If you ever wondered about those wonderful oblong photos of older airplanes seen on Aerofiles and in numerous aviation periodicals and books, this feature is about the people who made the pictures, and the aviation related hobby that developed as a result of a few men's devotion to their hobby, aviation photography.

    Although airplanes have attracted cameras since the first famous photo was taken of the Wright brothers' first airplane, there was no organization to the hobby until the late 1920s, when Ben Heinowitz, of Mountainside NJ—who had spent some time around airports photographing airplanes there—wondered if others had the same interest. He did the groundwork that resulted in the formation of the International Amateur Aircraft Photographers Exchange (IAAPE), an organization devoted to the photography and exchange of photos of aircraft. Some of the early photographers are now well known names: Bill Larkins, Peter Bowers, Gordon Williams, Howard Levy, Harold Martin, Bill Yeager, Warren Shipp—a complete list is linked on the left.

    The club had a number of basic rules regarding the photography of aircraft, including the "in-the-clear" concept and the standardization of the 116/616 camera to facilitate the exchange of 2.25" x 4.25" negatives and prints between members. The club itself broke up in the late '30s, but by then the hobby had become well established, and some well known photographers had gained reputations from the excellence of their work.

    Most photographers traded negatives to round out their collections, and so shot extras of planes they felt could be traded for types they did not have access to. When a person lost interest in the hobby, collections were usually sold to other collectors, who added the negatives to their collections, trading off duplicates. Sometimes negatives were credited to the individual photographer, while some photos were never credited, and it is almost impossible to determine an original photographer.

I began my 616 photography career while I was in junior high school, and was active in photography and trading until the mid-'70s, when the film went out of production.

    Like most others, I switched to 35mm color slides as the technological changes in photography certainly rendered obsolete the big-negative 616 camera. Probably none of us wants to see a return to 616 photography, but we did produce some great collections of black-and-white photos of aircraft that were not recorded for posterity in any other way.

    Here is the list of people who are believed to have been active 616 photographers and collectors during the "616 Era." If you can add to this list, or eliminate anyone you know for certain did not shoot or trade 616 aircraft negatives, please notify me at aeronut43b@cox.net