When I came to the desert at the tail end of 1974, it was to demo for my first potential client, the Cliff Brown Agency. My wife worked for the agency and informed me that their photographer was retiring. I was invited to meet Cliff Brown and Cal Turner (the photog), and accompany them on an assignment, to see what was involved.
Back then, we called P.R. photos “grip and grin”. The photographer used a flash-on-camera setup, and the entire process took about seven or eight minutes. Cal used a Hasselblad (“The camera that went to the moon”), and Cliff was of the mindset that it was the only camera suitable for his agency’s work.
I was shooting with a recently acquired Mamiya C330 at the time, having traded my Hasselblad for a motorcycle three years earlier. Panic ensued when Cliff hired me for a ‘test’ assignment. I called a buddy of mine in Los Angeles, and he agreed to loan me his Hasselblad for the job. He was working at the camera store I had recently been fired from, so the exchange was mildly awkward.
When Cliff saw I was shooting with the ‘blad, he smiled. After I delivered the prints for the assignment, he told me the account was mine. This was the formal beginning of my career in the desert, and I was stoked.
I drove back to Los Angeles to return the camera, along with a small gift of thanks for my friend. I got my first call from the agency the following week for a photo shoot. When Cliff saw me pull the Mamiya out of my bag, he was visibly disturbed. When questioned about the gear I was using, I sheepishly told him the truth, assuring him the photos would meet his standards.
It was a long three days between the shoot, processing and proofing the film, and delivering the final prints. Cliff scrutinized them for several minutes before announcing that they were satisfactory, and I could both retain him as a client and continue to use the Mamiya for assignments.
The C330 was eventually replaced with a better Mamiya (RZ67), which I partially financed by selling the motorcycle I had bought with the money received from selling my Hasselblad. Full circle. It’s been over 30 years since I had held that camera, and this week I found a C330S (latest model) on eBay, and purchased it immediately.
I am elated to be back where I started.