Imagine how dreary costume history in the 20th century would be without photographs — not just posed studio photographs, but the millions of pictures taken of and by ordinary people. Small, simple to operate, “pocket” cameras really did give us a window into the past.
I have written before about the importance of informal snapshots during World War I, made possible by the development of small, light-weight, portable “pocket” cameras. Click here for that post.
Soldiers also took photos with the “vest pocket” Kodak and mailed them to the their families and friends.
Kodak was also developing innovative cameras for use at home. This 1917 advertisement is for the Kodak Autographic camera, which allowed you to record when and of whom the picture was taken on the negative: a 1917 time stamp!
This ad appeared seven years later, but the “family” focus is the same.
The Autographic Kodak was still being advertised in 1924, but, sadly, no one in my family seems to have had one — so they wrote on the pictures, sometimes long after they were developed, and not always accurately.
By 1927 you could take your own moving pictures:
My Uncle Mel had a movie camera in the late 1940s, and, as the only toddler in the family, I was filmed so often that when my parents took me to a movie theater for the first time, I watched for several minutes and then began shouting, “Where’s Me? Where’s Me?”
How I wish I could watch those family movies today — to see my parents and grandma and aunts and uncles in motion, wearing their ordinary clothes, doing ordinary things….In the late 1920’s, pocket cameras were so common that Kodak advertised them in different colors, to match your outfits. Obviously, women were taking a lot of the pictures that we treasure today.
My Aunt Dot took to photography early. You can see her shadow as she takes this photograph of young Azalia Dellamaggiore in front of the Redwood City courthouse in 1918.
Here Dot and a soldier are photographed by someone else, but Dot has her camera in her hand.