PhotoLexicon, Volume 4, nr. 6 (March 1987) (en)

Bram Loman

Luc Verkoren


From 1887 to 1896, Bram Loman developed various initiatives that were highly significant for the advancement of photography. He built a mirror reflex camera considered to be the precursor of the modern 35 mm mirror reflex camera. Being an amateur photographer, Loman co-founded the first amateur photographers’ association in the Netherlands, the AFV (Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Amateur Photographers Association’). He was also a co-founder of the photography magazine Lux. After being actively involved in the field photography, Loman devoted the rest of his life primarily to music: as a theorist, inventor, composer, writer, and organiser.




Abraham Dirk (Bram) Loman Jr. is born on 26 October in Amsterdam. He is the son of Professor A.D. Loman, a theologian and music historian.


Bram Loman studies music with Willem Kes and Bernard Zweers.


On 1 September, five men meet at the Hotel Américain in Amsterdam: Hein van der Masch Spakler, Bram Loman Jr., A. Scheltema Beduin, Geo Peck, and J.J.M. Guy de Coral. Together they found the AFV (Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Amateur Photographers Association’), collectively forming its first management board.


Loman has no desire to become a musician and decides to further his career in photography with Professor Vogel at the Technische Hochschule (‘Technical College’) in Berlin.


As a precision instrument maker, Bram Loman starts up a company specialised in repairing photographic equipment. Soon after, he is assisted by two experienced precision instrument makers: Johannes van Rijn and J. Harders. With the assistance of Van Rijn and the advice of Professor D. van Haren Noman, Loman constructs a single-lens mirror reflex camera with curtain shutter. Together with Chr.J. Schuver, a medical student and photojournalist, Loman establishes the company Loman & Co. The company plans to manufacture cameras and sell photography supplies.

On 25 August, Loman & Co. acquires a patent on the reflex camera in Germany (patent no. 53,003). A patent in Great Britain is acquired on 26 September (patent no. 15,163). Loman and Schuver establish the photography magazine Lux and together act as its editors.


On 31 July, Loman’s reflex camera is patented in France (patent no. 207,343). Willem Brandsma is hired as an employee at Loman & Co. In the same year, J. Schaap, H.C.N. Becker, and Lodewijk Jan Rutger Holst are also likely to have started working for the company.


Holst becomes a co-partner of Loman & Co. In July, Loman leaves the business and sells it to Holst. The name of the company is initially changed to ‘Holst & Zimmerman’, but ‘Reflex-Compagnie’ (‘Reflex Manufacturing Company’) shortly thereafter.


Together with Hein van der Masch Spakler, Loman founds the factory ‘Het Y’, for the manufacture of dry plates.


The factory ‘Het Y ‘ is forced to shut down. On 2 July, the factory inventory is auctioned off in Amsterdam. Loman leaves the photography industry and becomes a music teacher in Arnhem and later Amsterdam. He composes and writes about music.


The Reflex-Compagnie, formerly Loman & Co, closes. On 27 and 28 October, a special auction is held at H.G. Bom on the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam near St. Olofspoort 35, with the public sale of the ‘Optische, Electrische, Chemische en Mathematische Instrumenten en Gereedschap’ (‘Optical, Electrical, Chemical and Mathematical Instruments and Tools’) from the ‘Warehouse of Photography Supplies’ of the ‘Reflex Manufacturing Company’.

Holst departs for Dresden, where he becomes technical director of the camera factory Hüttig & Sohn.

The remaining inventory of the Reflex-Compagnie is bought up by Schaap and Brandsma, who set up a repair and manufacturing company under the name of Schaap & Co.


Loman travels to the Dutch East Indies, New Zealand, and Australia. He acts as the impresario of his wife, the concert singer Alida Loman-Lütkemann. During these travels, he takes numerous photos


Loman becomes the director of the publishing company ‘Caecilia’ and is in charge of two music magazines, Caecilia and Toonkunstnieuws.


Together with the composer Van Gilsen and the music publisher Asbach, Loman founds the BUMA (Vereniging Het Bureau Muziekauteursrecht, ‘Bureau Music Authorship Rights Association’) in 1913. Loman is the director of the BUMA for twenty-one years, initially as its only employee.

Loman regularly records expenses related to photography supplies in his cash account journal, indicating his continued passion for amateur photography.


Loman carries out trial tests with the ‘Irenaphoon’ (‘Irenaphone’), an invention with which he is able to make music with modified factory sirens audible up to a distance of four kilometres. Attempts to make this invention a commercial success prove unsuccessful.


On 1 October, Loman resigns as the director of BUMA.


Loman again becomes BUMA’s director.


Under the pseudonym T(heo) Ramphilos, Loman publishes the brochure Toekomstplannen voor de Amsterdamsche Tram (‘Future Plans for the Amsterdam Tram’). In this brochure, he presents a plan for establishing a more economic and effective transportation network for the city.


Bram Loman dies on 17 September in Amsterdam.


Bram Loman was a persevering, energetic personality. He not only had a large number of ideas, but he also managed to realise them. In his endeavours, he achieved astonishing results. Once his ideas took form, he usually left their further development to others. Notable, for instance, are the many associations he helped to set up in the areas of theatre, music, and photography.

Loman’s activities in this last area occurred at a time when photography was undergoing major changes. As described by Loman himself in an annotation made in October 1947 and today preserved at the Leiden University Print Room: ‘Even though the dry plates in those days were still hardly [light-] sensitive, taking “instant images” or “instantanés” was indeed possible, despite the fact that the standard lenses then used could hardly have been described as luminous when compared to today. It was probably around 1889 that the so-called hand camera made its entry. The plate format of 9×12 cm was fairly standard. In that year I settled in Amsterdam as a photo equipment repairman, along with selling photography supplies. What one referred to as amateur photography developed very quickly in those years.’

As the son of a renowned professor of theology in Amsterdam—every bit as musical as his father, having received a education in music under mentors such as Willem Kes and Bernard Zweers—Loman had made his choice: photography it would be. Bram’s father followed through on his young son’s wish by sending him to study photography with Professor Hermann Vogel at the Technische Hogeschool (‘Technical College’) in Berlin. Vogel was a pioneer in the development of orthochromatic plates.

In the summer of 1889, groups of young, enthusiastic amateur photographers gathered regularly on the Vijgendam in Amsterdam to photograph directors of the various trading firms leaving the stock exchange. While taking photos of these people was an engaging enterprise, it was by no means an easy task: visitors to the stock exchange did everything they could to avoid being photographed. One solution to this problem was the ‘Stirn Concealed Camera’, a popular device at the time. Loman had built a camera resembling a small cigar box for this same purpose, but the lens’ reflection gave it away. He subsequently constructed a second much smaller camera for twelve 4×4 cm plates, which one could interchange using a leather photographic changing bag. Loman’s camera could be rolled up in a newspaper and covered up with a dull-black canvas cloth. It had a lens with a long focal length, so it could be concealed deep in the newspaper roll. The shutter was released by means of a rubber hose and a bulb. Loman had tremendous success with this camouflaged camera, which could be carried under one’s arm. Its popularity was destined to be short-lived, however, as the amount of light required was available only during the summer.

Nothing has been preserved of Loman’s amateur photography, with the exception of several photos in the family’s possession. Even prior to his death, all of Loman’s glass negatives were thrown away during a housing move. Loman’s passion for journalistic photos—he also briefly worked as a journalist—is certain to have partially motivated his choice of photographic subject matter. His friendship with Carl Mögle and Chr. Schuver may also possibly have influenced his photography. In any event, all three shared a preference for the platinotype: a new printing technique applied in the 1880s by British art photographers, including Peter Henry Emerson, but by 1888–’89 as well by practitioners of art photography in the Netherlands.

With the founding of the magazine Lux in 1889, Loman and Schuver had established an important platform for art photography in the Netherlands.

In 1889, Loman developed a reflex camera that basically bears the same characteristics as a camera obscura with a diagonally positioned mirror, as constructed by Johann Christoph Sturm in 1676. In Loman’s construction, the mirror made it possible to mount the ground glass screen on the top of the camera. This made it easier for the photographer to assess the image in its upright position, adjusting it directly on the ground glass screen without having to use a tripod.

Loman had further elaborated on inventions made by Thomas Sutton and S.D. McKellen. In 1861, Sutton had acquired a patent on a reflex camera in Great Britain, using a mirror that could be retracted with a handle. McKellen had patented his invention in 1888, specifically, an automatically retracting mirror connected to a roller-blind shutter. Both types of reflex cameras were probably never put into production.

The camera designed by Loman, according to the text of the German patent for snapshot and time exposure shots, included a new type of shutter designed by Ottomar Anschütz in 1888. The light-sensitised plate is protected from rays of light by a roller blind located directly in front of it, as opposed to being placed in the vicinity of the objective. Characteristic of Loman’s invention is a mirror raised by pneumatic pressure: it is this movement that opens the roller-blind shutter. With time exposure shots, the mirror stays retracted above for as long as the exposure requires. The reflex camera’s user was still able to see the image on the ground glass screen until just a fraction of a second prior to taking the shot. The camera was then ready to take a photograph, because the cartridge slider could safely be opened through the use of the new shutter. Loman’s reflex camera stands as a milestone in the evolutionary history of the photo camera because of its retracting mirror and the application of the new shutter.

In 1889, Bram Loman founded the company Loman & Co. together with Chr.J. Schuver, a medical student and journalist. Loman knew Schuver through his membership in the AFV (Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Amateur Photographers Association’), where the two men held projection evenings together, referred to as ‘lantern plate soirées’. The new company quickly gained international notoriety, with the help of German and British patents on its reflex camera. In Britain, Loman was represented by the company ‘Mawson and Swan’; in Germany, by Dr. Adolf Hesekiel; in Austria, by W. Wachtl and A. Moll. In 1890, Hesekiel wrote a favourable article on the reflex camera, published in Dr. Eder’s Jahrbuch fiir Photographie und Reproductionstechnik (‘Annual for Photography and Roproduction Technique’). Business was apparently going quite well for Loman’s company, as a number of new employees were hired to work for the firm within a fairly short period of time. Notwithstanding, Loman left the company in 1893, with L.J.R. Holst succeeding him as a partner. Hereafter, the name of the company was first changed to ‘Holst & Zimmerman’, but shortly thereafter to the ‘Reflex-Compagnie’ (‘Reflex Manufacturing Company’).

While the reflex camera was a quality product sold in Britain, Germany, and Austria, Loman’s invention ultimately had too small a customer base to support a booming camera manufacturing industry in the Netherlands. By as early as 1898, the Reflex-Compagnie was shut down. This may very well have been in part attributable to the inconstancy of the inventor himself. The business’ failure can probably be ascribed to the lack of protection concerning industrial property in the Netherlands. The invention of the camera that went down in history as the ‘Dutch Reflex’ was sufficiently protected in Britain and Germany, whereas in the Netherlands, it was possible for anyone to make copies without restriction or fear of penalty. Finally, the price that had to be paid for this quality-made camera was by no means insubstantial. As such, there was no way to compete with other mass-produced cameras being brought out on the market. Consequently, Holst ended up shutting down the company. He left for Germany taking the patents with him, thus placing them in German hands. Holst, himself quite skilled at his profession, subsequently acquired various patents in Germany on improvements made to the Loman Reflex camera. The last remnants of the Reflex-Compagnie were transferred to Schaap and Brandsma, who continued with the production of the reflex camera in the Netherlands.

After 1896, Loman devoted his energy almost exclusively to music. He gave lessons and concerts, found time to compose, wrote an opera, and also delved into music theory. In 1933, Loman published an academic article, entitled ‘Het Muzikaal Wezen der chromatische Verschuiving’ (‘The Musical Essence of Chromatic Shifting’). He was also a contributor to the ‘Weekblad voor Muziek’ (‘Music Weekly’). In addition, Loman found the time to fulfil various board functions: general secretary of the ‘Maatschappij tot bevordering der Toonkunst’ (‘Society for the Promotion of Tonal Art’), the director of the publishing company ‘Caecilia’, and the director of BUMA (Vereniging Het Bureau Muziekauteursrecht, ‘Bureau Music Authorship Rights Association’).

Decisively peculiar was Loman’s experiment with the ‘Irenaphoon’ (‘Irenaphone’), a music-making machine that could be heard over a distance of several kilometers. On the roof of a building under construction, Loman placed a number of modified factory sirens, to which an air pressure pump was connected via a clavier. By controlling the factory sirens in this manner, it was possible to produce music, which—according to eye- and ear-witness accounts—could be heard at a distance of up to four kilometres. In late March 1929, the newspapers were filled with accounts of this musical wonder. To promote his invention, Loman approached Luftschiffbau Zeppelin (‘Airship Builder Zeppelin’) in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and Henry Ford. Commercially, however, it proved to be a failure. No more experiments were carried out, much to the relief of residents living on the Beethovenstraat in Amsterdam, where the installation had been set up.

In 1945, Loman made one more appearance in a completely different area: under the pseudonym T(heo) Ramphilos he presented a brochure with his ‘Toekomstplannen voor de Amsterdamsche Tram’ (‘Future Plans for the Amsterdam Tram’), a system designed to create a more comprehensive transportation network using fewer tramlines.

The single-lens reflex camera was not an invention, but rather a device developed in stages. Bram Loman can be credited with understanding the benefit of Ottomar Anschütz’s curtain shutter (after numerous improvements later referred to as the ‘split shutter’), as well as being the first to apply the curtain shutter in a reflex camera and attaching it to the retractable mirror. He was also the first to produce a single-lens reflex camera with the curtain shutter located in its proper place: directly in front of the light-sensitised plate. The Dutch Reflex camera is the direct precursor of the currently popular 35 mm mirror reflex. Holst and Brandsma hold the honour of having perfected Loman’s invention. Finally, it was Johan Steenbergen who gave the single-lens reflex its compact format by constructing the Exakta camera.


Primary bibliography

A.D. Loman Jr., Platinotypie (n.a.v. lezing), in Lux 2 (1890-1891) 1, p. 5-9.

Advertenties van Loman in Fotografisch Jaarboek 1893-94, 3 (1894), p. 152-155.

A.D. Loman Jr., (ingezonden stukken), in Lux 6 (1894-1895) 8, p. 310-311.

A.D. Loman Jr., De Reflex-camera, hare geboorte en hare prille jeugd, in Camera Obscura: Revue Internationale pour la Photographie paraissant tous les mois en 4 langues, 1899/1900, p. 797-799.

A.D. Loman Jr., Uit de geschiedenis der (N.)A.F.V., in J.W. Boon (red.), Veertig jaren fotografie NAFV 1887-1927, Amsterdam (N.A.F.V.) 1927, p. 10-15.


Diverse geschriften over muziek, waaronder:

Een schema voor een nieuwe elementaire muziektheorieleer en iets over de verhouding van grondtoon tot groote terts ook in verband met het solfègezangonderwijs aan muziekscholen en conservatoria, Amsterdam 1904.

Het muzikaal wezen der chromatische verschuiving. Leidraad ten dienste van harmonieleeraren en gevorderde leerlingen, Bussum 1933.

Het organisme onzer muziek. Bevattelijke uiteenzetting als antwoord op de vraag: ‘Wat is eigenlijk muziek ?’, Amsterdam 1937.

Secondary bibliography

Adolf Hesekiel, Neue Geheim-Universal-Camera ‘Probata’ und Loman’s Handcamera ‘Reflex’, in Jahrbuch für Photographie und Reproductionstechnik für das Jahr 1890, Halle a.S. (Wilhelm Knapp) 4 (1890), p. 27-30.

Pierre Weijnen, Nederlandsche Fotografen-Vereeniging, Verslag der Vergadering, gehouden op 11 September 1890, te Amsterdam, in Lux 2 (1890-1891) 1, p. 1-4.

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. Eine Encyclopädie des allgemeinen Wissens. Vierde, geheel bewerkte druk. Dl. 19, Jaar-supplement 1891-1892, Leipzig/Wenen (Bibliographisches Institut) 1892, p. 732 (met illustratie).

Josef Maria Eder, Die Photographische Camera und Momentapparate, Ausführliches Handbuch der Photographie, Fünftes Heft, Halle a.S. 1892, p. 400-404.

Photographisch Jaarboek 1892 2 (1892), p. 21 (mededeling over NFV-bestuur).

Meinard van Os, (ingezonden stukken), in Lux 6 (1894-1895) 8, p. 311-312.

Veilingcatalogus, Optische, Electrische, Chemische en Mathematische Instrumenten en Gereedschap, voortkomende uit de likwidatie van het voorname Magazijn van Photographie-Artikelen Amsterdamsch Agentschap van de ‘Reflex Manufacturing Company’, Amsterdam (Verkooplokaal van H.G. Bom) 27-28 oktober 1897.

Auteur onbekend, Een Hollandsche vinding op camera-gebied, in Op de Hoogte: Maandschrift voor de Huiskamer 7 (1910) , p . 143-148.

Néerland’s Mannen en Vrouwen der Toonkunst, Amsterdam (Uitg. Caecilia) z.j., p. 133 (biografie en portret door B.F. Eilers).

Tuinzing, De uitvinding van de Reflexcamera, in Focus 11 (1924) 4, p. 120.

Auteur onbekend, De uitvinder der reflexcamera, in Focus 15 (1928) 7, p. 182.

Dick Boer, Een geschenk voor de Focuscollectie: een echte Loman-Reflex, in Focus 42 (1957) 11, p. 258.

J. Geselschap, Uit de geschiedenis van de fotografie, in Amstelodamum Maandblad voor de kennis van Amsterdam 47 (1960) juni, p. 107-109.

J.J.M. van Santen, De Loman-Reflex werd vijf en zeventig jaar geleden uitgevonden, in Focus 49 (1964) 14, p. 7-13.

Cyril Permutt, Collecting old cameras, Londen (Angus & Robertson) 1976, p. 146, 149.

Brian Coe, Camera’s, Londen (Marshall Cavendish) 1978, p. 133-134.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978.

James E. Cornwall, Historische Kameras 1845-1870. Ein Handbuch für Sammler. Darstellung von über 800 Kameras, Herrsching/Ammersee (Gerhard Knülle) 1979, p. 91.

P.J. van der Zanden, Luc Verkoren, De stikum-camera. De geschiedenis van Abraham Dirk Loman Jr. een Nederlandse camerabouwer (1868-1954), in Camera ‘Oldtimer’ Club 3 (1980) 6, p. 5-9.

Camfield Wills, Deirdre Wills, De geschiedenis van de Fotografie van daguerreotypie tot instantfoto, Alphen aan den Rijn (ICOB) 1981, p. 47, 49.

Laurent Roosens e.a., catalogus tent. Fotografie vroeger en nu, Brussel (Gemeentekrediet van België) 1982, p. 81.

Luc Verkoren, Instantaneous Photographs and the Loman Reflex Camera, in The Photographic Collector 3 (1982) 2, p. 190-195.

Luc Verkoren, P.J. van der Zanden, Bram Loman en de beginjaren van de A.F.V., in Camera ‘Oldtimer’ Club 5 (1982) 1, p. 3-4.

Luc Verkoren, Portret van een Nederlands camera-ontwerper A.D. Loman, 1868-1954, in Focus 68 (1983) 9, p. 45-47.

Nederland’s Patriciaat, Genealogieen van bekende geslachten, Den Haag (Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie) 69 (1985), p. 123.


AFV, vanaf 1887 (medeoprichter).

Helios, vanaf 1889.

NFV, vanaf 1890 (medeoprichter).

De Amsterdamsche Camera Vereniging, vanaf 1893 (medeoprichter).

De Toneelvereeniging, vanaf 1893 (medeoprichter).

Genootschap van Nederlandsche Componisten GENECO.

Maatschappij tot bevordering der Toonkunst (secretaris).

Vereniging van Muziekhandelaren en -Uitgevers, vanaf 1912.

Vereniging Het Bureau Muziekauteursrecht BUMA, vanaf 1913.

Patents Hollandsche Reflex-camera

1889, 26 sept., Brits octrooi nr. 15.163, A.D. Loman (plaatsing sluiter en koppeling daarvan aan de spiegel).

1889, 25 aug., Duits octrooi nr. 53.003, A.D. Loman (idem Brits octrooi).

1890, 31 juli, Frans octrooi nr. 207.343, A.D. Loman (idem Brits octrooi).

1896, 25 aug., Duits octrooi nr. 95.446, Reflexcompagnie (spiegel in twee delen, die in verschillende richting wegklappen: ruimtebesparing en vermindering van trilling).

1896, 30 sept., Duits octrooi nr. 88.853, L.J.R. Holst (spleetsluiter met twee afzonderlijke gordijnen).

1896, 7 nov., Duits octrooi nr. 89.200, L.J.R. Holst (verbeterd opklapsysteem voor de spiegel).


Amsterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Den Haag, Gemeentemuseum, afd. Muziekgeschiedenis (Loman-archief).

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Leiden, Mevr. E.A. Loman-Bittner, mondelinge informatie.


Amsterdam, Elsevier (coll. Dick Boer).

Antwerpen, Provinciaal Museum voor Fotografie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit.