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First Visions with a Brownie Starflash

My first camera, a Kodak Brownie Starflash, was a clunker. But, the photos I took with it formed the base of my photographic vision.

Photo by emperornorton

“Why don’t you take any pictures of people?” my mother used to hound me. I hated family reunions because I was called upon to shoot boring rows and rows of family members in what I cursed as “line-em-up” shots. The pictures I took of the places we went were my personal favorites. In particular, there was a project I undertook to photograph the many faces of a nearby hill.

Other kids my age had cool Kodak Instamatics with color film. They laughed at my Brownie Starflash — a klunker of a camera that shot 127 roll film. I got the last laugh, though. The 126 cartridges they depended on are no longer made.

Mom’s restrictions limited me to one or two rolls each year. She didn’t trust me with color because it was “expensive.” It rattled her when the photos weren’t perfect. Photos of scenery fit this box.

The Starflash, however, with its plastic lens, molded the photographer that I am today. It taught me the beauty of black and white. Through its imperfect, soft-focused images, it helped make me see a world that could be caught within a frame.

With this camera I took my first wildlife photos — some elk at Yellowstone — and geysers that I would revisit nearly 40 years later.

The world changed. So did this photographer and his equipment. But when I opened my old albums following my mother’s recent death, I found good.

And I found this — a picture of my mom and dad at the Grand Canyon.

Photo by emperornorton

Look, Mom. It has people in it.

For more information on the Brownie Starflash, visit Camerapedia.

written by emperornorton


  1. herbert-4


    Wonderful article!! Do you still have your Kodak?? It can take very sharp photos, just stay >6ft away and remember that the ckick is ~1/50sec. Very good picture taker, you just need steady hand.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. littlekoala


    Nice pictures and a beautiful story :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. emperornorton


    @herbert-4 I don't know if I do. It might have gone to the Goodwill because I thought 127 film wasn't being made anymore. When I was younger, I often moved the whole camera when I clicked the shudder. Funny how some of us do that.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. emperornorton


    @littlekoala Thank you!

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  5. bloomchen


    it´s a funny thing you mention that your mom asked to take pictures with people on it. quite often i think those people walking around here ruin my picture ;) more on colour than on b/w. and if i look at the pictures my parents made there are only few with no people on it - actually thinking about it i´d say they just took pictures of events/parties. the only pics that come to my mind without people are those of the house my parents build up.

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  6. emperornorton


    @bloomchen I take long, lonely walks with my dog with the precise intent of avoiding people so that I can take my photos undisturbed.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  7. weedos


    Wonderful article!!

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam