Flash Exhibit by Processing Archivist, Kelly Kress
While driving or walking down Sunset Boulevard east of Vine, you may have noticed the distinctive orange and brown signage for the Morgan Camera Shop. Though closed for some time now, the shop opened at 6262 Sunset Boulevard in 1938 and was a fixture in the neighborhood for over 50 years. (A previous location, known as Sunset Camera, had occupied a storefront since 1934 across the street at 6305 Sunset.)
Owned and operated by Gilbert Morgan, the shop sold cameras, film, lenses, and other photo-related gear and supplies, as well as books and magazines catering to professional photographers and hobbyists. It also operated as a salon and photographic exhibition space. Morgan focused on Leica cameras and the field of “miniature photography,” which at the time referred to the use of small, compact cameras such as those manufactured by Leica.
Morgan had strong ties to the photography community – his brother was Willard Morgan, and his sister-in-law Barbara Morgan, who were both well-known photographers based in New York City when Gilbert Morgan opened his shop. Willard Morgan worked for Leica and was instrumental in bringing the 35mm camera to the United States. Correspondence from the 1930s-1940s indicates Gilbert relied heavily on his brother Willard for advice, both business and technical.
Above: Gilbert Morgan, left
During processing of the Barbara and Willard Morgan papers, I found this small cache of photographs and ephemera related to the Morgan Camera Shop. In addition to the correspondence, materials include photographs, advertisements, and several editions of Morgan Camera News, the shop’s official monthly publication. Copies of Morgan Camera News date from 1934 to 1974 and are an entertaining mix of practical information and slightly gossipy photography-related news – not entirely out of place given the Hollywood location and clientele. Photos depict the interior of the shop during its 1940s heyday: shelves well stocked with cameras, chemicals, and rolls of film, as well as a celebrity patron or two.
The Morgan Camera Shop closed in the early 2000s. But the signage remains, a reminder of a bygone era, both for Los Angeles and the photography industry. And the archival material remains as evidence of a once thriving creative community and the local business it supported.
To see photographs of some of the individual items from this Flash Exhibit, please visit the Library Special Collections blog post: The Morgan Camera Shop.