much higher standard, which, of course, would be in keeping with the reputation of that famous watch company.


After years and years searching every nook and cranny of the Web, digging through countless dust filled bins in camera stores across the land, and stopping at an uncountable number of lawn sales and flea markets, on Memorial Day 2009 I happened upon this Festival for sale on eBay!  Six nail-biting days later, the camera became mine for $74 (plus postage from Prescott, Arizona; thank you very much, “2kool4food”).


Upon opening the box I found that the shutter blades were stuck.  Without hesitation I unscrewed the front lens and gently pried them apart, only then thinking about what I had done.  I remembered my father saying, “The Argus never jams, I guess German cameras don’t like campfire smoke and hot dog grease!”  Fifty-one years gone by, still I could remember how soft his big hands became as he carefully removed the lens and delicately prodded the shutter blades back into action!


My initial impression was that the Wittnauer is much prettier a machine than I’d anticipated; all the little dials, knobs, and engraved numbers now make sense to me; and, how odd, the camera felt much, much smaller than my hands remember.


After a first use my thought became, “Don’t talk to me about the ‘good ol’ days’ of photography!”  Taking a light reading a hand-held Weston meter, squinting through the tiny rangefinder winder to focus the lens, and trying to compose a picture using the separate viewfinder, all this brought to me to the conclusion that these past fifty years there have, indeed, been many welcome technological improvements brought to photography.


Yet, after waiting overnight to have a roll of Kodacolor processed, then taking the time to scan the negatives with my Nikon CoolScan V ED, I found myself as much enamored with the Wittnauer as I had been almost five decades ago when for the first time my dad let me handle the camera all by myself.  Yes, the ancient machine is mechanically a pain to use, but ...


... but the camera not only reminds me of my own past, child memories as well as recollections of my beginnings as a photographer, it also serves to connect me to something I always try to instill in my students, “Pictures are pictures, all that is really important is what happens after you hang ‘em on the wall!”

[Yes, in case you picked up on it, these are not really Kodachromes!  Color negatives, scanned and digitized, I just couldn’t resist framing them as slides!]

Wittnauer Festival

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