As professional wedding photographers we can talk all day about cameras, techniques and equipment, but today I thought I would talk to you about possibly the most important man of all. A rather splendid chap called George Eastman (1854 – 1932). Mr Eastman arguably invented modern day photography. The digital age comes a lot later…about a hundred years.
Mr Eastman (or Gorge to his friends) dropped out of high school at the age of 14 to look after his family, his mother was widowed and his sister was handicapped. He was not academically gifted, and his first job was as a messenger with an insurance company and paid just 3 dollars a week. Later he changed company (but still working as a messenger) with an insurance firm. With this company, he soon became in charge of policy filing and sometimes wrote policies. His pay increased to $5 per week.
At the age of 24 George planned to take a trip to Santo Domingo. A colleague suggested he record the trip as he went. George then went out and bought a camera outfit with all the wet plates, tripod etc. The camera was as big small oven and needed a rugged tripod to stand it on. He needed a small tent so he could apply the photographic chemicals to the wet plates before using them. The whole outfit was packed onto the back of a horse and cart.
While he travelled our George became obsessed with photography and yes, I know the feeling. On his return he realised that he could simplify the process and make it far more compact.
Can you imagine turning up to shoot a wedding with a camera the size of a small oven and plates of glass as film……
George began experimenting and reading. He read that photographers had started making photographic emulsions. He found the formula for a photographic emulsion in a magazine and stated to make his own. He worked in the bank to earn the money to fuel his experiments he carried out in his mother’s kitchen. George got into these experiments so much he was known to sleep under a blanket in the kitchen.
By 1880 George had invented a formula that was dry (no more wet plates) and had patented a way of making large numbers of photography plates. He realised he could make money by selling these plated to our photographer. Our George was a clever chap……
April 1880 saw George lease premises to produce these dry photographic plates. It then dawned on George that there must be a way to make photography more accessible and easier to use. He experimented with paper slides instead of glass. The paper was rolled onto a roll which would fin into the camera. In 1885 he produced an advertisement introducing the new film which he said would be convenient and economical. How right George was. He then went onto perfect a transparent film which was on a roll instead of a sided which transformed photography.
In 1888 Kodak was registered as the company’s name. In 1900 Georges company invented a range of cameras called the Kodak Brownie. These cameras are famous the world over and derivations can be seen in every second had shop. The camera cost just 1 dollar and film sold for 15 cents. Taking photographs was now as easy as pressing a button. Absolute genius.
George became a very rich man and was involved at the cutting edge of photograph and cinematography for many years after his invention. He was well known for his philanthropy and charity work.
In 1932 and at the age of 77, suffering a serious spinal condition and in constant pain committed suicide. He shot himself through the heart.
He left a very brief note.
To my friends.
My work is done.
This is a VERY brief history of a great man that changed the way images are recorded.
He was, an absolute genius.