That moment when photography becomes part of daily life
Last week, the Huffington Post released a series of casual snapshots taken with Kodak’s first mass-market cameras back in 1890. The photos are fascinating. The situations and subjects are the same sorts of moments we would choose to preserve with our digital cameras today, but with differences in clothing and attitudes that clearly mark these photographs as a product of their time. By modern standards, the children at the beach (above) are completely overdressed, as is the woman rowing a boat in a striped dress complete with matching hat and veil (below).
If you’ve spent any time looking at images from the early days of photography, these will stand out to you for another reason. With the possible exception of the woman reading the glowing book (below), these don’t feel staged. These are people out enjoying their day, while someone else — their father, mother, friend — takes a quick snapshot to preserve the moment. This is the moment when technology shifted to make photography an accessible part of daily life, and not simply something to be endured by appointment.
For a writer interested in the Victorian era, this collection is a goldmine. It is so hard to find images from moments when people are just out and about doing whatever it is they do when people aren’t looking. Yet those moments are critical to crafting good historical fiction.
The Huffington Post article gives only a taste of the collection preserved at the National Media Museum. You can see more of it at the National Media Museum’s Flickr page.
- National Media Museum Flickr archive of vintage photos (National Media Museum)
- Photographs taken with Kodak’s first commercial camera are now 125 years old (Huffington Post)
- Museum highlights trove of photos from the late 1800s (ksl.com)