This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Learning about life in old-time Phoenix from snapshots - Kodaking


Yesterday I got to look at a whole bunch of photos from around 1915 of places around Phoenix that I'm identifying, and scanning in. They're what most people would call "snapshots", and what was called "Kodaking" back then.

What I enjoy is that everything pretty much has stayed the same since the invention of popular photography - people take pictures of their friends. Nowadays, of course, popular photography is done with Smart Phones, just like Polaroids were used in the 1980s. The photos aren't spectacular images, they're just pictures of friends, a window into ordinary life, which to me is the most precious thing there is.

The friends in the photo at the top of this post, who are unidentified, are just typical college students in 1915. The building you see behind them, the Science Building, which was new in 1909, is still there, on the campus of ASU, next to Old Main, which is east of College Avenue on University Drive.

Although photography had been around then for over fifty years, it wasn't until the Kodak Company made the inexpensive, easy-to-use cameras around the turn of the century that you begin to see "snapshots" (Wow, I sound like a commercial, sorry!). Before then photos had to be taken by pros, which expensive and cumbersome equipment, and people had to stand completely still, usually in a studio. But Kodaking changed all that.

1915 ad for Kodak, Phoenix, Arizona.


1908 ad for Kodak cameras in Phoenix. They had become so wildly popular that it was considered something of an epidemic.


1904 ad for Kodaks, Phoenix, Arizona.

Time-travel with me to 1915. We're on the campus of the Tempe Normal School, which is now ASU. And we're in a group of friends. One of the friends has brought along his Kodak, and all we have to do is to stand still for a few seconds, and the picture is taken. We can take the Kodak to any drugstore, and the prints are ready in just a few days. It must have been amazing.

1915 snapshot on the campus of Tempe Normal School (now ASU). Clothing styles have changeds, especially hats, but these young women are the same ones you see every day on campus. The monument they're leaning on, and the building behind them, the Science Building, are still there.

There are a LOT of these types of photos. Go to any thrift store, or go through your great-grandma's old photo albums and you'll see them. The prints are usually VERY tiny, and they're usually just snapshots of friends. The ones I'm looking at now are mostly just groups of friends smiling. I'm scanning in the ones that I recognize as particular places around Phoenix, but most of them are just random shots of people, that are unidentified, in places that are unidentified. Those shots, while precious to family and friends, are pretty much meaningless to me, as I'm interested in seeing old-time Phoenix. When I look at them, I look for backgrounds, maybe a building that I recognize, or a mountain. When I see something identifiable, I scan it in and share it on Facebook.

Image at the top of this post: a group of friends in 1915 on the campus of Tempe Normal School, Tempe, Arizona. That's the Science Building in the background, which is still there, next to Old Main, which is on University just east of College Avenue.


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