Seeing through Barbie’s solar plexus and Mickey Mouse’s third eye: Toy cameras and child photographers

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


Conference presentation for Camera-Centred Histories of Photography at California Museum of Photography, USA.

Cameras have been directed to children since the late nineteenth century, with character marketing an enduring feature of their address, beginning with the fairies of Kodak Brownies (USA, 1900) and Butcher’s Little Nipper (UK, 1901). Cameras have also been promoted as part of wider merchandising strategies utilising children’s popular culture, from film and TV tie-ins (for example, Roy Rogers and Trigger 620 Snap Shot, 1950) to pop star promotions (Spice Girls’ 1997 Spice Cam Polaroid, among others). As part of a larger study assembling a new history of photography by children, this presentation asks what we might learn of the construction of the child photographer by researching cameras made for child users. What do they reveal of manufacturers’ expectations of children’s technical and imaginative capacities? How do their designs and styles appeal to child tastes and how do their affordances and instructions script behaviours? How might devices such as the Mick-a-Matic (1971) and Barbie Photo Fashion (2012), as part action figures / part cameras, with operational technologies embedded into the bodies of Disney figures and Mattel dolls, be understood beyond branding? Drawing on histories of photography as well as histories of childhood, material culture and doll studies, this presentation asks: what might it mean to see as a toy sees?
Period2 Dec 2022
Degree of RecognitionInternational