PDQ Camera and Prints

This is one of my favorite pictures of Daddy. It shows him in his WWII uniform posing with a Florida longhorn for a PDQ photographer. It was probably taken in 1943 while Daddy was stationed in South Florida before he left for France. Unfortunately when I discovered the picture both parents were deceased so I do not know any details about his trip to Silver Springs. However this print is a unique image that I enjoy displaying and sharing. Prior to finding this print, I had been interested in PDQ cameras and their printing process. Cameras of this type were used by street vendors who could provide souvenir portraits almost instantly. PDQ photographers would set up around tourist attractions and frequently employ animals as posing props. The customer was posed; and the photo taken, developed, framed and delivered in just a few minutes. The following images show the design and nature of a PDQ camera:

In preparation for shooting the PDQ photographer would load the camera with a box containing enough printing out paper to make 50 exposures. The middle camera picture shows the paper box marked with a red arrow indicating which side the light sensitive paper would emerge from. Once loaded, the camera would be set on a tripod and customers solicited. After the exposure was made the chrome handle on the side of the camera was wound to advance the paper into the developing tank that is seen attached to the bottom rear of the camera. A nearby black knob was used to control a blade that would cut the 2.5 inch wide paper precisely into a length of 3.5 inches. The red dots on the back of the camera in the bottom picture show a user added accessory counter for recording exposures. An additional tank outside of the camera was used to finish processing and the print was dried and inserted in the souvenir frame. In proper locations using such a camera could be quite profitable. The advertised user cost was $.02 per print. Retail price varied with location but averaged between $.15 and $.25 for each print. Money could be made using a PDQ camera. This type of camera continued to be popular until it was replaced by the higher quality but more expensive polaroid process.

The sample PDQ prints with the goat and pony that are shown below were part of the large lot that included the above camera along with unused paper, chemicals, frame folders and sample prints.

The picker who bought this PDQ camera lot from it’s original owner said that when questioned the photographer volunteered that he did real well with the “PDQ” until the “TDP” came along. “That Damn Polaroid” he replied.

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