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Through Mr. Rogers’ Lens

Fred Rogers was a man who held many titles. For instance, he was a musician. He earned a degree in musical composition from Rollins College in 1951. Some knew him as Reverend Rogers, as he became a Presbyterian minister in 1963.

Fred Rogers, transfer from Dartmouth | Source:

He was a husband to his beloved wife, Joanne for 50 years until his death in 2003. He was a father to two boys, James and John.

Mr. & Mrs. Rogers | Source:

In 1969, he would be the man who saved PBS following his now-famous testimony to congress. The year prior, he began what would be a 33-year run as creator and host of the beloved children’s television show, Mr, Rogers neighborhood. In 2002, he would become a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – just one of the many accolades he would receive throughout his career for his contribution to television and children’s education.

Mr. Rogers testifying before Congress (1969) | Source:

But, there is one title many are not aware that Mr. Rogers held: photographer.

As depicted in the 2019 film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers would often ask, upon first meeting, to take the person’s photograph. Journalist Tom Junod, whose relationship with Rogers is the inspiration for the highly anticipated movie, was no exception.

“Can I take your picture, Tom? I like to take pictures of all my new friends.” Mr. Rogers took pictures of families, children who would visit his television set, the cast and crew of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and members of the media who sought to uncover the “real” Fred Rogers for years.

Inspired by Actual Events | Read about Tom Junod’s time with Mr. Rogers here:

According to Parade, “Endlessly curious about people, Rogers was an avid amateur photographer. He frequently carried a camera…Rogers’ photos were always a way to flip the gaze away from himself to others.” Rogers often used a Kodak Retina IIIc camera with Synchro-Compur Shutter and a Schneider 50mm f/2.0 Lens to do just that.

Tom Hanks is Fred Rogers | Source:

The production of Retina cameras began pre-World War II and would end as the Swinging Sixties were coming to a close. The first Retina model came in late 1934 – the Nr. 117. Non-folding Kodak Retina’s, like the Kodak Retina IIIc, would be a common go-to camera for many photography enthusiasts, including Mr. Rogers, in the ’50s and ’60s.

The Kodak Retina IIIc first hit the photo scene in 1954, when it was introduced at Photokina Cologne. It’s original manual ensured the buyer that it had just made not only a smart purchase; but, a wise investment backed by a trusted name in the, then, mid-century photography sector.

According to the original Kodak Retina IIIc manual:

You have purchased a truly fine camera. Utmost precision is combined with unsurpassed performance; the Retina tradition of quality and versatility is carried to new photographic heights.

The Retina IIIc camera features – Auxillary interchangeable lenses – a couples rangefinder combined with luminous “view-frame” finder – a built-in exposure meter – the Synchro-Compur shutter with light value settings – and full flash synchrinization – plus many other refinements that set a new standard of photography.

In a recent interview with Parade, Hanks provided insight into the man behind the sweaters, the puppets, the trolley, and King Friday’s castle. Perhaps, it was what inspired Rogers’ to freeze moments in time of those whose paths he intersected – an attempt to bring forward that special thing in us all.

Fred with camera | Source:

“That which is essential is invisible to the naked eye”—his framed quote, in French, from Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. This was Fred’s take on life, on being human. And it’s correct.”

Today, the Kodak Retina IIIc is a sought after camera among collectors. We at Samy’s Camera are excited to share that we currently have a Retina IIIc in stock. For more information about this camera or other vintage film cameras, visit our Los Angeles store or contact us at 800-321-4726.

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