Thursday, January 26, 2012

March of the Toy Cameras

Toy may be the kindest categorization that these cameras get. Here I am talking about the simple amateur-oriented cameras of the age before digital. Still when looked at in the long arc of human history these cameras are a marvel. If in the middle-ages you had a Polaroid Color Pack and a supply of film you might have been seen as a great wizard or as somebody to be burned at the stake.

Throughout most of the time in which there have been people it has been very hard to make images or save descriptions of the things that mattered to us. I used to wonder why in the Bible there are few if any descriptions of what the people looked like. I thought maybe appearance didn't matter as much to the ancients as much as it seems to matter to us today.  Then I realized that in those times the materials to write on were often expensive and making copies was a pain. So it is likely that only what was essential was recorded. I have not researched this, however I would not be surprised if descriptions of people in literature did not become common until the printing press and cheap paper became available.

And while making and transmitting verbal descriptions used to be hard, making illustrations was even harder.  Even though literacy was rare in the olden days someone with the skill to make a reasonable representative of what he saw was probably even rarer. Today ancient forms of illustration like the reliefs in the Parthenon or the statutory in a Gothic Cathedral are still admired. However I think it is hard for us to appreciate that at one time such illustrations were about the only show in town.

The birth of photography in the 1830's started a progression to where almost anyone could capture an image of what mattered to him.  By the 1950's in the US almost every family had at least one of the simple box cameras that we now call toys.  Most of the time you could take a decent photo with these cameras without a lot of expense or trouble.  You could even make copies of your images to send out to family and friends.  An amazing advance that seems to have been quickly taken for granted and probably is under-appreciated.

Maybe some day in the distant future someone will come across a cache of ancient photos from the 50's and 60's and wonder why all the children were gathered around a circular object with burning candles on it. I imagine even then there will be little appreciation for the cameras that made this puzzle possible.


Taken with Kodak Duaflex II

Taken with Kodak Duaflex II

More Information about the Kodak Duaflex II at Matt's Classic Cameras.