Today, I’m excited to feature yet another guest post by Claire Voelkel, whose work we’ve featured many times before. She recently (and serendipitously!) got her paws on a Brownie Hawkeye camera, a model which Kodak first started producing in May 1949.
Fast-forward to 2010, and Claire is making magic happen with a vintage flair — but I’ll let her tell you all about it in her own words! For more, be sure to check out her full set on Flickr! Thanks so much, Claire!
The way I got my Brownie was completely a fluke. I was about to begin a photography unit with my Kindergartners and wanted to show them what an “old” camera looked like — they are young enough to have no clue what a roll of film is. So I bought a very cheap and retro-looking Kodak camera on eBay from a woman who had it sitting around in her basement. Because it was her first time selling on eBay, there ended up being some mix-ups in the shipping costs and thus she decided to throw in a darling little Brownie Hawkeye as a free ‘sorry for the trouble’ present.
And what a present it ended up being! If you haven’t seen one, they are the most charming little plastic boxes — and though Kodak swears up and down that they take only 620 film, as long as you have a 620 take up reel, 120 will work in it just fine. They are the easiest things on Earth to use. There’s no focus, no aperture, no metering — it’s as simple as pushing a button and relishing in that wonderfully satisfying
After seeing the work of other Brownie users on Flickr, I was completely enchanted at discovering the incredible effects you could get after flipping the lens. Since the flip, Brownie and I have now entered a soft and dreamy wonderland that is the complete opposite of the normal streamlined, hard-edged NYC that I am used to photographing and that my style has adapted to over the years. The fact that I have relatively little control over the image that Brownie creates provides for some refreshing abandon and enjoyment in all the happy accidents that the film world has up its sleeve.
I think challenging ourselves as photographers to constantly try out and adapt to different styles and viewpoints does a lot to keep us moving forward, and this cute little box couldn’t have been better for me in that regard. It’s lovely to be out now with (at least) two cameras and retrain my eye to see both the hard and solid New York that we all know and love so much, as well as the fluid, nostalgic world underneath full of memories and softness that we often forget to enjoy. In my quest to introduce film to my Kindergartners, they ended up introducing a whole new world of magical squares to me too.