Unknown Artist, American School
286 cyanotypes and gelatin silver prints; 11 1/8 x 14 1/2 x 1 1/8 in. (28.3 x 36.8 x 2.8 cm)
Funds from various donors, 1997 (1997.54)
The Kodak Number One camera, first marketed in 1888, made photography a viable hobby for even the least technically inclined. Pre-loaded with film, its shutter fixed at one speed and focal range at one setting, and innocent of even the crudest viewfinder, the "detective" camera prompted millions to translate their daily experience into pictures. "Snapshots"a marksman's term denoting a spontaneous shot at a moving targetbecame the common coin of memory; the photo album, formerly filled with commercial views and studio portraits, became a lively visual diary reflecting the events and affinities of a unique life. One such album from Corning, New York, chronicles a youthful fondness for the pets Max and Fritz, the popular new hobby of candid sidewalk portraiture, and a backyard treehouse folly called "The Roost." These prints are homemade cyanotypes, or blueprintsa relatively simple and permanent process employing iron salts that dates from photography's earliest days.