Every photographer has one - there first, there favorite, the best one ever – and most have a litter of them - older, some vintage, seldom used cameras (but parting with them just won’t do). Too much respect for the personal connection created during years of working together – a tool, right? Perhaps it’s a reverence for something intangible, the quality maybe in the optics, its steadiness, it’s mystique or just the feel of it in your hands. Recently I took a 100-year-old camera off the shelf…No 3 Folding Brownie Model D
MANUFACTURER: Eastman Kodak Company
PLACE MANUFACTURED: USA, NY, Rochester
INTRODUCTION DATE: June 1909
ORIGINAL LIST PRICE: $9.00-$11.00
FILM TYPE: Folding roll film – type 124
Courtesy: George Eastman House www.eastmanhouse.org
At the start of the 1900’s, George Eastman introduced the first Brownie Camera, designed and manufactured by Frank A. Brownell. The camera was inexpensive comparatively to other photographic methods, costing a few dollars, and smaller than many cameras of its day. The Brownie was aimed at children and the name “Brownie” was taken from the Palmer Cox children’s illustrations that enjoyed wide popularity in its day - similar to Disney’s Mickey Mouse today. The result was a camera affordable to the general population, taking photography out of the hands of professionals and into the hands of the people, the affection of the brownie name and its identity with children proved to be accessible and easy to use, assuring a market for future generations. Photography became something more than a method of documentation – the brownie created a community of photogs. – Putting cameras in hundreds of thousands of hands everywhere.
Imagine the buzz, like an Iphone of its day only cheaper, offering an exciting new way of connecting. I’m intrigued by the accessibility of the cameras on Iphones and Blackberry’s, not unlike the Brownie. I wonder has the file size and storage capabilities increase, and the optics improve will a future Iphone or Blackberry rival the Canon and Nikon’s of the world, we’ll see. I was taken with the fact that a few of the shutter settings on the vintage Brownie are still found and used today on the top of the line digital camera & computers being used today.
Brownie film can be elusive but a few online retailers still carry older sizes; I found film at www.centralcamera.com and also at www.bhphotovideo.com. (Be mindful that the unique film size might need special attention during processing). I shot 120 size film in my brownie, adapting a spindle to carry the film and winding the shot film back on to a 120 size roll in the dark room after it was shot. I was thrilled to see it work! And will show more samples in future posts.
The link below tells a wonderful history of the legacy of the Brownie...