It’s Not the Gear: Kodak Brownie Bullet II

Kodak Brownie Bullet II

Kodak Brownie Bullet II

In 1962, at the ripe old age of 15, this little camera catapulted me into photography’s big time. Well maybe not big time exactly, but I did take an award-winning photograph with it. Back then Kodak sponsored a prestigious photography contest in the United States, for high school students all across the country, called surprisingly enough, the Kodak National High School Photography Contest. And I was one of the winners that year: a small cash prize, my photo and name published, a nice certificate, and an 8 x 10 inch print of my photo. Heady times for a 15-year-old.

box camera

Kodak Box Camera 1940s – 1950s

In 1962 the camera cost a whopping $4.75 (or about $38.00 today when adjusted for inflation). You can read more about it here at Kodak Brownie Bullet II. It was a simple camera to the max, but a small step up from the antique 1940s box camera I’d been using since I started snapping shutters at the age of 7, which would have been in 1954. You can see I’ve been taking pictures for a very long time indeed. The picture was of our neighbour’s white Persian cat looking down from a fork in a tree. The exposure was pleasing, and the composition was spot on.


Yashica-D Twin Lens Reflex (TLR)

The cash award, along with some financial help from my dad, let me buy my first big boy camera: a Yashica-D twin lens reflex (TLR). Now I could manually focus, set my aperture, and my shutter speed. I couldn’t do any of that with the two primitive cameras I had before. I continued with my photography education throughout high school, and combined with what my dad was teaching me I began to take some pretty good photographs. I’ve been taking pictures now for 62-years, and believe it or not I’m still learning. Digital technology and Photoshop, which I embraced in 2009, were both steep learning curves for me.

Maybe someday I can con my son into rummaging through my old trunks, and digitally scan my old photo so I can share it with you. I’d like to see it again myself, to see if its stood the test of time after all these years. Since my little Kodak Brownie II I’ve owned a lot of nice cameras, some of the best made in the world in fact. But I must admit that little Kodak hunk of plastic still has a warm place in my heart. It ignited a lifelong passion that remains today. Photography still excites me and gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Anything that can do that after 62 years is a good thing.

WB BW IMG_2747

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, and World Traveller

Lima, Peru

3 responses to “It’s Not the Gear: Kodak Brownie Bullet II

  1. My first was a Kodak Instamatic 104 that used 35mm type 126 drop in cartridges making it idiot proof for anyone to load – but I did test that on more than one occasion trying to put the cartridge in upside down – it was the early 80’s after all, so drugs might have been involved. My flirtation with photography has been more of an on-again off-again fling most of my life until my first DSLR in 2009. Looking back I missed fantastic opportunities because I didn’t have a camera in hand and my photography might have been much better now if I’d committed to the relationship earlier.

    Please do try to get that early photo scanned and share with us. I’ve managed to scan and repair some of my old 35mm negatives and cherish the one’s I’ve not ruined through neglect.

    Safe travels to Arequipa.

  2. Jim, I think your photography is very good. I’m not sure that more years behind the lens necessarily equates to better images. I think it’s more a function of having the “eye” (how you see the world around you). I switched to digital in 2009 and it rejuvenated me artistically, but it was a huge learning curve (especially when you throw in Photoshop). I appreciate the discipline film required (and I’m glad I made my bones while shooting film), but digital is the BEST ever. I see two kinds of photographers: the techie gear-head and the artist . . . the artist wins every time (of course we’re all blends of those two extremes). I see young kids (20s and 30s) with 5 years of experience that can shoot rings around me, and I see old guys like me who’ve been shooting for years and can’t seem to get it right. The trick, I think, is to love (and be in love) with what you do in life. And you and Denise seem to have that figured out. Always good hearing from you amigo.

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