Do You Dream in Kodacolor?

1960s housewife taking a picture with Brownie camera

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.

1950s familys Kodak camera winter easter

(L) Vintage Kodak Ad 1952 (R) Vintage Kodak Camera Ad 1950

happy familys 1950s

After WWII Kodak ramped up their already heavily sentimental ads to fit in with the ethos of domestic post-war America, the middle class family idealized as never before.
(L) Vintage Kodak Camera Ad 1948 (R) Vintage Kodak Ad 1955

Kodak Developed Family Memories

B&W photo 1940s family on picnic

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.

vintage phot of children 1908

A studio portrait of my grandmother Sadie (l) and her 2 sisters 1908

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

1950s happy family enjoying Kodak moments

“Nobody gets more fun out of making a good snapshot, Kodak assured us,” than a rank beginner- a kid or maybe a woman who was always afraid of a camera!”
(L) Vintage Kodak Camera Ad 1950 (R) Vintage Kodak Ad 1951

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.

happy suburban family 1960s in their station wagon

Pictures radiated with suburban domestic bliss and abundance.
(L) Vintage Kodak Ad 1962 (R) Vintage Kodak Ad 1950s

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.

1950s suburban family playing in fall leaves

Snapshots caught the middle class moments of our lives.
Vintage Kodak camera ad 1957

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

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  1. Pingback: A Blueprint For The Middle Class | Envisioning The American Dream

  2. I don’t miss the days of film cameras. Not all photos taken are masterpieces, but you paid to have all of them processed anyway, printed, too, if you didn’t wait to see what looked decent when the negatives came back. The capability of deleting a digital file that doesn’t match expectations or fine-tuning by Photoshop more than makes up for the hassle of negative and print storage.

    Kodachrome (slides) offered on alternative to prints, one alternative that I liked, but duplicating a slide involved making a negative of the slide to print the photo, a process that cost some detail. Again, the storage of slides, the hassle of setting up a screen, the cost of projector bulbs, and other small hassles made slides a hassle, too.

    Even motion picture films were a hassle! I much prefer videos. Editing films was easy enough. (Mmmm! Acetone! Open the window, please!) Dealing with a bad splice that broke or jammed in the sprockets of the projector was no fun. Again the cost of the projector bulb, having to set up a screen, limitations of editing compared with video files, and storage issues won’t be missed.


  3. jim bello

    Wonder how much retouch work was required for these Kodak ads because they lend themselves so well to Illustration and not a photo at all. The photographer Almost produced Rockwell like paintings.


  4. Pingback: Kodak Moments in the Age of Anthony Weiner | Envisioning The American Dream

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