In today’s age of the selfie, photo sharing programs and Internet photo albums, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when a person might only have been photographed once in a lifetime.
We forget that not that long ago, digital cameras, one-hour film processing, 35 mm film and the Polaroids were state of the art technology.
The ability to photograph vacations, birthday parties, Christmas morning and any other moment people feel is worth recording became possible 115 years ago with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie.
A Short History of Photography
The first successful photography appeared in the 1820s. The photographs took days to develop.
It wasn’t until 1839, with the introduction of the daguerreotype, that photos could be processed much faster and photography became a practical activity. However, exposure time was still very long and subjects had to sit still for several minutes.
The method used glass plates, not film. Photographs were expensive. Most people didn’t have the funds to allow them to be photographed often, and some weren’t photographed until death.
Many improvements followed, including color photography, and in 1884 film was introduced and modern photography was born.
The Birth of the Snapshot
When the Brownie was introduced, it made photography possible for the masses. The camera was a simple device: a cardboard box, film and a lens. It sold for $1 with rolls of film, capable of taking six photos, costing 15 cents. Processing was 40 cents.
In 1901, the Brownie Number 2 debuted. It cost $2. An aluminum body version as well as a color photography version also were available. Brownie Number 2 remained in production until the 1930s.
The Brownie is credited with creating the snapshot. By this time, exposure speeds allowed for photographs to capture moments in daily life. The shorter exposure time allowed the photograph’s subjects to smile because they no longer had to sit still for minutes at a time.
Suddenly anyone could be a photographer and document day-to-day life.
When World War One started, the snapshot allowed soldiers to take photos of their loved ones with them, and it allowed those on the home front to keep soldiers updated on life back home.
Here are some snapshots taken during the 1910s, many no doubt using the Brownie.
Do you enjoy looking at old photographs? Why or why not? Leave a comment below.
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