Clarence Gass

After buying a less than advertised Ricoh DINACORD from Morty’s Camera Shop in Weston, MO, I needed it repaired. The guys at Process One in Overland Park, where I get my film developed, gave me the number of Clarance Gass. I remembered seeing Gass Camera on Mission Road over the years, and even remembered taking one of my Nikkormats to him to have the meter repaired, but that would have been 30 years ago. 

I gave him a call.

He’s now working out of his house, about a million miles south of me in Edgerton, KS. I believe it’s called that because it’s at the edge of the world.

iPhone shot of Clarence Gass fixing my camera.

Clarence is the master. Here he is fixing one of my old cameras on the fly. He has more than 1000 years of experience with these old things.

What I planned to be a quick in-and-out event lasted more than 90 minutes. We just sat there and enjoyed some relaxing conversation.

Yes, he fixed the Ricoh…and many other cameras since we met.

I took him my Nikkormats for a check up one day. He opened the back of one of them and said “I’ve seen this camera before.” Mind Blown.

There are topics Clarence and I can discuss and enjoy, and there are some we can’t. The old adage “don’t talk politics or religion” applies. If he starts talking about them, I listen politely and nod my head a lot…soon enough the topic will change.

One time while I was there either picking up, or dropping off, or both, he dropped a camera in front of me and said “You need this.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s a half-frame 35mm camera,” he replied. “Seems like the kind of weird camera you would like.”

Fifty bucks later it was mine. Judging by what I see on eBay today, that’s about right. It’s a Canon Demi…story to come.

The library of camera knowledge in his brain is irreplaceable. He can look at a camera and know its tendencies. He can suspect what might be wrong before he’s held it in his hands. So many times I’ve taken a camera out and he could fix it on the spot. Sometimes he says “I’ll have to take a look at it.” Either way, if he can’t fix it, either it can’t be fixed, or he doesn’t want to fix it, like with Russian cameras and Kodak Retina Reflex IIIs, and I’m sure a whole list of others. He was kind enough to fix the rangefinder on my FED5, but he complained the whole time and reminded me how much he hates working on Russian cameras. I guess I’ll take it to Slovakia next time it breaks.

Mark and I often go out together, then it’s a real party. When we visit him, we need to make sure we don’t have any hard plans, as the time just slips away.

I told him once “You must be one of the most photographed people around” as I snapped his picture, testing a camera I had just picked up. As you can see by the gallery below, I’ve snapped a few, and these aren’t all of them.

Anyone who knows Clarence is lucky. I’m lucky. I look forward to our next visit on Friday.