Finding Sieglinde Hefftner, my mother, seemed like a good way of trying out a recent addition to my evolving collection of film cameras.
From the early 1940s to the early 1950s my mother worked at Harry Glocke’s Photo Studio in a small seaport town and naval base on the German North Sea coast. This studio was commissioned to shoot documentary photographs of the main streets and buildings of the town, anticipating Allied bombing raids in the final days of WWII.
Harry Glocke took on the project and also got my mother and another photographer to help him with the shooting. In later years, recollecting these events, my mother always complained that “Harry took the Rolleiflex, and we, the girls, were only given the much simpler Rolleicord with the simple triplet lens to work with”. The photographs are now kept in the town’s archives, all credited to Harry, with no references showing precisely who the photographer was.
This story and the name ‘Rolleicord’ somehow stuck with me, and I was extremely pleased when recently a friend of mine gave me a Rolleicord Ia – made in 1936 – as a present. This was precisely the model that my mother would most likely have worked with during the final weeks of the war and in the months to come.
So on a recent trip to the North Sea coast I bagged the Rolleicord, loaded it up with Kodak Tri-X 400 and prowled the streets of the small grey town by the grey sea. I didn’t really find the place very inspiring. So I headed out to the shoreline, wondering what could have attracted the photographer Sieglinde Hefftner – as opposed to the documentarian – and came up with a few ideas, picturing the scenes at the intersection of sea and land: harbour scenes, piers, lighthouses, mudflats…
The Rolleicord was very much up to the task, its Triotar lens delivering crisp sharpness when stopped down, even if the rather dark viewfinder image took some getting used to. And Tri-X, developed in Rodinal, gave a predictable amount of grain but enough tonality in the negatives to allow for satisfying prints.