If you consider its history, the camera has really been one of the most ubiquitous consumer gadgets of all time. From the original Brownie and the Kodak company to Instagram and the iPhone, taking pictures has been a gadget focused hobbyist pursuit for more than 100 years. Explore the history of the camera and celebrate a century of beautiful design with these home decor solutions and vintage camera finds from my personal collection and around the web.
Build a collection
Building a collection of vintage cameras is a great way to celebrate your love of photography while bringing style and classic design into your home. Antique cameras also make for great conversation starters, so get to know the history of your unique finds. Here are a few classic cameras from my collection.
The Polaroid SX-70
One of my personal favorites from my household collection is the Polaroid SX-70. An incredibly popular model in its day, it's known for its unique ability to fold flat for easy carrying while introducing to consumers Polaroid's killer feature; the ability to process your pictures on the fly.
Time Magazine listed the SX-70as one of the top 100 Gadgets of all time, and thanks to the Impossible Project, this camera is still as usable as ever. These marvels of design are still pretty easy to find on eBay, or often in antique shops or even yard sales (where I found mine). For the serious vintage camera geek, the SX-70 really is a must have addition to any collection.
Another archetypal camera, the Brownie is arguably the first affordable consumer level cameras to hit the market, available from Eastman Kodak as early as 1900. With a $1 price tag, the brownie introduced the concept of the snapshot, letting everyday people grab candid shots of their lives. The camera's film had no cartridge like later consumer offerings, so early photographers would send the entire camera into the Eastman Kodak company for processing. The camera was sold under the slogan "You push the button, we do the rest."
The Brownie was one of the first cameras in my collection — my 1930's Brownie Junior Six-20 was handed down to me from my grandfather. It's not exactly a marvel of design — really just a box — but any serious collector will likely want one just for the history, and due to their remarkable popularity for the first half of the 20th century, they're still quite easy to find.
Century Camera Company Model 41 5x7 large format
Perhaps not as popular among consumers as the Brownie or the SX-70 Polaroid, this 5x7 large format camera from 1904 is still an amazing find. With its folding bellow and wooden case, this model from the Century Camera Company of Rochester, New York is a fantastic addition to a vintage camera collection.
Large format camera were popular among professionals of the early 19th century, and finding one in good condition makes for a beautiful show piece for your home, and a way to show off your knowledge of early camera tech. You can find a number of unique large format cameras on eBay and even Etsy has a selection of large format cameras for you to peruse and bolster your vintage camera collection.
Celebrate the history the camera with these other home accessories
Fans of vintage cameras might also get a kick out of this unique pencil sharpener, availible from urban outfitters as a functional addition to your desk or workspace.
Etsy store owner PropParadise offers up a selection of framed vintage camera print advertisements which celebrate both the early culture of the camera, and also the fascinating history and classic design of 20th century print marketing.
These handmade nightlights built from classic cameras by Jason Hull are a really neat DIY reappropriation of vintage cameras to bring a little light into your home.
This modern black mobile, available on eBay, celebrates some of the best designs from the history of photography (including the Brownie and the Polaroid).
Celebrating the past
Photography has seen an incredible evolution in the past 120 years, and it's still going strong. Though after 100 years the Eastman Kodak company is no longer with us, we have new industrial designers and innovators bringing photography to life with our smartphones, modern digital and DSLR's. Though photography as a hobby is alive and well, one wonders if the digital cameras of today will ever be looked at with the same reverence as the vintage cameras of the past. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, let's continue to celebrate the culture, innovation, and design of more than 100 years of people taking pictures.
(Images: 1-4: Sean Rioux, all others: as credited above)