SYMPOSIUM: Kodak Girl

He was marketing the cameras for amateurs and he correctly understood that women were the ones who wanted to take family photos and make the albums to preserve the family history.

So the Kodak Girl is always holding the camera. She looks like she’s taking pictures and is not just standing there and smiling. Kodak was selling the idea of women taking pictures.

The ads reflected the times. During World War II, for example, there were ads showing women at home, saving pictures or sending them. In another ad you’d see the guys in their military uniforms opening envelopes with pictures inside them. The slogan was something along the lines of ‘When your man’s away, send a picture’. Over time, there was a move away from the single, independent woman.

Historically, most Kodak ads have depicted normal people. They’re not celebrities endorsing products or anything like that. Kodak was positioning its cameras as a normal part of everyday life. The first one I know of was published in 1890. It features only women, with a quote on the ad that reads, “Oh, isn’t it lovely? I must have a Kodak.” That’s one of their very first ads. There’s another one from 1891 that shows a woman out in the winter scenery with her camera, taking a picture of somebody ice skating.

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If you look at the ads from 1904, you’ll see a mom taking a picture of her little girl in bed. In an ad from 1905, you have a little girl taking a picture of her baby brother. In 1906 you have a scene with a brother and a sister, but it’s the sister who’s taking the picture.

The woman who made that 1906 ad was a well-known artist of the day. She had the choice of giving the camera to the boy or the girl, and she gave it to the girl. I think that’s interesting. I have three samples of the slogan, “Let the Children Kodak,” from 1908, 1909, and 1910. In all three it’s a little girl who’s taking the picture. When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it wouldn’t have been the little girl. Photography was a guy thing.

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This is a few sections from an interesting article I found regarding the ‘Kodak Girl’. I began trying to explore the history of the Kodak family, and where the idea of recording family moments came from. Kodak began selling their products with this slogan in mind, from which we all understand the concept of the ‘kodak moment’. The interesting part of their ad campaigns, especially for the time they were being made is the direction of their focus. Adverts showed women using cameras as apposed to men, as it was felt that the women of the family would be more interested in preserving their memories through photography.

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