tbyfield on Mon, 15 May 2000 00:28:39 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> (fwd) Happy birthday, Brownie



INTRO: One hundred years ago, the Eastman Kodak Company began
manufacturing a camera that would radically change photography, making it
available to the mass market and, in effect, creating the family snapshot. 
As correspondent Larry Freund reports, the anniversary is being observed
in the company's headquarters city, Rochester, in northern New York State. 

TEXT: Before today's digital cameras, before the instant camera and the
throw-away camera, before the 35-millimeter single-lens-reflex camera
there was the Brownie. 

            /// Gustavson actuality ///

      The Brownie is one of those few products that
      takes a fairly new technology - which was roll
      film which I guess had been introduced by
      Eastman Kodak Company back in 1888 - and puts it
      in the hands of the average people.

            /// End actuality ///

Todd Gustavson is Curator of Technology at the George Eastman House
International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York.  The
museum - in the home of the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company - is
presenting (5/13 - 11/5) an exhibit about the camera that it says launched
the popularity of photography.  The Brownie, named after a famous cartoon
character printed on the camera, was popular because it was relatively

            /// Gustavson actuality ///

      The Brownie sold for one dollar, which in
      today's money is about 20 dollars. Film for the
      Brownie was 15 cents which is in reality about
      what film costs today. From an economic
      standpoint, it made photography accessible to
      just about anybody who wanted to try it.

            /// End actuality ///

The original Brownie box camera was made with inexpensive materials -
cardboard with wood reinforcements, fewer parts than earlier cameras - so
it could be sold cheaply.  Some 150-thousand Brownies were sold in their
first year, 1900, and, says curator Todd Gustavson, the stage was set for
a new era of popular photography. 

            /// Gustavson actuality ///

      Suddenly, the Brownie camera shows up. It's a
      good-functioning, fairly well-made product with
      good results. And it allows people, for a very
      modest investment, to start photographing things
      that are important to them, whether it is family
      members or important events in a family history,
      things that people are proud of, whether it is
      their first automobile or their first house or
      the largest fish that they caught on vacation.
      So it really changes the way that families are
      able to record their own personal history.

            /// End actuality ///

The first model of the Brownie - the simple box camera - was produced by
Eastman Kodak until 1916.  Through 1970, the company produced about 120
models of cameras labeled Brownie in its plants around the world.  In a
recent speech, the president of Eastman Kodak, Daniel Carp, described the
introduction of the Brownie camera as a watershed moment in modern
photography. And he called on today's producers of digital cameras to
follow George Eastman's strategy of advertising and promotion to break
through what Mr. Carp described as the technical and marketing challenges
facing his industry.  Eastman House curator Todd Gustavson says digital
photography is still not at the level of affordability reached by the
Brownie camera one century ago. 

            /// Gustavson actuality ///

      I suppose digital photography is on the Brownie
      road, if you would, but I don't really think
      it's quite there yet. Great strides have been
      made, no doubt, but it's still not quite
      accessible to the numbers of people that the
      Brownie ended up being accessible to.

            /// End actuality ///

About 100 Brownie cameras are on display at Eastman House, including a
pre-production model, a stereo Brownie from 1909 and a rare model from
1945 bearing the image of Mickey Mouse. (Signed) 


12-May-2000 16:37 PM EDT (12-May-2000 2037 UTC)

Source: Voice of America

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