My mother had just completed her intermediate when my grandfather gifted her the Kodak SIX- 20 Brownie Camera Model – E.
She remembers it costed forty rupees at that time and it was a huge amount to spend for her father on such a luxury but my granddad always appreciated hard work and never stopped anyone from pursuing their interests. My mom was the eldest of six children and even though the earning were not so high she was gifted this beauty which has come to us as a legacy.
This box camera was manufactured till 1957 and then it topped being made. So it is one of the collectibles. It came with meniscus f/11, 100mm with portrait lens, a single blade shutter, two brilliant view finders, 2 pin flash contacts, tripod sockets and cable release socket, metal winding knob and release button and shutter safety catch. Mom says she used 120 and 620 films which gave 12 images. It was manufactured by Kodak England in the early 1950s and had two built-in filters. One is a yellow filter and the other one is close-up filter and they both pull in/out using a lever on the side. It was a relatively low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera that even children could operate.
The camera traveled everywhere with my mother and she captured some of the most memorable moments with it. She fondly remembers a picture she took of a caravan of camels crossing the chambal river in the ravines as the sun slowly made its descend behind the hills. Most of the family pictures in Banaras where she lived were clicked by this little wonder. The whole family life of her friends, siblings, parents and relatives captured in images that are now neatly placed in bundles marked by year, date and time. Later the smiles & tears and the memorable “first” moments of her children ( me and my elder brother) were also captured by this camera. Slicing of a moment and freezing it forever in all its vulnerability. I think it was her sketchbook of intuition and spontaneity.
I was very small when the camera developed some light problem and even the films became unavailable. When mom used to open the black trunk in which she kept her valuables I as a little girl would sit with her exploring the treasures, the heirlooms, the albums surrounded by the scent of old cotton sarees of my grandmother mixed with a mild fragrance of cloves tied in small bundles to keep the bugs away. Those times were full of stories and myths that each photograph told. For hours we would sit with old yellowing pictures and this box camera in my lap remembering days from a distant time, distant era. Events that could not be reproduced but for those B&W images. The process sometimes became self revelatory. one begins to find a part of oneself in each person who is photographed. A bit like alchemy. As a little girl I would click imaginary photographs with it, people, places, and spin stories around them. Most of the pictures were hand drawn sketches but were appreciated as perfect photographs. Such are the joys of childhood when you aren’t judged for anything.
The camera still has its original brown leather with a metal clasp though it is opening up from the seams now.
Some days back I found a large bundle of old letters and photographs and along with them this camera which lay forgotten among the past relics. I did some research on the Brownie cameras by Kodak and came up with this interesting article The history of the twentieth century cameras . It is amazing how the technology has advanced. The model -E is rare and not many sites feature it.
Today as mom and I sat looking through the pictures again I wondered how this little device gave us memories some unforgettable events in our lives. Nostalgia gripped her as we talked about the advancement in photography. Not many young women had the luxury of owning a camera of their own when mom got it. The printing and film cost were not very high but pursuing a hobby still added to the expense.
Its been a long journey full of kodak moments. The camera is not in use now and has become part of the memories it created. A collectible that is part of history as well as our personal lives.
Here are some photographs taken from the camera. Most of the photos are of mom’s family and many of them are tucked away in cartons.
These were with me so uploading. One picture is taken in 1953 at Kanyakumari in which mom and her two sisters are at the sea-shore.
The first close up with a baby is mom and my brother, the second is me and mom . The lake scene she can’t remember but it could be Nainital.
Now we have moved to much advanced DSLRs, digital cameras and mobile phone cameras but these bittersweet moments are all we have of times gone by. The time before digital photography. The heyday of Kodak with the famous slogan ” you push the button we do the rest.”
Kodak pioneered in home photography and now after a hundred and thirty years of making memories the company has stopped making cameras.
I am looking for some experts In New Delhi, India who can correct the fault with the camera and provide the 620 film roll if possible. I want to bring this memorable device to life. Suggestions are welcome.