In the late 1880s, Kodak released the box camera, the first camera available to the masses. Prior to its release, cameras were typically popular amongst trained scientists and artists, but the box introduced the ease of the snapshot; its tagline read, “You Press The Button, We Do The Rest.” Families who might not have been able to afford painted portraits could capture memories in film; the Kodak moment was born.
For $25, which accounting for inflation would be comparable modern-day price of an iPhone, the public had the power to frame themselves and their families within the box’s 100 invaluable shots. Luckily for us, the National Media Museum has released some of the images.
Bloggers have been quick to note the absence of “duck face” in these early selfies, and there is indeed a moving sense of unselfconscious exploration within the sepia-toned disks. Even the most carefully posed subjects exude a sense of wonder at the machine, hoping that it might crystallize a moment of exploration.
The images offer an exciting glimpse into life at the turn of the century, including the emergence of the New Woman, the ideal of the educated and career-minded women who refused to take a subservient role in American and European society. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are versions of the New Woman caught on film, the fashion-forward lady rowing a boat, reading her books, or working in the marketplace.
Thanks to Lost At E Minor, PSFK, and National Media Museum
Images via Lost At E Minor, PSFK, and National Media Museum
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