A Treasure Trove Of Photographica; Jack Naylor’s Unmatched Collection Will Move On Page 2
When Margaret Bourke-White died she bequeathed her entire collection of cameras to Naylor, including the camera she used to take the first cover for LIFE magazine. From Mathew Brady's rare group of 19th century Civil War images to Jackie Onassis sunbathing nude on the Greek island of Scorpio, the Naylor Collection is surely diversified.
"The Bradys stand alone, though," Naylor says. "They are all from the original negatives. If you look at them through a magnifying glass you can see the difference in the paper. It was less glossy before the turn of the century and of course lenses were not as good, so the print itself was never as sharp."
The most fascinating part of the collection stems from Naylor's interest in espionage. During the Cold War his business was producing heat exchangers for planes and Russia was interested in acquiring information as to how these were built. A Russian Army general disguised in civilian clothes paid a visit to Naylor and agreed to gain access for him into Russia through Finland.
"I was met at the airport by a KGB spy who became my escort for the trip," Naylor recalls. "We went to the southern part of Russia where we discussed plans to build my heat exchangers. I told my escort of my interest in rare espionage spy equipment--cameras, knives--anything...
Modern Spy Camera
"When I arrived home from Russia a package came to the United Nations
for me and I got a call from a man I didn't know at the Russian Embassy,
requesting that I meet him at a small restaurant on Third Avenue. `There
will be a package lying on the seat next to me from your friend at the KGB,'
he told me.
"There was no conversation and I left him an envelope with the payment we had agreed upon. I didn't open my package until I got home. I felt as much like a spy as anyone could have at that point. Inside I found knives, guns, and cameras. A month later a second package arrived and this is how my spy camera collection was formed."
In one glass case there is now a lady's delicate handbag with its place for makeup and a hidden compartment for her spy camera. A German homing pigeon holds a camera strapped to its stomach; cigarettes in a package contain tiny spy cameras; small weapons are disguised in a cane. Nothing here is what it appears to be. "The FBI still visits me yearly to show new members the tools used in those early days," Naylor says.
After 31/2 hours I am still wandering through the museum. Here is Jacques Cousteau's favorite camera and the exquisite violin that belonged to concert violinist Leopold Godowsky who, with Leopold Mannes, developed color film.
"When Godowsky died his wife Frankie called me and said, `Jack, Leopold wanted you to have all of his files, letters, and research papers as well as his violin. Bring a truck!'"
In one corner sits the world's first movie projector and I turn the crank to see pictures in motion! And here is the world's largest camera that Naylor acquired from a German professor at Boston College and, of course, the world's smallest one, a Soviet KGB camera measuring 15/8" in length by 5/8 of an inch wide.
A special camera using 70mm film displays a 35-foot long color photograph that covers the length of the glass case while a large underwater spy camera that is self-propelled and made by Benthos Corporation on Cape Cod is a major piece in the collection. It is currently used to search for underwater mines. This camera was a crucial tool in the finding of both the Titanic and the Bismarck.
Such memorabilia would be incomplete without the large wooden Playboy camera that took the 8x10 centerfold pictures for 30 years. I suspect there are a number of these images in the collection, but have yet to be privy to them.
A sadder memory shows George Eastman's suicide note while another relic is Queen Victoria's purse with her portrait on the outside, each a treasure in the history of photography.
Naylor's former collection sold to the government of Japan for the price of $9,000,000, and this 30,000 piece collection is priced at $20,000,000. It is a photographic history of our world and we shall miss it when it finds its new home.