The beleaguered middle class seems to be fading away like a once cherished Kodak snapshot.
The red white and blue American Dream once sparkled in Kodacolor.
Kodak and the American Dream were made for one another. The wholesome images of All-American family fun portrayed in their long running advertisements would saturate our Kodacolor dreams for decades creating a template for the middle class.
These wholesome, homogenous tableau’s created by Kodak, along with the familiar yellow and red logo, insinuated themselves into the very fabric of American family life.
Kodak Developed Family Memories
Bristling with their box brownies, Americans have long been hard at work recording the spectacle of the their middle class moments, cameras clicking away at birthday parties, little league games, picnics, communions and graduations.
1900 marked the arrival of the groundbreaking Brownie dollar camera.
For a buck -with film costing 15 cents for 6 shots -everyone could now archive their life.
Suddenly this simple camera and film would give “you and million others- not camera wizards, just average everyday folks- the power to make wonderful snapshots of family friends and home.”
That same year the infamous little box Brownie made its debut, my grandmother Sadie was born and her father, my Russian born businessman great-grandfather rushed out and purchased one of the first Brownies, like a “real Yankee.”
Despite it being designed to be “so simple a child could use it”, the family Brownie gathered dust, as my great-grandfather still preferred the stiff, formal studio portraits so popular at the time.
All I would see of my grandmother’s childhood were the framed steely toned portraits of her youth that she kept on display on her living room drum table. Much of her privileged carefree childhood was recorded against a staged studio backdrop.
These stilted images in subtle sepia tones with hints of blue matted in thick stock paper with the mysterious name of Sol Young Studios Brooklyn embossed on the back, had left an indelible imprint on me.
Not only were the old-fashioned photos unrecognizable as my silver-haired up-to-date-Cadillac driving-Jack La-Lanne-exercising-grandmother, but they bore little resemblance to any happy-go-lucky mid-century kids I knew.
These staid, solemn photographs stood in stark contrast to the fun-saver snapshots of my own-you push the button we do the rest Kodak moments
You Press The Button-It Does The Rest
Snapshots were the great equalizer, the perfect tool for a democratic society, capturing the quintessential American good life.
Knowledge of technology was unimportant for a Kodak picture. The film was made for all who wanted to get a good picture of their good times…without any bother. No fuss no muss. With its automatic push-button ease Kodak was a precursor to the easy living push-button world that would characterize mid-century America
With Verichrome film, the ads promised, they “get the picture” and that’s that.
It made picture-taking so easy so sure, the ads promised even a child ( or a woman) with film in his Brownie could take a good picture. Everyman could be his own Norman Rockwell recording and replicating those saccharine filled moments captured so brilliantly in those light drenched ads.
In this bliss no one knew what went on in the darkroom nor did they need too. Like the telephone the camera was this simple magical black box that could be used without being understood.
Just as we were blissfully ignorant of the shadows of society, we were happy to bask in the sunny Kodacolor optimism the ads promised, that sunny outlook that fit in so well with our sense of self.
The death knell for Eastman Kodak, that very recorder and reinforce of middle class America seems to sadly coincide with the Autumn of that ethos of upward mobility it helped reinforce.
What are your Kodak memories?
Copyright (©) 20013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved