April 20, 2017
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Gasser’s Photo Closes
by Doniphan Blair
The convenient location on 2nd Street, San Francisco, where you could get everything from film to cameras and rentals, moving and still. photo: courtesy A. Gasser
SAN FRANCISCO'S OLDEST PHOTO/FILM
, is closing. The latest of many such closing, which started with
in 2010, this truly means the end of a Bay Area era.
Indeed, Adolph Gasser was friends with famed photographer Ansel Adams, an inventor of photographic systems and equipment and a business owner from before the war. He started his signature shop in 1950 and was so beloved there that, in the 1990s, when the store suffered a fire, the employees chipped in to rebuild it.
The closing sale started Monday, February 13th, check their
for great discounts, including on all rental gear.
This is sad news since Gasser's was the main AND most convenient local supplier for lots of things mandatory for photographers, filmmakers and some artists.
Animation writer and teacher Karl Cohen recalls it was the one place in the Bay Area where you could find 16mm film stock, spare parts and other things, big and small, if you were in the middle of a shoot and needed things quick. He also attended meetings, generously held in their upstairs screening room, of the Informational Film Producers Association.
“Gasser's, out on Geary, was where I bought my Bolex,” remembered animator Vince Collins fondly.
Director/producer George Csicsery said, “That’s pretty much it for anything recognizable from the San Francisco film/photo world that once was such a vibrant part of our life.”
“Wow! Lee Marrs Artwork couldn’t have existed without Gasser's," Lee Marrs told cineSOURCE. "It was 'The Place to Go' for just about everything, back in the day.”
Adolph Gasser, who could carry that slightly odd moniker with pride since he was Jewish, grew up in San Francisco and got a job right out of high school in a camera shop customizing and repairing equipment.
Gaining a reputation as a skilled technician, he opened General Camera Repair, in 1936, where he met Adams, Imogen Cunningham and numerous other local legends. He became such close friends with Adams, he made him his best man at his wedding, which Adams also hosted at his Carmel home in 1965.
Adolph Gasser, during WWII, when he developed cameras for the army air corps. photo: courtesy A. Gasser
After enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1943, Gasser served in the Photo Division, in the Pacific, developing techniques so that cameras could work in cold temperatures at high altitudes.
He also installed cameras in tail gun turrets which eventually filmed the explosions of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the war, Gasser stayed in Japan where he became a technical consultant for Nikon, helping them solve a number of problems and eventually taking patents for "sync systems" allowing a camera's flash and shutter to operate simultaneously.
Gasser continued to create equipment throughout his career, from a specialized enlarger for Adams to a camera known as the "Big Eye" for the San Francisco News, for covering sporting events.
In 1950, he opened the Hobby Center, which sold model trains and airplanes as well as camera and art supplies. It eventually became Adolph Gasser's Photography and operated continuously at 181 Second Street in downtown San Francisco from 1976, where this author started dropping by the very first month.
I recall buying still film supplies downstairs in the funky basement and renting movie equipment up on the airier, second floor, trips often involving garnering some tip from a helpful staff member or meeting a colleague.
Thanks goes out to son, John Gasser, who ran it for many years, and all those friendly employees. Keep on filming or helping filmmakers, where ever you may end up.
Posted on Feb 14, 2017 - 02:25 AM