A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from October 17, 2013
“You must have a great camera” (photography joke)

A popular photography joke has a photographer invited to a dinner, where he shows some photographs. “I love these photographs!” the host says. “You must have a great camera.” The photographer replies, “I love your food. You must have great pots and pans.” This illustrates that point that a photographer’s skill makes the photo, not the instrument that is used.

The joke was told in As I Remember (1936), the autobiography of German-born American photographer Arnold Genthe. “What wonderful lens you must have,” a writer told Genthe. Genthe replied that the writer must have used a wonderful pen. The jocular anecdote has been told with many variations.

Wikipedia: Arnold Genthe
Arnold Genthe (January 8, 1869 – August 9, 1942) was a German-born American photographer, best known for his photos of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and his portraits of noted people, from politicians and socialites to literary figures and entertainment celebrities.
In 1911 he moved to New York City, where he remained until his death of a heart attack in 1942. He worked primarily in portraiture, and Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and John D. Rockefeller all sat for him. His photos of Greta Garbo were credited with boosting her career. He also photographed modern dancers, including Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis, and his photos were featured in the 1916 book, The Book of the Dance.

When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe. “you must have a wonderful camera...It must be the best camera in the world...You must show me your camera.” Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.” - Anonymous

OCLC WorldCat record
As I remember : with one hundred and twelve photographic illustrations by the author
Author: Arnold Genthe
Publisher: New York : Reynal and Hitchcock, 1936.
Edition/Format: Book

Google Books
The Christian Student
Volume 37, Issues 3-41
Pg. 18:
As for equipment: There is no “best camera,” no “best film,” granting technical competency. It is a distinct advantage to have a fine instrument, well equipped, but if the guiding brain is not able to feel a picture, the result will not be noteworthy. Illustrating this point is an anecdote set down by Arnold Genthe in his book, As I Remember. A well-known novelist, looking through a portfolio of Genthe’s exclaimed, “I wish I could take pictures like these but I’m only an amateur. What wonderful lens you must have.” She was quite taken back when Genthe asked, in turn, to be shown her pen — the pen with which she has written such good novels; surely it must have been an unusual pen!

Google Books
American Photography
Volume 41
Pg. 12:
At one time Genthe had a portrait gallery in New York which was visited one day by a famous authoress whom we will call Miss H. She admired Genthe’s work and finally made the classic remark: “Mr. Genthe, you must have a wonderful camera.”
“You must have a wonderful typewriter.”

Google Books
Typo Graphic
Pg. 33: 
A photographer took some photographs of a millionaire’s estate. they were splendid pictures and the millionaire was very pleased. He said to the photographer, “You must have a very good camera.”

There were pheasants on this millionaire’s estate. He killed a pair and sent them to the photographer. The photographer sent him a wire saying, “The pheasants were delicious. You must have a very fine gun.”

Google Books
The Practical Entomologist
By Rick Imes
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
Pg. 60:
Remember the story of a photographer and a writer who met at a party. “I saw your exhibit at the gallery last week,” said the writer. “You must have a very good camera!” To which the photographer replied, “Why, thank you. By the way, I really enjoyed your latest book. You must have an excellent word processor!”

Google Books
Sean & David’s Long Drive
By Sean Condon
Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications
Pg. 251:
“Aaaanyway, apparently he was in New York once, at the dinner party of some wealthy socialite who was a very big fan of his work. And at some point during the course of the dinner, she made a remark along the lines of “You take such beautiful photographs, Mr So and So. You must have a wonderful camera.”
Pg. 252:
“You’re a good driver David,” cried Jill as we left. “You must have a wonderful car.”

Google Groups: rec.photo.equipment.35mm
How do I get great looking photos like those found in photo magazines
A story worth considering.

Mary looked at Bob’s 11x14 prints when she visited his home and was very impressed. “Bob, these pictures are excellent. You must have a really good camera.”

Next week, Bob attended Mary’s dinner party. The food was superb. After dinner, he rose to toast Mary’s culinary skills. “Madam Hostess, this dinner was excellent. You must have really good pots and pans.”

Google Groups: rec.photo.equipment.35mm
Who has the best primes on average? Look here! - but is it really a big deal?
This reminds me of the old story of the photographer invited to the dinner party.  As he was greeted by the hostess, she said, “I have seen your pictures. You must have a truly wonderful camera.” Although upset, he said nothing. After enjoying the conversation and food at dinner, he turned to the hostess and said, “The food was magnificent, you must have a truly wonderful stove.”

Re: “You must have a great camera!”
In reply to Ger Bee, Nov 19, 2003
I found this story somewhere...can’t give proper credit to the teller, but it goes something like this:

A man has a hot date...the woman comes to his house and see some of his photo’s lying around and says,"Wow, you must have a terrific camera to produce these lovely pictures!” The man doesn’t say anything at that moment. The date goes well and the woman invites him over to her house for dinner and drinks the next night. The next night he arrives and they have an exquisite dinner...afterwards with the cognac the woman asks the man how he liked the dinner. He said, “Terrific dinner...you must have great pots and pans.”

Google Books
Wake Up and Smell the Poop!:
The Myths, Deceptions, Lies and Obsessions That Keep You from Having the Perfect Dog

By Don Sullivan
Xlibris Corporation (Xlibris.com)
Pg. 128:
We all know the story about being at a dinner and showing photos to others at the table when the waitress commented, “Those are great pictures! You must have a great camera.” When the check came, the photographer said to the waitress, “That was an excellent meal! You must have great pots.”

Google Books
Beautiful Beasties:
A Creative Guide to Modern Pet Photography

By Jamie Pflughoeft
Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Pg. 22:
The story goes that famed photographer Helmut Newton attended a dinner party at the house of an acquaintance. The host/cook approached Newton and said, “Your photos are very good. You must have a great camera.” After dinner, the host/cook turned to Newton and asked what he thought of the food. Newton’s reply was, “It was really excellent. You must have great pots and pans.”

El Defensor Chieftain (Socorro, NM)
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
by John Larson | January 29, 2015
While we were talking I was reminded of the old joke where a photographer has a girl over to his house and there are some of photos framed on the wall. She says, “These are beautiful. You must have a great camera.” The next time, she has him over to her house and cooks him dinner. He says, “This is delicious. You must have great pots and pans.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Thursday, October 17, 2013 • Permalink