Kodak Girl

Edmonia Lewis, c. 1870, Henry Rocher, Albumen silver print, National Portrait Gallery, Image No. NPG In Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia (2000), Nancy Martha West describes how the company—marketing the first box cameras in the 1890s—aggressively targeted female consumers, hoping they’d “see photography not only as a necessary component of domestic life but as an integral part of the world of fashion and feminine beauty.”  Starting in 1892, advertisements featuring a striking and adventurous “Kodak Girl” were widely seen and wildly successful; soon large numbers of women were taking pictures as well as posing for them. Questions about how, when and why women make photographs and appear in them are at the heart of a number of stories featured in click! photography changes everything, a program looking at how photography shapes our culture and our lives.  Jacqueline Serwer, Chief Curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, writes about how Edmonia  Lewis, an African American sculptor living in Rome in the 1870s, returned to the States and marketed carte-de-visite photographs of herself to draw attention to unusual professional status, and to find funding for her art work. Veronica Lake, c. 1945, Unidentified creator, Color photolithographic halftone poster, National Port Amy Henderson, Cultural Historian at the National Portrait Gallery, looks at an in-store display that features 1940s movie star Veronica Lake endorsing Woodbury cosmetics and sees evidence of Hollywood’s shrewd and seductive construction of glamour at work. Share your own stories and photos exploring how photography not only documents, but actively shapes women’s lives and experiences. click! photography changes everything is an ongoing program examining how photography shapes our culture and our lives.

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.