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New Zealand Centre for Photography

10 Cameras

From the Collection of the NZCP



KODAK Autographic Special A type of camera which turns up regularly on out doorstep for our museum at the Centre is the Autographic Kodak in all its various shapes and sizes. The paradox of this is the fact that perhaps the rarest item in our collection happens to be photos made with the distinctive Autographic inscription on the print surrounds.

Between 1914 and 1932 Kodak released a range of cameras incorporating the Autographic feature which used a special film. This was patented by Henry J. Gaisman and permitted the photographer to write information on the film at the time of the exposure.

Gaisman sandwiched a tissue-like carbon paper between the film and the paper backing. Using a little trap door in the back of the camera to gain access to the paper backing the photographer could, using a metal stylus that came supplied with the camera and some pressure, inscribe a title on the film.

Why this innovation never appealed to the millions of Autographic camera users needs a lot of analysis and study. Therefore it was something of a thrill when I encountered a set of prints in London some years back, which had come from an Autographic camera that took pictures measuring 10.5 x 6 cm.

On the Federal Pass
Katoomba (Blue Mountains)
By a process of elimination and bearing in mind the date written on the photographs (June 1925), I was able to match these up with a 1A Autographic Special camera which we have in our collection at the Centre. This has a rangefinder device and was in production from 1917 to 1926.

While the images I got in Islington are from the Blue Mountains in Australia, they are at least dated and captioned on the back as well as on the salvage around the print.

A couple of these prints are reproduced here.

Leura Falls, Blue Mountains
End of Federal Pass

Please note that articles by Bill Main introducing these cameras (and more) have been published by The Photographer's Mail, Auckland, New Zealand.

© Copyright by Bill Main

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