The many critical card box ever?

January 4, 2015 - photo frame

Brownie No 0

It doesn’t demeanour really sparkling – a card box about 5in (13cm) tall, lonesome in leatherette, with a tiny turn opening during a front. You competence have some difficulty operative out what it was for if we didn’t know. But a Brownie competence be a many critical camera ever made, writes a BBC’s Stephen Dowling.

Before it seemed in 1900, cameras were clearly unwieldy, if not officious cumbersome. Early cameras tended to be done of a good understanding of coronet and mahogany and took cinema on to vast potion or steel plates, mostly requiring bearing times totalled in minutes.

To sketch far-flung places, porters and container animals were mostly indispensable to lift a equipment. Photography was an activity involving patience, poisonous chemicals, and beast strength. It was not something a typical people indulged in.

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The Brownie democratised photography simply by a perfect volume of sales”

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Michael Pritchard

US contriver George Eastman took an critical step brazen in a 1880s, when he combined a stretchable film that did divided with a need for pithy plates. His initial “Kodak Camera” went on sale in 1888, pre-loaded with adequate film to take 100 photographs. When a final pattern was taken, a whole camera was sent behind to Kodak to be developed.

It was an elementary box yet it cost $25 – a poignant volume of money. It was still a device for a wealthy.

The array came 12 years later. The Kodak Brownie, designed by Edward Brownell, looked identical to a strange Kodak, yet a film could be taken out of a camera after sharpened and grown around Kodak stockists, chemists or even during home.

Brownies being packaged for shippingBrownies became a mass-market product

And Kodak sole a camera for a elegant sum of $1 – we could buy a camera, a film and have that film processed for usually $2. Photography had unexpected turn not usually unstable yet affordable, too, and a Brownie was easy to use. It has a singular shiver speed and aperture, definition no fiddling about to focus. Early Brownies didn’t even have a viewfinder – outlines on a tip of a camera were a severe beam as to what competence be in a frame. You shot, and we hoped.

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The Brownie is not a camera you’re going to be blazing divided during 10 frames a second with”

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Gary Cole

“The Brownie democratised photography simply by a perfect volume of sales,” says Dr Michael Pritchard, boss of a Royal Photographic Society and a author of The History of Photography in 50 Cameras, published in November.

“A $1 or 25-shilling camera able of producing reasonable formula was innovative, and joined with Kodak’s ability to yield directly or by an outrageous array of chemists and detailed retailers a building and copy use meant that photography became permitted irrespective of your amicable category or detailed skills.”

The Brownie was also upheld with a operation of accessories from albums to home estimate kits, that helped communicate a thought that photography was something for anyone. “Competitions and clubs for Brownie and Kodak users also reinforced this clarity with a ubiquitous public,” Pritchard says.

Brownies were directed during children, among others. “Plant a Brownie acorn and a Kodak ash will grow,” one aphorism went. The camera’s boxes were ornate with a cartoonish character, combined by Canadian illustrator Palmer Cox.

An announcement for a Brownie

The cadence of talent behind a Brownie was that Kodak was radically a film-making company, and a inexpensive new camera combined a outrageous direct for these films by giving a people a means to take pictures, again and again.

Brownies were elementary and sturdy. They were designed to accompany people on their daily lives – a newness during a time. In a prolongation run some 8 decades long, a Brownie can be argued to have prisoner some-more of a 20th Century than any other kind of camera.

There was a bent with a initial Brownies for a behind doorway to flip open during a wrong moment, that led to a initial of many modifications.

Brownie No 2

The No.2 Brownie, expelled 18 months later, used a somewhat opposite film format – 120 film, or medium-format film – that is still done today. Many millions of No. 2 Brownies rolled off a prolongation lines – a final in 1935 – and many are still able of holding cinema today.

One photography fan who still uses them is Gary Cole. “I was looking during images we had shot with my ‘do-everything’ DSLR and it got me meditative behind to a early days of photography,” he says. “I was looking for something simple.”

It takes time to get used to a Brownie’s limitations, Cole says.

Using infra-red film, Gary Cole sketch of a treeGary Cole photographed this tree regulating a Brownie and infra-red film

“The shiver of a Brownie is somewhere between 1/25th to 1/30th of a second so we have to be certain to reason a camera steady. we do tend to take some-more time to harmonise my shots no matter what form of film camera I’m using. The Brownie is not a camera you’re going to be blazing divided during 10 frames a second with.”

Gordon Lyster, another photographer who uses them, agrees that a miss of automation leads to some-more deliberate photography.

“Including processing, it’s fundamentally £1 any time we click a shutter,” he says. “Because we don’t usually click, click, click away, we indeed seem to finish adult with a many aloft ratio of useable photos than when sharpened digital.”

Picture taken with a BrownieOne of Gordon Lyster’s Brownie snaps

There is a antithesis here. A century ago, a Brownie singlehandedly gave arise to a thought of a image – a pattern combined on a hoof, though a need of a tripod.

Photography became an bland activity. Normal life could be pictured, instead of a delicately acted dioramas that compulsory subjects to stay unnaturally still.

Along a way, Brownies were there when story happened. In 1912, 17-year-old Bernice Palmer was travelling from New York City to a Mediterranean on a SS Carpathia – a boat that was diverted to collect adult survivors from a falling of a Titanic. Palmer had with her a Brownie camera – her cinema of a survivors being hauled aboard a Carpathia and a iceberg that had hermetic her predestine are among a usually available images of a disaster. Her Brownie, and a cinema it took, are now partial of a Smithsonian collection.

Brownies also went to war. The cameras were tiny and light adequate to fit in a soldier’s pack, and cinema taken on Brownies – alongside other unstable cameras that came in a arise – authorised soldiers to request their daily life in a trenches.

Earlier this year, a cinema taken by one British soldier, Hubert Berry Ottaway, were found by his grandson in a loft and developed, providing a fascinating glance of a life of an typical serviceman on a Western Front a century ago.

War Department Baldwin 4-6-0 Locomotive, sequence array 862

Bombed building

One of a UK’s many distinguished photographers Bert Hardy took a array of famous shots on a Brownie in a 1940s and 50s, Pritchard points out, proof that a good photographer does not need a latest apparatus to take good photographs.

Bert Hardy captures dual women chatting on a railings in BlackpoolBert Hardy prisoner dual Tiller Girls regulating a Brownie in Blackpool in 1951

“The Brownie” went on to be a badge sported on scarcely 100 opposite camera models. Some were folding cameras, some were art deco designs, some were even film cameras. Brownies mislaid a boxy figure and a leatherette, favoring sleeker designs, Bakelite and plastic. The final of them rolled off Kodak’s prolongation lines in a 1980s.

Brownie 127

“The Brownie operation became a best-selling camera operation of all-time ‒ and a name is partial of renouned enlightenment even yet it has not been used on a camera from some 35 years,” says Pritchard. His book points out that a word “Brownie” is still used among photographers to report a reliable, yet elementary camera.

“The pattern of a camera was always such that there was sufficient embodiment in a lens angle of view, a bound focus, and a film attraction that within sincerely far-reaching parameters it would usually always get a shot,” says Pritchard.

“Well, mostly – there were always some users who would put a finger over a lens, indicate a camera a wrong approach or forget to breeze on a film… even good pattern and morality can’t utterly comment for each user!”

The male who brings Brownies behind to life

Restored Kodak Brownie Hawkeyes

Randy Smith is a camera repairer formed in New York who specialises in restoring fondle cameras – a plastic-lenses, inexpensive and contented cameras that have turn something of a disturb with hipsters. He also modifies and restores Kodak Brownie Hawkeyes, a Brownie indication from a late 1940s.

“A Photographic apparatus doesn’t need 16MB sensors or costly lenses. With a Hawkeye, it’s truly indicate and shoot,” he says. “With a aged un-coated lens on a Hawkeye, you’ll swear we took a step behind in time when we see your images. They usually emanate that aged 50s look. People my age see a photos and it conjures adult lustful memories of childhood.”

The fact that Brownies are still used currently is covenant to a simple, sound design, he believes. “A lot of digital users went digital since their pursuit demanded it. But they never mislaid their adore of film, a smell of a chemicals, operative in a dim room, watchful until they returned home to routine a film to see if they had a successful print shoot. Or for a snapshooter, watchful a week to get their film behind from a lab. Digital will never review with a regard of film.”


Please send us any engaging photographs you, or someone we know, took with a Brownie camera – and tell us something about them. A preference will be published.

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Stephen Dowling blogs on photography here

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