Remembering My Old Box Brownie Camera

Val MillsStarred Page By Val Mills, 8th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Photography

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

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.


1960S, Black White Photos, Box Brownie, Camera, Camera Film, Photography, Taking Photographs

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author avatar Val Mills
Self-published writer, coffee drinker, enjoying life. Also found at and

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Jul 2011 (#)

This took me back to the days when I owned a Brownie. Great share. Thank you Val.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
8th Jul 2011 (#)

I love the look of these older photos, they really capture the nostagia of the times.

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author avatar J A Ridley
8th Jul 2011 (#)

More picture from this camera please? Great share Thanks

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author avatar Denise O
8th Jul 2011 (#)

Just a great story Val of you and your box brownie camera. I just love the photos! Congrats on the star page, it is well deserved. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Songbird B
8th Jul 2011 (#)

What a nostalgic article, Val.. Although I didn't have a Box Brownie, my first camera was pretty basic too, and this really took me back..Great Star Page my friend, and a really nostalgic share...

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author avatar Carol
8th Jul 2011 (#)

This is lovely Val, I used to have one too. I love the pics too.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
8th Jul 2011 (#)

You know Val, I'm from that very same era and the way you describe the rushing off with the saved money to pay for the prints, and the free film occasionally, was great to read about, but where you described:"the owner never having the joy of holding a hard copy in their hand." really did it for me, it reminds me about when I was attempting to throw out some old photos the other day, after storing them digitally.Some of those very same photos had been handled by friends and family, no longer with us. It made me go and fetch them right back from the pile of scrapped paper next to the shredder.They can just sit there back inside the box on top of the cupboard, until i'm gone.Thank you so much for the great read my friend.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Jul 2011 (#)

Wonderful memories, thanks Val!

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author avatar Retired
8th Jul 2011 (#)

Your article took me back to the first camera I owned--a Kodak pocket camera and the silly photos of friends and family I took. Thanks for sharing.....

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
10th Jul 2011 (#)

Those WERE the days! Black and white TV and flash-bulbs (Blue dot for sure shot!)

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author avatar Christine Ramsay
22nd Jul 2011 (#)

I love that story, Val. We had no camera in the house during our teenage years so sadly I have no pictures of that time. I do remember the Box Brownie we had before then which got stolen during a burglary.

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