Her, with the camera


~ vintage photo, early version of stereo camera designed to take stereoscopic images ~

Do you remember your first?
I do.  It was a box Brownie, bright pink plastic and I thought it was the cat's meow.
That probably was the start of everything.

Later, during college years, I collected a hoard of old relics, stacked them
on a bookcase in my tiny studio and if they were lucky
I even dusted now and then ... similar to this collection below
although not near as tidy.

~ photo collection courtesy of Flickr ~

I've simplified since then and only "collect" online images of these antiquities
 - far less space involved & no cleaning required -
and the subject matter is mostly women  using  cameras.
Don't ask why that started cuz I just don't know.

But here's some favorites ... all females, using the *tool* of the day.
Where am I going with this?  I hope it will become clear in the end.
I'm thinking these pictures may be good food for thought because
these glimpses back in time could spark a few potent thoughts about  now.

In no particular order than just because I like them ...

~ Kodak girl, 1909 ~

~ Photojournalist, Margaret Bourke-White with her camera during WWII assignment,
Time Magazine. Favorite quote: "Work is something you can count on, a trusted,
lifelong friend who never deserts you." ~

~ Myrtle Lind, posed with Graflex camera, 1919, Library of Congress ~

~ American, Berenice Abbot, portrait behind a view-camera, early  1900s.
Specialized in architecture & urban street photography ~

~ Georgia O'Keefe with her new Leica, New Mexico, by Todd Webb ~

~ Jessie Tarbox Beals, pioneer photographer working Worlds Fair, 1904.
"Her trademarks were her self-described 'ability to hustle' and her tenacity in
overcoming gender barriers in her profession." First female night photographer. ~

~ Patti Smith, with one of her Land Poloroids, circa 1960s ~

~ Maiko girls (Apprentice Geisha) with camera, Japan, postcard mid 1920s ~

~ Documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange, working on 'Dust Bowl' series, circa 1936.
Favorite quote: "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." 
I've had a framed postcard of this image in my room for over 30 years - such spirit ~

~ Women holding Kodak cameras, Ideal Home Exhibition, 1971, Eastman Kodak 
eyeeee, the hot pants! ~~

~ Elizabeth Taylor with a Rolleiflex, photographer unknown ~

~ vintage photograph, little girl with her camera, circa 1910, from Flickr ~

~ Mary Ellen Mark, self portrait with Marlon Brando, 1979 (set of 'Apocalypse Now').
Known for in-depth documentary projects and portraiture - Time Magazine called her
a "humanist" photographer.  My teacher for one life-altering workshop, 1985. ~

~ Woman holding early Kodak camera, 1895. The camera was sold with
the film already loaded.  The entire camera was returned to the  factory
for film processing. Hulton Archive, Getty Images. ~

~ Diane Arbus, Central Park, 1969.  Noted for photographs of marginalized people.
Photo, Gary Winogrand ~

~ Climbing pioneer, environmentalist, and feminist, Miriam O'Brien Underhill,
Chamonix Aiguilles, France, 1929. To scale this center ridge she held her camera between
 her teeth.  She was the first woman to conquer the Matterhorn, along with other 
challenging peaks. On these treks she climbed only with other women - famously known
as "manless Alpine climbing." ~

~ Imogen Cunningham, circa 1970s. Prolific American photographer known for
her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes.
Proponent of "sharp-focus rendition of simple subjects." ~

~ College girl recording her experiences in yearbook photos, date unknown ~

~ Margaret Bourke-White, top of the Chrysler Building, New York, NY 1935 ~

~ Edwardian woman, c. 1900. Possibly the world's oldest documented "selfie"
taken with a Kodak Brownie box camera ~

Which brings me back to the beginning of this story 
and that pink plastic Brownie camera ....

This morning I read a blog post by one of my favorite  male  photographers,
David du Chemin, called  'The Place of Craft.'  He always seems to arrive at the heart of
the matter, no matter what subject he chooses to speak about.  Now, although his post is
aimed at photographers - the craft of photography - one could replace that word with ANY
other artistic discipline and his thought provoking words could still be applied.

Here's why [aside from the fact that many of them produced incredible work]
I've put up a truckload of images of women using the cameras of their day,
and why the *tool* is not the point at all.
Not yesterday ... and not today.
Excerpt from du Chemin's post:

Make your art with the tool you have. Use a Polaroid or a RED camera. Use film or digital. Use Leica lenses or Lensbabies. Create abstracts and impressionistic studies of shape and colour, or stunning landscapes that are tack-sharp @ 400%, but don't kid yourself - it's not sharpness that makes it great. It never has been. Humanity doesn't need more sharpness. That is not one of the things for which we hunger. We hunger for beauty, and meaning, for stories, and for love - among other things, things that are communicated visually through light and composition - through our use of balance and tension and movement and scale and colour and a hundred other things that you can't buy in the B&H catalog, and won't be found in the manual of your new camera, no matter how much money you spend, no matter how much better your camera is than mine. We get it. Hell, every one of us has right now, at least one camera that's better than what every photographer who created a truly iconic image before the year 2000 ever had. You can make sharper, larger, cleaner images than any of them, together, ever made. And you know who cares?

: : :


  1. Christi, these pictures are amazing! The cameras are wonderful and remind me of the plethora of these that my hubbie, Bob has stored in the wooden cabinet in our basement. ( I have shared this post with him... you two have much in common!) I love the pictures of the poses on the top of the ladder and the top of the peak! No way I'd scale that high for a shot. But then, I'm more comfortable at a loom.....Such an adventure these women had and shared.

    1. oooooh, now that's a basement that would interest me !!

      Yes I agree - many of these women were true pioneers in their field and in their hobbies, as well. An adventurous spirit a key ingredient for all of them. And I think you have that at your loom ... No need for scaling high peaks - your creativity pours from your shuttle (hope that's the right term) fingers!

  2. the pictures are amazing there are something speciel about foto in black white i like very much . my first camera was a kind of little black box !!!!! you have a ability to find stories and pictures which made it interesting thank you

    1. I have a special spot in my heart for black & white, too. These days, there is so much garish *color* to be found in digital manipulations that I find the grey scale images extremely restful somehow .....
      Thank you, Bodil, so happy you liked it.

  3. Yup, my first camera WAS a Brownie. Given to me by my Uncle Bennie for my First Communion. Terry has saved every camera we ever owned..and every transistor radio. We love to take pictures, but never play at focus, shading etc. I often, really I do think of this often..what will our great grand children have to look back at when they wonder who their ancestors were. Where will they find our digital pictures?
    xx, Carol

    1. Ahhh, your last question is fodder for an entire new post! Mainly within digital storage files, I expect, for long gone are the days of holding hard copies of every print in our hands (which I for one am pleased about - less paper consumption, less darkroom chemical production, etc). The tiny little museum where I work here on Lopez has amassed an amazing digital collection of family images. When we began, the project was daunting but now several thousand images later, not so much. More food for thought?

  4. What a beautiful post with which to start my morning. I'll be reading it over and over again. I loved seeing some of the photographers that have shared some of my time on earth. Looking back brought these women back to life for me. I too started out with a brownie camera (come to think of it I was a 'Brownie' when I got that first camera. I've never been without one, but until I started blogging they were used mostly to record family or places visited. Thank you so much for this -- I'll be looking at my little Cannon with new eyes.

    1. Seems a whole passel of us started out with Brownies (and I was a 'Brownie' too altho I remember not liking it too much). Showing our age, me thinks. Pleased you liked the post, Penny, thank you.

  5. beautiful images. i, too, had a Brownie as my first (but not pink). my dad's hobby was photography and i have his old camera....much like the one Elizabeth Taylor is holding in the image above. my dad always used to say that it's not the camera that makes a great image but the person who is taking the picture.
    i also recently found some round negatives from a camera that, i think, Kodak put out but it wasn't a very successful one.

    1. Those negs are AMAZING, deanna ... I've never seen them before. I may go to The Google and see if I can find some background. How curious. I bet longterm storage was gonna be a snarly issue, if nothing else....

      My Brownie was pink because - I think, if memory serves - my mom got it on one of those special anniversary promotion deals. Dang, I loved that thing. That's truly wonderful that you still have your dad's camera. Those old Rolli's were workhorses!

    2. here's a link with some info:

    3. Thanks much, d, will go have a look-see.......

  6. I wanted this post to be a book so that I could keep on wandering through it and not be packing a suitcase:: Pa gave me his old box brownie when I was seven as well as a developing kit which we used together in the blacked out bathroom. When I was a bit older I'd use the Uni darkroom in his department after hours. I have him to thank for my interest in making pictures.

    Had to giggle at the hotpants pic. The outfit on the left including boots was what I lived in for a while as a young teenager. Blush.

    1. I will not even begin to describe to you the hot pants outfits I used to put together ... loosely using the term *put together* ah hem.

      Lovely story about your pa and your photographic beginnings with him. Seems many of us owe Kodak some gratitude for those box brownies, too...

  7. this post is truly a trigger for me .. i have had a love affair with film since my dad first let me work with him in the dark room .i must have been about 6 or 7 . he gave me my first camera a yashica when i was 11 ( still have it ). today the iphone is my best friend . i am still amazed at myself .i fought the digital world forever, stubborn , now i am a complete convert . i feel a lot of these women opened a lot of doors to future generations . i remember the first time i saw a diane arbus photo . it was magic . i will never forget that feeling .
    photos record what i see... that is what i use it for .it helps when i am working in another media . it triggers my muse .
    thank you christi .

    1. Such fine memories you have, Kathy, and gosh how terrific you've still got your first Yashica ... wish I still had my first "real" camera. Like you, I fought the digital world tooth & nail but am a complete convert now - also mainly an iPhone-ographer these days. Still have my bags of DSLR & 645 gear, tripods etc. but rarely pull them out. My phone is like a pocket fairy and apps are the magic dust where everything happens ;>))

      I'm pleased this post struck a chord. Several of these women showed me paths I didn't know existed - even ones where I didn't want to go which is equally as valuable. Thanks so much for sharing what it meant to you.

  8. This is so beautiful - what a wonderful collection!

  9. This post made me so happy. What a collection of great, fantastic women. It helps me to think of them.