Pictures from the past

Pictures from the past I

My first impression was of the shiny wood and polished brass, almost a signature look of Victorian gadgets and machinery, but the age of this camera is uncertain. It could be much newer.

The camera uses glass plate ‘film’, a single sheet of which is still in the camera, albeit in a broken but ‘taped up’ state.  This is state-of-the-art gadgetry, complete with Koilos lens and Koilos three-leaf shutter. Koilos was a German manufacturer during the early years of the 20th century, but was not necessarily the maker of the camera itself. The name “W Kenngott, Paris” is engraved on the bakelite lens surround.

I’m sure there are readers who have more in-depth knowledge of early cameras who could shed some light on this machine.

The camera folds up into a box to look like a larger version of the Kodak Box Brownie. The photographs show what it looks like unfolded. Beneath the box are three holes – possibly for a tripod?  Shutter speed and aperture are adjustable and the body of the camera can slide forward from its bellows and can track up or down, suggesting that its base remains fixed while taking a picture.

Pictures from the past IISome research (via Google) tells me this could be a Junior Sanderson model camera, made by Houghtons Ltd of London. The wood and brass design is identical, so too the seal grain leather covered body and red leather bellows. If correct, this puts the age of the museum’s camera somewhere between 1906 and 1910, although with the inclusion of a shutter speed of 1/300 it could be a little later.  I could, of course, be entirely wrong and more than one manufacturer could have used the same design and lenses.

Awhina has studied this little beauty, working out what does what and discovering the little viewfinder in brass and glass. She uses words like “gorgeous” and “cute” to describe this camera and obviously likes it a lot.

Her own interest in photography and memories of pretending to use her parents’ Box Brownie inspired her to look among the museum cameras for a subject for Midweek – “I love cameras,” she says, “I’ve always taken photos.” In fact, she says she often thought about becoming a photographer. Having seen some of her work, I think she could have realised her ambition. Fate, however, has brought her among relics of the past, like this camera.


Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek in September 2010. Reproduced with permission from the publishers.


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