Brownies

Sometimes, you just have to “mix it up” once in a while. Polaroid’s arch nemesis, and industry giant, Kodak, really should receive the credit it richly deserves. For putting cameras into the hands of the “average’ photographer, making them inexpensive, and easy to use. And for the wonderful vernacular American snapshot. A fantastic read is “The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978″. Which has, in part, inspired some “lo-fi” Brownie photography. Having recently acquired a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, and a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash, I carefully tore both apart, and cleaned the optics and sprayed them down with WD-40. The brilliant Kodak industrial designer, Arthur Crapsey, engineered cameras that are the epitome of timeless Americana and functional design. As evident in how the bakelite finishes clean up so nicely. They both now look brand new. The Holiday takes 127 film, which I bought online from The Frugal Photographer. Based on the colors and grain structure, there is little question that Bluefire Murano 160 is respooled Kodak Portra 160 VC. The Hawkeye can take 120 film in the supply side, and uses 620 spools on the supply side. All of the “warnings” on the inside of the film chamber by Kodak, that the camera will not accept 120 film, make one chuckle. Oh, yet it will….
Sharp, Yet Soft- Through The Lens Of The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

Sharp, Yet Soft- Through The Lens Of The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

An Abandoned Alleyway, Captured With The Holiday.

An Abandoned Alleyway, Captured With The Holiday.

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts - Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, With Bluefire Murano 160 Speed 127 Film

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts - Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, With Bluefire Murano 160 Speed 127 Film

Polaroid has even come to the rescue here with the Kodak Brownies here. I managed to pull off a blue flash guard off a “parts only” Polaroid 268 Flashgun, and mount it onto the front of the Kodalite flashgun, which fit perfectly. To diffuse the flash, the Polaroid Close Up Kit diffuser now snaps on. Polaroid won 100’s of millions of dollars from Kodak over their ill-advised instant film camera disaster. Now, Polaroid helps Kodak out nicely. The blue is necessary to color balance the flash exposure with the color films. No, flash was not used here.
A couple of photographic takeaways. Because today’s modern color film is very sensitive to reds, masking the ruby-red film counters in the back of the Brownies with black electrical tape, or gaffer’s tape, is a must. You can then peel it away temporarily after exposure, and then advance the frame. Additionally, when you have the film processed, make sure to ask the lab to return the 127 or 620 spools.
Finally, just have fun with these cameras. Afterall, it is all about fun, unlike the cold, flat, pristine nature of digital. These little cameras have charm, heart, and soul. My Hawkeye was made in March of 1956, and the Holiday in January of 1954. Yet, look at what they can do. What is old, is somehow, new.
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7 thoughts on “Brownies

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks for posting about this. I bought some Bluefire Murano 127 film for my Brownie Holiday but am unsure about how far I have to wind the film before I’m ready to take a photo. I’ve loaded the film in, but do I wind the camera until I see “Auto Start” in the red window? Any instructions on how you loaded your Bluefire Murano film into your Brownie camera would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Victoria-

      Thanks for the nice comments, and for stopping by the blog. Make sure you see a “1”. And, make sure you cover the red window after each exposure with a piece of black gaffer’s or electrical tape. Unless you want a “Holga”-like look. Today’s film is much more sensitive to red than it was back in the day. Also, do some searches on YouTube, and listen to back episodes of ‘The Film Photography Podcast” (www.filmphotographyproject.com). That is how I really got hooked on loading up Brownies with film!

      -Arthur

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