Portable folding camera Portable folding camera Kodak Brownie Junior (Collection) Kodak Brownie Junior (Collection) early 20th century Queensland photography group An early 20th century Queensland photography group (SLQ 35697)

Since its beginnings in 1820s France, the development of photography has been one of constant innovation. The first cameras would barely be recognised today. Large wood and brass contraptions, they captured images on fragile glass plate ‘negatives’, and were often too large to be moved once they had been set up in a studio. The smaller, folding ‘field cameras’ which accompanied many 19th century naturalists and explorers on their journeys were more portable version of the plate camera, but were still unwieldy by today’s standards.

Cameras for all

In the late 19th century, photography was transformed by the invention of roll film – a thin, translucent plastic negative which could be wound around a spool. The replacement of large glass plates with the far smaller roll film made cameras much smaller and more portable, as well as more affordable and easy to use. Photography was finally available to the masses, and emblematic of this change was Kodak’s ‘Box Brownie’, a roll film camera which sold in huge numbers in the first half of the early 20th century. Costing as little as a dollar, and marketed with the slogan ‘You push the button, we do the rest’, the Brownie was beloved of amateur photographers the world over.

The digital revolution

In the 1980s, the next great change in photography, the digital revolution, began. Over the next 20 years, film cameras were superseded by cameras which store image information in digital format. These digital cameras offer the average photographer numerous advantages: they hold hundreds more images than their film equivalents; images no longer consume costly film; and images can be viewed immediately, without the expense of producing photographs from negatives.

Cameras and photographs at Queensland Museum

Like other people around the world, Queenslanders have been enthusiastic photographers, and Queensland Museum holds hundreds of images and cameras created and owned them. Included in this collection is a camera which accompanied Captain Leslie Blake on Mawson’s 1911 Australian Antarctic Expedition, and another owned by iconic Queensland aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.