The demise of Kodak has prompted a flood of reminisces about the great old camera company based in Rochester, N.Y., and what it has meant to Americans.
It meant a lot: shoe boxes full of memories and family histories; 35-mm color photos and slides so gorgeous they inspired a pop song (“They give us those nice bright colors, they give us the greens of summers”); stark, haunting black and white photos conveying the events of the day or the harsh realities of the world.
The end of Kodak and the central role the iconic company played in post-World War II consumerist America prompted me to pull out the Old Man’s Kodak. The “Senior Six-16,” according to the manufacturer, hit the market in 1937 and sold for $33.50. That was a lot of money in those days. I’m guessing my father bought it after the price dropped since it was replaced by a newer model in 1939.
Perhaps the ol’ Shutter Bug used some of his Army Air Corps back pay accumulated overseas during World War II?
As I hope the slideshow that follows attests, the fold-up Senior Six-16 must’ve been the iCamera of its day – except, of course, it didn’t represent a lifestyle, merely a signal to the Joneses that you were keeping up.
Sleek, easy to use, portable and reliable. Just sling the case over your shoulder and scout for a nice back drop for picture taking. Shoot a “vertical” picture to capture majestic Red Woods; “horizontal,” or what we now call “landscape” format, to squeeze all the kiddies into the shot. Kodak’s optical view finder worked great in either mode.
The ability to take a portable camera on a family vacation must have been the mid-20th century equivalent to asking Siri for directions to the nearest gas station.
In the end, Kodak couldn’t keep up with the pace of change in digital photography. But the company was a trail blazer in designing easy-to-use consumer products for the masses. Companies like Apple owe a great debt to the design gurus at Kodak.
And who knows? Perhaps Kodachrome will have a comeback akin to vinyl records.
By the late 1930s, Kodak was introducing a new camera model after two years. The "Senior Six-16" was considered a high-end camera in its day, featuring an "Anistigmat Lens".