Taking photos

box-brownie-filmThere were no digital cameras in 1949 (when I was seven) and cameras used a roll of “film” instead of “digital memory” (see the picture).  The film had to be changed in a very dark room to avoid exposing it to light, which would have ruined it.  Films were also quite expensive, so you tended to take just one shot of a scene, rather than many.  Colour film wasn’t available at that time, so all your photos were in shades of black-and-white.

You could fit maybe twenty photos onto a roll of film.  When it was full, it had to be removed from the camera (in the dark) and taken (in a package that light couldn’t get into) to a chemist or camera shop to be “developed”.  The development process involving putting the film into liquid chemicals (in a room lit with red light) and then printing the image onto special light-sensitive paper.  It took maybe a week to get your photos back.

Cameras didn’t have a “flash” to deal with very poor light, so you had to light the room in some other way, or not take the photo, or put the camera on a tripod and use an extra-long exposure (hoping that nobody moved!!!).  Flashes didn’t become available on ordinary cameras until about the 1960s.


box-brownieA very popular camera at that time was the “Box Brownie”.  It had been invented in 1900, but was so cheap and easy-to-use that it was still being sold in 1949 (half a century later).  Here’s a photo of one:

And here are a couple of videos showing how to use a Box Brownie camera (you’ll see that it’s much more complicated than modern digital and phone cameras):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PljfA4BvXs (how to load film into a Box Brownie)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HTB2Z_2bHU (how to take photos with a Box Brownie)


bellows-cameraHere is a slightly more sophisticated camera from that the time.  With this one you could manually change the focus (to make sure the person you photographed didn’t come out blurry) and change the “aperture” (which meant making the little round hole the light went through larger or smaller, to deal with poor light or bright sunlight).


Tripod camera.jpgMy father, Alf Lacey (known as “Grampy” to his grandchildren), was a  good photographer and was also very interested in the history of photography.  I remember he owned some antique cameras, which he kept in the basement of our Maungaturoto house, similar to the one in this photo:

These old-fashioned cameras made a picture by exposing a sensitised glass plate to light.  The glass plate was slid into a slot at the back and you “took the photo” by removing a cap from the lens at the front.  If you were photographing people, they would have to stand very still for the whole time the cap was off (maybe five or ten seconds).

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