b. 12 July 1854; d. 14 March 1932
Up to the time of Eastman photography, though already popular, was still considered too complicated for ordinary users, and George Eastman is remembered for having made photography accessible to all.
Eastman started off as a bank clerk, and then became interested in photography. He is particularly remembered for introducing flexible film in 1884.
Four years later he introduced the box camera incorporating roll film, and with his slogan “You press the button, we do the rest” he brought photography to the masses.
The box camera had a simple lens focusing on 8 feet and beyond. One roll of film took a hundred images, all circular in shape. The entire camera would be posted to the factory where the film was processed and the camera re-loaded and returned to the user, the charge for this being £2.2s (£2.10).
The photographs were of about 65mm diameter, and opened up a new world for popular photography.
Eastman’s contribution not only made photography available to all, but also resulted in a gradual change in what constituted acceptable photography. Paul Martin, who worked with a large portable camera, had found it difficult to get his informal pictures accepted at exhibitions. To have pictures accepted, he complained, one would need to take “… a noble and dignified subject, a cathedral or mountain…”
“…and that few envisaged the popular snapshot until the coming of the hand camera and the Kodak.”
From the age of 76 onwards, Eastman was becoming increasingly ill. Eventually, having settled his affairs, he took his own life. Next to his body was a note which said simply “To my friends, my work is done – why wait?”
If you have the opportunity, do visit the Kodak Museum at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford. It houses a huge collection of interesting images and objects connected with popular photography.