Expired  Camera:  Winter  with  a  Kodak  Six-20  Brownie  Junior | Barbara Justice

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Wisconsin  winters  are  cold.  Really  cold.  Being  outside  can  be  unbearable  at  times, especially  when  the  temperatures  are  in  the  single  digits  for  weeks  on  end. Before winter  went  in  to  full  swing  here,  I  had  made  plans  to  do some indoor photography  projects  during  the  cold  months,  maybe  a  still  life  series  or a portrait  series.  

I  had  it  all  planned  out,  then  the  first  snow  happened  and  changed all of  my  photo  plans.  I  wanted  to  get  outside  and  capture  the  winterscape  on  film.  This was  my  second  winter  in  Wisconsin,  and  the  thing  I  find  most  fascinating  about  winter here  is  the  freezing  of  the  lakes  and  ponds.  Huge  bodies  of  ice  form,  and  the  water won’t  be  seen  again  until  March.  I  am  from  the  southwest,  this  doesn’t  happen  in  New Mexico.    A  local  told  me  when  speaking  of  all  the  winter  activities,  “We  are  a  hardy bunch!”,  and  indeed  this  is  true.  Ice  fishing,  cross  country  skiing,  ice  skating  and hockey are  just  a  few  of  the  low  temperature  activities  here.  Cold  temps  are  a  welcome transition  for  these  northerners  when  winter  arrives.  The  days  are  short,  the  sun  rises and  sets  in  a  soft  arc,  and  the  light  illuminates  everything  in  a  soft,  pastel  way.    

I chose  to  photograph  the  winter  with  my  Kodak  Six-20  Brownie  Junior.  It  is  simple and doesn’t  require  much  technical  set  up  so  I  thought  it  would  be  good  for  my  cold hands  and  for  moving  from  one  place  to  another  easily.  I  used  some  kind  of  stabilizer for  every  shot:    a  light  pole,  steps,  walls,  trees,  park  benches,  a  bike  rack,  a  fire hydrant,  the  ground,  my  knee.  It  can  probably  be  shot  hand  held,  but  I  didn’t  want  to take  the  chance  being  that  there  are  only  eight  images  per  120  roll.  Yes,  I  unwound and  rewound  120  film  onto  a  620  spool.  

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There  are  two  viewfinders,  one  for  landscape and  one  for  portrait  orientation.  I  almost  always  used  landscape,  simply  because  it  was easier  for  me  to  see  my  composition  within  the  small  viewfinder  window.  It  has  a small  aperture  (probably  equivalent  to  F16),  and  a  larger  one  (approximately  F11).  Also,  there is  a  bulb  mode  so  both  of  those  can  be  held  open  for  any  amount  of  time.  

They were manufactured  between  1934-1942.  The  “junior”  is  one  of  a  very  long  list  of  Brownie “box  camera”  models  produced  by  Kodak.  The  lens  is  a  fixed  meniscus  lens,  and  I would  guess  the  shutter  speed  is  anywhere  between  1/40-1/60.  It  held  up  in  the freezing  temperatures  and  has  held  up  over  time  (nearly  80  years!).    

My  next  plans  for using  this  camera  are  already  in  the  works.  There  were  so  many  “box” cameras produced,  and  there  are  still  so  many  available.  I  found  mine  for  $12.    I  like  to  think about  where  it  has  been  and  what  kind  of  photographs  it  has  taken  with  it’s  previous owners.  If  you  ever  get  the  chance  to  shoot  with  one  I  highly  recommend  it!  


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Film photographer Barbara Justice is based in New Mexico.  See more of her work on her website and on her Instagram.