Once upon a time, when film photography was not some obscure hobby reserved for a bunch of hipsters, everyone did it: pros and amateurs alike, housewives, children and grannies – secret agents even. Take a trip down memory lane with these nostalgic vintage ads.
A couple of decades ago, Agfa, Kodak, Ansco, Fuji, Sakura, Konica, Ilford and Ferrania were all still in business and made millions selling films in all formats you can imagine: 110 for pocket cameras, 126 for Instamatics, 35mm for compacts, 120 for serious Hasselblads, 127 for Rolleiflexes, plus sheet film and instant film. Films were abundantly available and came in black and white, colour negative and slide, for daylight, flash or tungsten and in speeds from 1 to 1,000.
Competition between the film manufacturers was stiff and as such they forked out large portions of their profits for advertising. With catchy slogans – ’You Get the Picture with Kodak Film’, ’Any Camera is a Better Camera with Ansco Film’, ’For Beautiful Pictures Load Fuji Film’, ’Ask for Agfa Film and Get Better Pictures’ – and by carefully distinguishing themselves by the colours of their boxes – ’The Film in the Familiar Yellow Box’ (Kodak), ’Look for the Red and Blue Box’ (Ansco), ’The One in the Green Box’ (Fuji), ’The Green Box with the Rainbow Top’ (Perutz) – they lured costumers to their films instead of the competitor’s.
Those ads now provide a wonderful trip down memory lane, straight back to the heyday of film photography, when you didn’t find the best bargains online, but went to your local photo shop to see what they had in stock, or not. Flickr user Nesster has posted hundreds of vintage ads from magazines. The scans are somewhat sloppy (I’ve levelled them and touched them up slightly before posting them here), but the ads provide a wonderful flashback to the heyday of film photography. Here’s my subjective and questionable selection of the best ads from those five decades.
The 1930s were still mostly snapped in black & white, but the first colour films were introduced – although those early Dufaycolor and Kodachrome shots looked more like pop art than actual photos.
During the war, Kodak continued ‘serving human progress through photography’ by promoting their special-purpose products like infrared and microfilm, which apparently were quite useful to spies. After that, it was back to carefree snapping, advertised by a girl salaciously dipping her toes into a swimming pool.
The 1950s saw the demise of black & white in favour of colour photography. Ads promised new depth, new realism and natural colours, but the fact that in the US you could have your slides developed by colour-shifted Hollywood company Technicolor says it all.
In the 1960s competition between the major film manufacturers increased, with Kodak raising an uncanny question, Agfa throwing in happy families as well as scantily clad girls, Ansco reducing their product range to to ‘People Film’ and ‘Things Film’ and Ilford surprisingly labelling themselves the ‘Leader in Colour’.
Unsurprisingly, the 1970s is when things get really weird. Fuji convinces us their films are superior because Japanese eyes are better than ours, Agfa relies on the avant-garde (read: an afroed disco dude and a bearded recluse) to sell their films and to promote their prepaid processing mailers, Kodak shows they would even deliver prints to a David Livingstone-like character living deep in the jungle.
Agfa takes to America in the 1980s, Kodak recreates Rembrandt on film, Konica proclaims it took them 114 years to make the best film in the world and Fuji ventures into popsicles and express trains. Oh, and Kodak also launches films that see in the dark and can capture UFOs.
Most of these have been taken from the collection of Flickr user Nesster, with a few from other users (Paul_Clayton, Lost-Albion, Regcir, jessicabeth and Nmarie) thrown in for good measure. Find more vintage film and camera ads here:
What is your own favorite vintage ad? Have you found another great collection yourself? Please share in the comments below!
Editor’s note: You may also want to take a look at other articles on vintage camera ads here in the Magazine!