How to Collect Vintage Cameras


Summer Briggs, 35, designer and founder of Millesime Designs and Retail Operations Manager at Kendall Wilkinson Home, shows off her vintage camera collection from her Sunset home. From big, white Polaroids reminiscent of the 80s to 1940s Art Deco beauties, the collection itself is a walk through history.

How did you start collecting cameras?
I was a photographer for a little while, so I think it all started from that. I just found one camera that I really liked that had this neat design aesthetic to it. I just kept picking them up. I think I like them because there’s the history that goes with it and you think about the images that were created and these moments of time that were captured by the camera. Somebody held the camera and treasured what was going to come out of it. It was used only for important occasions and you think about the things that were captured and the way that somebody passed on those things for generations. This is just a way to capture history in a different way.

What do you look for in a camera?
I think it’s all in the patina. I’m definitely not into perfect, pristine things. If it’s got that really worn feeling to it, I think it’s more attractive.

Are there any secret places in the city where vintage cameras can be had?
Yes, there’s a wonderful store on Union Street called Past Perfect. It’s a treasure trove of odd and wonderful things. I also love the Alameda Flea Market and local estate sales.


Tips on preserving your cameras?
I think the biggest thing is to figure out how to clean them properly. When I get insane, I take a little Q-tip and dip it in some water and I go along the edges of each camera where it’s getting nice and dusty.

What do you think the characteristics are of a true collector?
I’d almost say it’s a compulsion to go out and find something. You’re drawn to these objects over and over. There’s some indescribable reason that you just keep picking these things up. Also, I think collections change. At least they do for me. I get into something for a few years and then I move on to something else. My husband has a hard time keeping up with me.

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