A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Norman 200B - All American
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Going home to Coghlan via the cavernous English style train station of Retiro in Buenos Aires in the early 50s I often noticed a sign advertising the benefits of using Portland cement. I remember that it read Cemento Portland (USA). This meant that the product was that much better. It was the geniuine American article. We Argentines are mostly anti-American, but don't take our Levis away from us! In a city where you can buy a steak and a bottle of wine for under $10, throngs flock into McDonalds and Burger Kings. Since this former Argentine, now a Canadian citizen, was educated in Texas I have had a particular fondness for people and stuff from South of the 49th Parallel. I get into bitter fights with my Argentine painter friend Juan Manuel Sanchez who one moment says Bush is an idiot and the next blames him for all kinds of brilliant plotting with the CIA. I argue that Argentines should begin by blaming themselves for their problems. At least Argentines, unlike Mexicans cannot complain, "So far from God and so close to the United States."

While I don't have any fondness for Bush, Hummers and Yukon SUVs I must confess I love Americans and the United States. All my life I have used Kodak film because it is American. Besides I have been partial for Kodak's yellow boxes and find Fuji's green boxes ugly. Ralph Nader be damned, happiness would be a Corvair Monza in mint condition parked in my garage.

When people ask me for some of the secrets of my success as a photographer I often cite my Norman 200B. In its day (30 years ago is when I bought my first of three) the Norman 200B was the most powerful battery operated flash. At the Smithsonian I saw a Norman 200B pack damaged beyond repair by a Viet Cong bullet that penetrated its electronics, but stopped just there to save the life of some lucky American photojournalist.

I have never been let down by my Norman, and in situations when my studio flash units have failed (or even exploded) the Norman has been there to save the day. The Normans ( my vintage ones) were manufactured by Norman Enterprises in Burbank California.

On a recent trip to Kelowna for a Reader's Digest assignment I was called back from boarding my plane back to Vancouver. I was escorted by two burly men into a room. My Norman 200B case was on a table. A very serious third man asked me, "What's that?" I proceded to proudly explain what it was by connecting (all three men jumped back) the flash head to the power pack to demonstrate just what my Norman 200B could do. The big powerful burst of light warmed my heart and I saw, perhaps, signs of relief in the faces of the three men.

Above right you can see what a Norman 200B can do. It's Rebecca Stewart with Rosa 'Mrs Oakley Fisher'.


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