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Brownie is the name of a long-running and extremely popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. The Brownie popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot. The first Brownie, introduced in February, 1900, was a very basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2¼-inch square pictures on 117 rollfilm. With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use, leading to the popular slogan, "You push the button, we do the rest." The camera was named after the popular cartoons created by Palmer Cox.
One of the most popular Brownie models was the Brownie 127, millions of which were sold between 1952 and 1967. The Brownie 127 was a simple bakelite camera for 127 film which featured a simple meniscus lens and a curved film plane to reduce the impact of deficiencies in the lens.
Having written an article in the 1940s for amateur photographers suggesting an expensive camera was unnecessary for quality photography, the famous Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy used a Brownie camera to stage a carefully posed snapshot of two young women sitting on railings above a breezy Blackpool promenade.
In 1908, the Austrian architectural critic Joseph August Lux wrote a book called Künstlerische Kodakgeheimnisse (Artistic Secrets of the Kodak) in which he championed the use of the camera for its cultural potential. Guided by a position that was influenced by the Catholic critique of modernity, he argued that the accessibility the camera provided for the amateur meant that people could photograph and document their surroundings and thus produce a type of stability in the ebb and flow of the modern world. Product photography by Bob Orsillo
July 5th, 2010
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