The Vest Pocket Kodak enabled the making of photographs that no official photographer would have had the opportunity, or sometimes permission to take. These photographs, according to the author of The Vest Pocket Kodak & The First World War, Jon Cooksey, are ‘she of the greatest untapped historical documents of the Great War’. The Vest Pocket Koda was launched in April 1912 - it was one of the world’s first compact cameras. As it was so small it could be kept in a pocket and allowed soldiers to record their experiences, take pictures of their friends and have pictures taken of themselves. It is this personal detail, rather than the official or posed studio or group photograph that makes the pictures produced by the Vest Pocket Kodak so unique.
In The Vest Pocket Kodak & The First World War, Jon Cooksey puts their use on the Western Front in historical context and then tells the story of how, despite their ban, they were used regardless. In two parts, the first half deals with the technology of the camera while the second half provides a gallery of photographs.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Fox (second from right) with men in a photograph taken by Captain Harry Colver in the trenches near Fleurbaix, France, May 1915.
Jon Cooksey is the editor of the Western Front Association magazine Stand To! He is a military historian with over 20 writing credits and a contributor to BBC output.
This is not a review. The Vest Pocket Kodak & The First World War will be reviewed for Stand To! and the WFA website at a future date.
Many books, magazines, documentaries and films include ‘stock’ images of the First World War from the perspective of the 'official' photographers. Such images, used and seen time and again, have lost their potency and impact but the images snapped by an army of unofficial amateur photographers using the Vest Pocket Kodak is still relatively untapped. At our 2017 Spring Conference 6 May in Newcastle, Jon Cooksey will tell the story behind previously unseen and rare photographs in addition to some of the most iconic images taken at war by these amateurs set in the context of the camera which took them.