Today, we take photography for granted. Anyone can take a photograph simply by pressing a button. Yet, it was not always so simple.
The invention of photography was announced in 1839, but during its first fifty years taking a photograph was a complicated and expensive business. In 1888, all this was to change following the appearance of a camera that was to revolutionise photography. Popular photography can properly be said to have started 120 years ago with the introduction of the Kodak.
The Kodak camera was the invention of an American, George Eastman (1854-1932). It was a simple, leather-covered wooden box – small and light enough to be held in the hands. Taking a photograph with the Kodak was very easy, requiring only three simple actions; turning the key (to wind on the film); pulling the string (to set the shutter); and pressing the button (to take the photograph). There wasn’t even a viewfinder – the camera was simply pointed in the direction of the subject to be photographed. The Kodak produced circular snapshots, two and a half inches in diameter.
The Kodak was sold already loaded with enough paper-based roll film to take one hundred photographs. After the film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory for the film to be developed and printed. The camera, reloaded with fresh film, was then returned to its owner, together with a set of prints. To sum up the Kodak system, Eastman devised the brilliantly simple sales slogan: ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’
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