The Photo Revolution
by Alf B. Meier
No, Hasselblad or the first Japanese cameras arriving at stores didn‘t cause the big photographic blast of the 1950's and ‘60's. The popular camera was made out of plastic, had a simple lens, an undefined shutter speed and undefined lens aperture setting.
The big news was the Brownie camera.
Actually the Brownie wasn‘t new on the market. In fact, the Eastman-Kodak company had been selling Brownies since 1900. Many models were popular, but it wasn‘t until model 127 (in 1952) that your average person could afford one.
It was the time of black-and-white pictures, most of them square, as required for 4x4 cm (1.5" x 1.5") film. (There were color 127 films, but they didn‘t produce sufficient quality due to abysmal shutter and lens aperture precision.)
But a photograph in those years was black-and-white anyway. Same as TV!
Not only did the Brownie change photography, it also changed tourism. Tourists could easily be identified by that piece of Bakelite plastic hanging around their necks.
The Brownie 127 was produced as three different models, none so ingrained in the mind as the Starlet (with or without the round flash reflector on top).
I got my first Brownie at 9 (that was 1964) and I can say that it “helped shape my life.“ My father had earned his way through college as a photographer for a regional newspaper and he soon discovered what he called my natural talent for photography.
Despite trying to rebel against it as a teenager, I wound up as a professional photographer.
My Brownie went the way of most of my toys ... Sooner or later I wanted to know how it worked and I took it apart. Now, 43 years later, I wish I still had that piece of plastic that changed so many things for me. Not to take a picture with it, because it would be difficult to find the fitting film. Just to have a look at it and wonder if without it I would have become a teacher, which is, after all, what I studied in college.
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