Lesson Task – The Development of the Camera – Question 1

Throughout this lesson you’ve learnt about the various techniques used and inventors that contributed to the art form that is Photography. Choose only one, do some additional research and in your own words write a report on why you think the chosen technique contributed to what we are able to do today through photography.

For this Lesson Task I chose to write about George Eastman and The Kodak Camera.

George Eastman was born in 1854 in Waterville, New York. When he was five years old the family moved to Rochester, New York. Georges father passed away because of a brain disorder in 1862 and then he lost his sister to polio in 1870. Due to the tragic family circumstances, George left school to help provide for his family at an early age. His first job was as a messenger boy within a insurance firm, he worked his way up and after five years in the insurance business he left and got a job working as a junior clerk at the Rochester Savings Bank.

At the age of 24 he was supposed to go on a vacation to Santo Domingo when a co-worker suggested that he dokument the trip. Although he didn’t make that trip he became completely interested in photography and the search for a more simple way of taking pictures started. He worked in the bank during the day and experimented in his mothers kitchen at night. He had read in the British magazines that photographers were making their own gelatin emulsions. These coated plates remained sensitive even after they dried. After three years of photographic experiments he finally had a formula that worked.

By 1880 he had invented the dry plate formula and patented a machine that could make large number of plates making them available for photographers to buy. The success of the dry plate venture made a businessman named Henry A Strong so impressed that he wanted to invest in Eastmans company.

Eastman continued his research to simplify photography and 1883 he announced the film roll and in 1884 the first cameras for non professionals.

As he improved the transparent roll film and the roll holder, Eastman changed the whole direction of his work and established the base on which his success in amateur photography would be built.

In 1888 Eastman built the foundation for making photography available for everyone. The Kodak camera was easily carried and handhold when taking pictures. It came pre-loaded with 100 exposures at a price of $25, after exposure the camera was returned to Rochester and the film was developed, prints were made and new film was put in, all for $10.  

Camera, box. Kodak #1. PG*0169.

George Eastman believed in the power of advertisement. Kodak products were advertised in leading papers with ads written by Eastman himself. He invented the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”.

George Eastman was a great principled leader and cared for his employees and costumers. He was almost as well known for his philanthropy as he is for his pioneering work in photography. He made a lot of big donations to non-profit organisations. He believed that “The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education. “

A man ahead of his time. What an extraordinary legacy he leaves behind.





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