August 28, 2008

Taking Snapshots During the 1950s

Posted in authored by John Gohde tagged , , at 3:24 pm by John Gohde


John H. Gohde started out taking black and white pictures as a child with a Kodak Brownie Starlet camera that took 12 pictures using 127 roll film.  His brother used a more ancient box camera that took 120 size film.

Kodak was Photography

By today’s standards, it was stone age technology.

The Kodak film came enclosed in a tiny yellow box that held one roll of film.  The film itself was further sealed inside a heavily coated yellow paper wrapper.  Each roll of fresh Kodak film had a very distinct smell to it. The film consisted of lightproof paper that was yellow on the outside and shinny black on the inside.  The film itself was a long strip of clear thin plastic that was coated with a very thin film of silver emulsion on one side.  The plastic film strip was literally taped at one end to the lightproof paper backing.   All of which was rolled up tightly on a plastic spool.

John H. Gohde’s Kodak Brownie Starlet Camera

John H. Gohde used a Kodak Brownie Starlet camera as a child.

John H. Gohde used a Kodak Brownie Starlet camera as a child.

You opened up the camera.  The Kodak film was loaded into the camera manually in subdued light.   The camera was then closed and locked.  A film roller level was cranked until the number 1 showed up which indicated that you were on picture one.

To take a photo you basically just looked through a fuzzy view finder.  Pointed the camera at the subject. Held the camera very still, pushed the picture taking button down, and hoped for the best.  The f-stop, shutter speed, and focus were all fixed.  In good light you used ASA film speed 100.  In poor lighting you needed to use the faster ASA 400 speed film.

The flash attachment went on the side of the Kodak Brownie Starlet camera.

The Flash attachment went on the side of the Kodak Brownie Starlet camera.

At night, you popped in a disposable glass flash bulb that was good for exactly one flash.  They were rather big in size.  The real innovation in flash photography came when the size of the flash bulbs started getting smaller.   They got as small as about one half inch in length, with two little strands of exposed wiring sticking out at the base to make the connections.

For a child, flash photography was kind of cool cause the flash bulbs often melted upon flashing.  And, got bubbly.

Photography was based on Silver Negatives

Quality pictures meant Kodak back in those days.  While cameras had gotten a lot smaller and were more portable.  Photography had not changed very much in over 200 years.  It was based upon negatives  created by silver which when exposed to light turned dark when the film was developed.

What most people were not aware of during the fifties was that Eastman Kodak gave away a tremendous amount of free information on photography.  The public could get for free literally  hundreds of different booklets and pamphlets on various different topics, all at Kodak’s expense.  I supposed the marketing idea was that increasing interest in photography would increase sales of Kodak film, and hence more than make up for the cost of the publications.

John H. Gohde made a Pin-Hole Camera

Some how John H. Gohde came across their address, and Kodak sent him this big catolog of free publications, as a child.  That was about the tail end of the fifties, when John first got into darkroom work.  He received a bunch of free publications on various topics from Kodak in the mail.  But, the pamphlet that John remembered the most was the one on how to make a pin-hole camera.  If you had access to a darkroom, the pin-hole camera actually worked quite well.  Checking the web, John sees that Kodak today still has information availabe for free on how to make a pin-hole camera on the Internet.

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