Kodak Girls

When I started looking for famous female photographers to present here on the page, I stumbled across something called Kodak Girls. It was women who were depicted on Kodak's advertising images from the late 19th century onwards. Most often they were anonymous women, sometimes known but they were rarely, always on the go with the camera ready. I thought it was an exciting phenomenon and searched a little further.

George Eastman at Kodak invented a camera that was easy to carry with him, easy to handle and cheap to buy. This ultimately meant that Kodak had a whole concept of cameras, film reels and a system where the film could be sent to Kodak for development. Photography suddenly became so easy that even a woman can handle it? Maybe that's how they thought of Kodak when the first advertising images and posters were introduced at the end of the 19th century.

Perhaps it was the case in the 1890s that Kodak directed his advertising at women because they had the hope that women would also embrace the camera and start photographing their everyday lives. It was at a time when women so small began to take a little more care and strive for independence. They thought that women would want to document life, family and the fashion of the time. It started in 1892 when their ads showed the adventurous Kodak girl posing with the camera and taking photographs in various places. It turned out to be a smart move and many women soon had a camera. The women became both photographers and models in the pictures and in advertising.

Claude Allin Shepperson / Public domain

The women in the commercials were not just photographers, over time the promotional images showed how they developed the images and put them together in albums for the family. The family became increasingly central and in the spotlight was the woman who cared for the home and the children and who had the opportunity to document that part of life.

Over time, the images in the Kodak commercial changed from the women as active photographers to be an eye-catcher. It started in the 1930s when the man began to be illustrated as the active with the camera and the woman became the subject, the woman was still part of the adventure. In the 1950s, the images were designed more to show the woman photographing or posing in the nuclear family to move to once again show more adventurous women, but now happy to show as models in a swimsuit and camera as an accessory. The later promotional images perhaps attracted more men than women to buy cameras, perhaps. After the digital camera's entry, the camera industry has generally received some criticism for missing half of the potential clientele in its advertising.

Released by Eastman Kodak, image has "Jessie Willcox Smith" signature. Image also has some text below the bottom right of the image: " Drawn by Collier's Weekly for Eastman Kodak, courtesy Collier's Weekly. Copyright 1904 by Collier's Weekly". / Public domain

Sources
:The Guardian (2012) Women in focus: the Kodak girl – in pictures.
Heiferman, M (2009) Kodak Girl. Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Keane, M., Quinn, B. (2010) Who's That Kodak Girl? Early Camera Ads Depict Women as Adventurous Shutterbugs. Collectors Weekly.
The Kodak Girl Collection[WWW 2020-04-03] https://www.kodakgirl.com/index.htm
Ryerson Archives & Special Collections (2013) The Kodak Girl: Women in Kodak Advertising

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