Remembering My Old Box Brownie Camera
A simple Box Brownie camera given me when i was about 12 years old enabled me to record snippets of 1960s life that have become an important record of my past.
- The Box Brownie, a Camera of My Own
- Captured on a Roll of Film
- The Anticipation of having a Film Developed
- The Past Preserved
The Box Brownie, a Camera of My Own
For the Christmas falling between my 12th and 13th birthdays, I was deemed old enough to have a camera of my own. I became the proud owner of a small black square box, commonly known as a Box Brownie camera.
Suddenly I had the power to capture the people and things that were important in my life. I became totally fascinated with the ability of this wonderful contraption that was now mine and would have gladly photographed everything in sight. My only restriction was that, having been given the camera, paying for the developing of the film was my responsibility.
Captured on a Roll of Film
Unlike today's technology, once a photo or snapshot was taken, it was there, captured permanently on the film inside my camera. There was no way of knowing how the photo had turned out, or whether or not that particular moment in time was worth preserving.
Many of the photos i still have show not only the amateur skills of a young photographer, but also possibly reflect the quality of the camera I was using. These days I believe the digital equivalent of these cameras is called a shoot and point. That is exactly what I did with my Brownie and so shots were often spoiled by movement, either my own or that of the subject.
Many of the photos I own from that period of my life were taken on my camera, by friends or family members. Fortunately, these appear to be far better images than those I took. I was definitely not a budding photographer in the making.
The Anticipation of having a Film Developed
I used my Box Brownie sparingly, not wanting to waste precious film. Usually the film would sit inside the camera for months, until all the possible shots had been taken. Then, the film was carefully removed from the camera, making sure no light sneaked in to spoil the last few shots. Because I was expected to pay for the development, sometimes a used film would sit for months, waiting until I could afford the luxury of having the phots printed.
I still remember the anticipation of collecting the film from the camera shop. Often there was disappointment that not all the shots had been worthy of being developed, but this at least meant the cost of the pack of photos was less expensive than a full successful roll of film. For a time, if enough prints had been successfully developed, the camera shop would provide the next roll of film free, encouraging my return sometime in the future.
I'd leave the shop with the envelope held firmly in my hand, then once outside pull out the pile of glossy black and white images. There was always an element of surprise, finding phoros I'd forgotten I'd taken. I don't think I ever got over the excitement of collecting newly developed photos.
The Past Preserved
My parents didn't own a camera at that stage, so without my precious Box Brownie I wouldn't have a record of that time in my life. Most of the images I still have are of family, school, competitive swimming days, my cat and friends. Often I would ask others to take a photo of me with my camera.
Photography has come a long way since those days of the Box Brownie. You can still buy cheap cameras that take successful photos. Unlike the old roll of film, the digital photographer can choose whether or not to retain an image, or even keep taking the same one until a satisfactory image appears. Many photos are now also stored digitally, the owner never having the joy of holding a hard copy in their hand.
I have no idea what happened to my Box Brownie. I have memories of moving on to something a little more sophisticated at some stage, possibly once I was earning my own money. The photos I have of my life in the 1970s suggest this happened, but I have no recollection of that camera, or others that obviously followed.
My Box Brownie was an important part of my life in the 1960s and I am thankful for the images it has preserved.