300 million photographs are uploaded every day to Facebook (yep, I also had to re-read the number when I saw it). And today we celebrate George Eastman’s birthday (July 12) as if it was a national holiday, remembering the young man who made photography easy and accessible more than 100+ years ago.
At just 25 years old, George Eastman began his career introducing photography and motion picture film to the masses, founding Kodak (in 1880) and ultimately becoming one of the biggest philanthropists of the 20th century.
Eastman’s legacy is still strong today, more than ever. We’re reminded of the same spirit from the drive of Steve Jobs, the intelligence and philanthropy of Bill Gates, and the innovation of Mark Zuckerberg.
As we mark the anniversary of Eastman’s birth, I recall a post written by new Eastman House Trustee Tom Hoehn, where he declared Eastman an “Internet-age pioneer.” He wrote, “I think George Eastman was prescient, a fancy term for showing knowledge of events before they take place.” This includes:
Attention to user experience and ambiguity: Eastman helped create Kodak’s first advertising slogan to explain to consumers the process would be easy: “You press button, we do the rest.” Yes, just one click and magic happened, as with the best web design. Ubiquity just like photo-enabled cameras, phones, and tablets everywhere.
Privacy: Ah, not a topic surfaced by the proliferation of Google and Facebook. When Eastman’s cameras were first introduced, people were trying to come to grips with the fact that they could be the subject of a photograph without their permission. In 1899, The New York Times reported “kodak fiends” were harassing the ladies of Newport, and Teddy Roosevelt was “known to exhibit impatience at attempts to kodak him” and even banned cameras for a time from parks in Washington as a violation of privacy.
Tagging: Kodak introduced Autographic cameras that had a flip door and a stylus, so one could notate photos as they were taken. An ad for the camera said, “It makes the record authentic; answers questions: When did make this? Where was this taken?”
Thank you, George Eastman. I will celebrate your legacy tonight as I post online many photos of my children, taken as we play in your gardens during an outdoor concert. Happy Birthday and cheers!
Dresden Engle is the Public Relations Manager for George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.
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