George Eastman-the Man Who Brought Photography to the Masses

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  • Topic: Rochester, New York, George Eastman, Kodachrome
  • Pages : 7 (2634 words )
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  • Published : November 16, 2005
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GEORGE EASTMAN

This paper is on a man who had very humble beginnings and through his ingenuity and curiosity was able to enhance the culture we live in, even today through his inventions in photography. For without his invention of the roll film, photography might be a much more difficult process than we are used to in this day and age. Mr. George Eastman was born on July 12, 1854, in Waterville, NY. His father, George Washington Eastman, ran a business school where he taught bookkeeping and penmanship, but had to work a second job selling fruit trees and roses, which forced him to split his time between Waterville and Rochester, New York. The young George Eastman was thus raised mostly by his mother, Maria Kilbourn Eastman, from an early age, and entirely by her after his father died in 1862. In 1870, his older sister Katie, who suffered from polio, died as well, leaving the Eastman household permanently scarred by misfortune. At the age of 15, his family had moved to Rochester and George took a job as an office boy after quitting school, to help support his family. In 1875 he started working at the Rochester Savings Bank as a Junior Bookkeeper. He was able to save money and then ventured into a career in real estate. In 1877 there was a boom in land speculation underway in Hispaniola and George had planned a trip to go there and partake in it. A friend of his convinced him that he should document the trip with a camera, so he went out and purchased his first photographic equipment. The trip ended up not taking place, but George had fallen in love with photography and wanted to learn as much about this fascinating profession as possible, so he sought out two amateur photographers in Rochester a Mr. George Monroe and a Mr. George Selden. He became their willing pupil. After getting a subscription to the "British Journal of Photography" he was inspired to make improvements in dry plate photography (which back then was far inferior to wet plate photography, where a glass plate was exposed and developed while wet). His curiosity and ingenuity resulted in him creating a formula for gelatin based paper film and a machine for coating dry plates. He then went into business selling dry plates in April 1880, in a room above a music store located in the financial district of Rochester, NY. Eastman's business received a big boost when E & H.T. Anthony (the premier national photographic supply distributor of that time) began buying his dry plates. Eastman continued for a short time to work at the bank, but decided to resign in 1881 after his boss chose another employee for a promotion instead of himself for a job he certainly felt he deserved. Then in 1884 Eastman hired William Hall Walker (a camera inventor and manufacturer) and together they designed and invented the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, which allowed photographers to advance paper film through the camera instead of having to handle individual plates. With this invention, a whole new concept in photography was launched….a camera that anyone could use. Eastman's challenge was to make that concept clear to a public accustomed to thinking of photographic equipment as forbidding and obscure. This was probably one of the most significant advances in photography until the late 20th century with the introduction of the digital camera. In the 1880s photographers were accustomed to carting around 50-pound cameras that would yield two or three photographs an hour. A camera using the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, however, could produce up to 50 images in an hour, even though it weighed a mere two and three-quarters pounds. Suddenly, taking pictures was easy to do. That year, the roll holder went on to win gold medals at the International Inventions Exhibitions of London and Exhibition Universelle in Paris, but the initial euphoria soon wore off. Although this camera was hugely popular with amateur photographers, the paper film that was used in it...
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