Désiré van Monckhoven
From the first photograph in 1825 until the 1860s, there was obviously a tremendous series of breakthroughs in photographic chemistry. There was even the first attempts at photographic arts. But in photographing the news, people saw for the first time, what Queen Victoria really looked like or President Lincoln, or Lillie Langtry.

President Lincoln Queen Victoria - Golden Jubilee 1887

President Lincoln and Queen Victoria - Golden Jubilee 1887

Oscar Wilde, photographed by Napoleon Sarony
They saw images the Civil War in the United States through the camera of Mathew Brady, and in the British-Russian Crimean war, through the work of Roger Fenton. I find that I appreciate the work of the 19th century photographers more than any other art form of the period -- with the exceptions of Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Mathew Brady's work is amazing, and like many great artists, he was appreciated, used extensively, and died penniless. But his work is for posterity.

Roger Fenton's Photographic Van and Darkroom

Roger Fenton's Photographic Van and Darkroom

The photographers were independent and not well supported. Many eked out a living doing portrature. Notice too, that so far, I have spoken only of the chemistry process -- not the availability of cameras. There were some early companies of course, but many cameras were home made. As a physicist and photographer, Désiré van Monckhoven had written some of the first books on camera construction and optics. Below is an image of a beautiful studio camera in use in the 1860s. When photographers needed to go into the field, the studio camera became the field camera. as far as I can discern, at the time, there was no major difference between the two.

Studio Camera - 1860


George Eastman
Born in Waterville, New York, George Eastman was the third and youngest child of George Washington Eastman and Maria Kilbourn, both from the bordering town of Marshall. His third sister, Meagan Deaton, died shortly after birth. In 1854, his father established the Eastman Commercial College in Rochester. The Eastman family moved to Rochester, NY in 1860. Two years later after his father's death, George Eastman left high school to support his mother and sisters. At age 14 he began working as an office boy.

In 1874, Eastman became intrigued with photography, but found the process awkward. The Collodion process required coating a glass plate with a liquid emulsion, which had to be quickly used before it dried. After three years of experimentation with British gelatin emulsions, Eastman developed a dry photographic plate, and patented it in both Britain and the US.

In 1880 he began his photographic business.

In 1884, Eastman patented a photographic medium that replaced fragile glass plates with a photo-emulsion coated on paper rolls. The invention of roll film greatly sped up the process of recording multiple images.

Eastman received a second patent in 1888 for a camera designed to use roll film. He coined the marketing phrase, "You press the button, we do the rest." The phrase entered the public consciousness. It was even incorporated into a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta (Utopia, Limited).

The camera owner could send in the camera with a processing fee of $10. The company would develop the film, print 100 pictures, and also send along a new roll of 100-exposures film.

On September 4, 1888 Eastman registered the trademark
Kodak. The letter "K" had been a favorite of Eastman's. He said, "It seems a strong, incisive sort of letter".

Eastman and his mother devised the name Kodak with an anagram set. He used three principal concepts to create the name: it must be short, it could not be mispronounced, and it could not resemble anything else or be associated with anything other than itself.

By 1896, 100 Kodak cameras had been sold. The first Kodak cost USD $25.

Kodak Brownie #2
In an effort to bring photography to the masses, in 1900, Eastman introduced the Brownie at a price of just $1. It became a great success.

In 1925, Eastman gave up his daily management of Kodak, to become chairman of the board.

He thereafter concentrated on philanthropic activities, to which he had already donated substantial sums. He was one of the major philanthropists of his time, ranking only slightly behind Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and a few others, but did not seek publicity for his activities. He concentrated on institution-building and causes which could help people's health. He donated under a pseudonym (Mr. Smith) to the University of Rochester, establishing the Eastman School of Music and their School of Dentistry. He made donations to the Tuskegee Institute; and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), donations which provided the capital to build several of their first buildings at their second campus along the Charles River.

As I wrote this, I had to reflect that of any corporate leader, Mr. Eastman was a stand-out, exemplary human. I wish he were here today to resurrect his company.


Good question! As you will see in the images and links on the next page, I will chronicle the use of film and film-based cameras through the 20th century and up to taday -- the end of the first decade in the 21st centuy. But to answer the question. film-based photography is far from dead. In fact, in the early 21st century, the foremost fine art photographers of today still prefer film. I'll explain why.