Training photographers and filmmakers was one of the functions of the Signal Corps Photographic Center / Army Pictorial Center. While the studio was staffed by many skilled professionals, countless other soldiers got their early training and often a first step in their future careers in the classes offered at Astoria. One of those wartime students, Robert E. "Bud" Wandrey, kept a copy of the instructions for photo students shown below.
Wandrey also supplied some of the wartime names on the Personnel Roster. Wandrey wrote, "I would guess hundreds or thousands of GIs went through" (the school). "Did you know trainees were quartered in NYC? It was an older hotel, and we commuted via subway to Astoria! We did a lot of practice shooting in the back lot; but, it was flooded and frozen for ice-skating during the winter!"
Here are SCPC instructions for student photographers, circa 1944:
ASSIGNMENT OFFICE OPERATING PROCEDURE - STILL SCHOOL
You are now in the Assignment Section the last seven weeks of your course. The training you will receive in the Assignment Section will fit you for your future army work as a combat photographer. You will cover military news assignments, very many of which will be similar to the assignments you will receive as a combat photographer. Some civilian assignments will be given when military news assignments are not available.
Your intructors, both officers and EM, have had many years of experience as news photographers with the leading newspapers and news photo syndicates. They are well fitted for their jobs, but in order for them to do their job efficiently, your cooperation is necessary.
Students must request permission to enter the Assignment Office. Assignments must not be discussed outside the office with anyone. Ration list is kept by member of cadre. Notify him of any additional ration money as soon as possible after an assignment. Guard equipment at all times; each man is charged with his camera equipment and is responsible for such in restaurants, barracks, etc. Check all film and bulbs with the clerk's ledger list. The instructor or acting non-com in charge of a group of students must be obeyed. There are no exceptions to this rule. Flashbulbs must be used only when the situation demands, on outdoor assignments.
Darkroom procedure - a student must get a pass from the assignment desk to work in the school darkroom.
Lab procedure - obey all lab rules. Obey the instructors in charge of the lab.
All negatives turned in, either developed or undeveloped. No negatives are to be left overnight in drying cabinets. Grade sheets are to be filled out after each job. Any assignment not turned in to the assignment desk at least three days after the assignment, will receive an unsatisfactory mark unless permission is granted. Pictures can be given to students for personal use only after course is completed and then not to be published under any circumstances, unless passed by the Public Relations Office of the Post.
Persons who are authorized to question the taking of pictures are civilian police and guards, military police, shore patrol and civilian and military authorities whose job is the security of personnel and equipment used in the war effort. If questioned by an authorized person, a student should state that he, a student, is taking pictures for training purposes. However, before showing his pass to any person not obviously authorized, the student should ask to see the credential of that person.
Inquisitive Public (Security) - questions from persons having no connection whatsoever with a cameraman's assignment may be ignored completely if deemed necessary. If curious civilians, seeing Army cameramen at work, ask questions, the student may politely reply that he is a student taking training pictures. He should not answer where he is stationed nor give out any information about the Post.
When both still and motion picture men cover the same assignment, one man will be charged with the command of all photographers from this school. That person shall make all necessary arrangements for shooting details, shall see that the crews return in time for retreat, and carry out all functions of command.
Forbidden Subjects - students are not allowed to take pictures of the following:
2. Cheesecake (leg art) women in poses unmilitary
3. Clowning by members of the crew
4. Any picture that would bring discredit to the Signal Corps or Army in general
5. Any unauthorized stories except in emergency
6. No publicity pictures - it is forbidden to allow students to be photographed by anyone except members of the student crew doing the assignment. This holds whether the pictures are for publication or not.
Hitch-hiking - is an unauthorized mode of transportation by Army Regulation.
Reporting In - if a story fails to materialize, the student should telephone the assignment desk and ask for instructions.
Returning After an Assignment - Immediately after the completion of a story, the cameraman shall return to the school. Each cameraman is responsible for the working condition and cleanliness of his camera. All students shall be back at the school in ample time so that they can attend retreat formation.
When a story warrants staying beyond this time, the student must telephone the assignment desk to get permission from an officer only, to be officially excused from retreat. If this permission is not obtained, the student shall be considered AWOL and dealt with severely. The above applies to the formation for the payment of ration money on Thursday afternoon, or any class at school.
Conduct on Assignments - students are allowed to wear a field jacket while on duty off the Post. Outer garments (blouse, field jacket, overcoat, raincoat) must be buttoned at all times if worn. Students will always conduct themselves in a military manner, using proper military courtesy as a guide in dealing with both civilians and officers and enlisted men of all branches of the service.
No film can be promised to any person, civilian or military. Civilians may, under special circumstances, see the film which concerns them. To do so they must call the Assignment Desk to make arrangements.
Officers inquiring about obtaining film concerning their work should be asked to call the Assignment Desk. The cameraman should get the name of any officer making such a request and turn in that officer's name and organization to the Assignment Desk immediately upon return from the job.
Assignment Desk, Signal Corps Photographic Center