Relics of the Past: Recovered Photos from an Old Kodak Camera

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All photos used with permission from Chris Finlay.

There’s something intriguing about finding a partially shot roll in a newly purchased vintage camera, especially when you have it developed and still get some good useable shots from it. It feels as if someone just handed you a piece of undiscovered history and you get to be one of the first few to know about it. Better yet, it feels as if you just unearthed an archaeological find, as small and minor as it is.

Medical student and Reddit user Chris Finlay from Little Rock, AR experienced first hand what that’s like. Having recently discovered the joys of film photography, he found himself a box of vintage cameras at a local thrift store in his city. In that box was an old Kodak #1 Folding Pocket, its bellows intact. And in that camera was a partially shot Kodak Brownie 120 film.

A cocktail of curiosity and fascination pushed Finlay to do extensive research on the camera and its unexpected treasure. He tells The Phoblographer,

“Over the next few weeks, another thrift store visit had yielded me a Rolleiflex in decent condition at a magical price, which really brought me into the medium format arena. I probably spent too much time researching this and 120 film. I waited until I had put a roll of B&W through the Rolleiflex as a trial run with this foreign-to-me film, so I had (hopefully) less of a chance of messing up the antique roll when I got around to pulling it out.

Eventually I figured out how to remove the camera from its metal chassis, and pulled out the film. It was wound around a metal spool stamped ‘Kodak Brownie’ and labeled only as ‘Kodak Brownie Film’. No speed rating, no process notes, no copyright marks.”

While the film’s paper backing offered no clues to its processing and not knowing whether or not they could retrieve any shots from it, Finlay had the good folks over at Bedford Camera to process the film in B&W anyway. As luck would have it, he got in return three wonderfully grainy shots of what seems like a day at the beach circa 1940s to 1960s… three windows that offer a small glimpse to someone else’s past.

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