every camera I own: the brownie hawkeye flash

The Brownie Hawkeye Flash was a simple Bakelite box camera. There are no adjustments to speak of; you look through the viewfinder up top, and you depress the shutter; the grey slide opposite the shutter release can be pulled up to allow bulb exposures. The camera was produced from 1950 through 1961, so there are a lot of them out there. If you pay more than $20 for one of these, you’re paying too much, and they can be still be found for considerably less. I own three of these cameras, but one in particular is most uncommon.

I call this Brownie “Yerm,” after the manufacturer’s date code that indicates this product left the factory in April 1953. It cost me $10 at Blue Moon Camera in Portland, Oregon, where I had just performed, under the authority granted me by Rose Ministries, the marriage rites for two friends who had met on Flickr. But that’s another story. The Brownie takes 620 film, which is the same size as 120 but with a smaller spool. Unlike many cameras that take 620 film, the Brownie Hawkeye was built with enough tolerance that you can trim off the edges of a 120 spool with heavy-duty nail clippers and it will fit perfectly.

A perfectly preserved Brownie Hawkeye Flash will produce fairly sharp pictures  for a Bakelite toy. But this Brownie was special. This is one of the first pictures I made with it:

This Brownie had a bad case of mold on the lens. The moldy lens puts everything in soft focus and lends highlights an otherworldly glow:

I’ve run a lot of film through this camera – you can see more than a hundred pictures I made with Yerm in this Flickr set. The camera has served me well. But I dropped it in Eureka Springs, Arkansas a few years ago,and that led to some light leaks, which is the cause of the pink edges in this picture taken at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida:

through weeki wachee softly
If I run an entire roll of film (twelve exposures) through the camera in a short time period, stray light doesn’t have as much of a  chance to affect the image. But if I leave a partially exposed roll in the camera, and put it aside for awhile, I end up with fogged film, even though I have taped up the frame window. That’s what happened with this week’s installment of Every Camera I Own. This is the last frame from a roll of Verichrome Pan that I had left in the Brownie for some months:
What you should see is a view atop a high concrete staircase in Georgetown where the climactic scene of The Exorcist was filmed (the iPhone photo of the Brownie at the top of this post was made at the bottom of the steps. You’ll have to take my word for it that I climbed my way here). Somewhat more recognizable is this image of lights, but I can’t remember what they are or even if this is the right side up:

Oriented as is, the lights could be cast from an out-of-frame window above; with the lights on the side of the frame, they could be a series of windows. The only image on this roll I recognized was this:

The dome of St. Matthews Cathedral, the church where my parents were married and where my mother’s funeral was held. 
I’ll try again.

2 thoughts on “every camera I own: the brownie hawkeye flash

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