Have You Been Caught By This Camera? Chances Are High!
By Juri Keyter
More than Forty years of South African aviation history is captured in the Deon Prins aviation collection and although I knew it was big, I never thought that anyone could be this enthusiastic for half a century. At first I thought that Deon was a plane spotter but Deon explained that a plane spotter captures aircraft movements and not necessarily photographs as he does. He calls himself an aviation photographer but this is not a true reflection of what he does either.
In 1980 Deon started to take aviation photographs on film and we all know that in those days this was an expensive exercise as there were no autofocussing or automatic focus tracking and most photographs ended on the cutting room floor after a day's shoot. Deon kept only the best and today his collection of film photographs exceeds 13600 prints neatly organised in a large set of albums. Deon changed to digital photography in 2004 making it more affordable and his collection is currently a few short of 50000 photographs in total.
Whatever it is that you are looking for, it is easily found in this structured collection. Photographs are categorised into South African civilian aircraft, foreign civilian, South African military, South African military on civilian register and foreign military. Fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, gyrocopters etc. are all included.
The principal of Deon's collection is based on aircraft registrations. Every photograph (film and digital) is meticulously labelled with the registration, where he took the photograph, manufacturing date and the date when the photograph was taken. Browsing through his collection I could see aircraft morphing from on colour scheme to the next over many years capturing a significant part of its history.
If a photograph do not show the aircraft registration, or at least enough information for him to derive the registration, the photograph is pretty much useless. From experience Deon already know where the registration is located on different aircraft and he waits for the exact moment when the registration is visible before taking the shot. A simple example is the MD-83 with its registration placed in a small location behind the wing but before the engine. In other examples the registration is on the nose wheel doors and Deon positions himself for the shot depending on the type of aircraft.
As a child, Deon started a scrap book with the thoughts of eventually having a complete collection of all types of aircraft and used pictures found in newspapers and magazines to compile this book. He soon realised that there are too many aircraft types for a scrap book and changed his collection from a book to a series of A4 sized envelopes, one for each aircraft manufacturer. Of course this again changed from one envelope per manufacturer to envelopes for different manufacturer models and this collection, still perfectly intact, fills up a shelf in his garage complete from end to the other.
With a psychology degree Deon worked in the human resource industry for most of his life but it is hard to believe that he also spent four years of his life as a professional ballroom dancer. Retired now and located in Pretoria, Deon has all the time on his hands to enjoy his passion for aviation photography. He regularly visits airfields to keep his collection current and tries to attend most air shows and fly-in events.
Deon plans to make his awesome collection available online in the near future. If anyone would like to contact Deon, please use the Pilot's Post contact page and your message will be passed on to Deon.
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