Dresden Engle's Posts

Dresden Engle is the Public Relations Manager for George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

Experiencing Eastman House alongside the NEA Chairman and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Posted by on Jul 18 2011 | Photography

I suppose it’s the feeling you get when you look at a garden you have cared for. Nothing can compare to experiencing it with your own senses, to see firsthand the fruits of your labor … that what you have planted, fed, and watered has flourished.

That was the feeling in the air at George Eastman House on Saturday, July 16, as National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter toured Eastman House.


NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, left, and George Eastman House’s Tony Bannon discuss the three-strip Technicolor process in the camera gallery at Eastman House.


Hosted by Tony Bannon, the museum’s Ron and Donna Fielding Director, the guests were shown the Speed Graphic camera that shot the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, displayed alongside the image, as well as a NASA Lunar Orbiter, Lumiere Cinematographe, and a three-strip Technicolor camera that had been used on studio lots for many celebrated MGM films.

And this was all before Landesman and Congresswoman Slaughter took their seats in the Dryden Theatre to experience films from the Eastman House motion picture archive, restored with the support from the NEA. The selected titles included the oldest film version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910), an early sound film from Theodore Case (1925), screen tests from Gone With the Wind (1939), and a documentary directed by Paul Morrissey (1965).


Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, tells why it’s important to support the arts in Rochester and nationally.


Slaughter, co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, is a longtime supporter of the arts as well as Eastman House, continuing to connect Rochester to the leadership of the arts in Washington, D.C. It for this tireless work the museum honored her with the inaugural George Eastman Medal of Honor in 2006.

The threads of George Eastman House are intertwined with those of federal agencies that serve the public, such as the Library of Congress and the National Archives. In this vein the museum’s collections and preservation schools and workshops have national and global reach and impact. But this, of course, cannot be achieved without support.

Both Landesman and Slaughter told local TV press how important it is to experience the country’s leading cultural organizations firsthand, in person.

“Film is a great art form, our cultural heritage, and right here is where it is preserved,” Landesman said. “Tony Bannon is a legend throughout the country for the work he does and we want to support him and George Eastman House.”


A private viewing in the Dryden Theatre of films from the Eastman House archive restored via support from the NEA. On the screen here is the oldest film version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1910)


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Eastman House painted with color— this week with Kodachrome

Posted by on Jun 14 2011 | Photography

In just over a year’s time George Eastman House has been painted with large splashes of Technicolor, Colorama, and now Kodachrome, via three important acquisitions.

As the world’s oldest museum photography, the vast collections feature all processes and formats of motion pictures and photography. And the color collections continue to expand. The Technicolor corporate archive was formally acquired in March 2010, followed by Kodak’s gift of the Colorama archive – the images and history of the 60×18-foot images that dominated Grand Central Terminal from 1950 to 1990 – announced in June 2010.


An elder from the Rubari tribe, from the last roll of Kodachrome, photographed by Steve McCurry in India.


Fast forward one year and the photographs from the last roll Kodachrome were donated to Eastman House on June 12, 2011. Kodachrome was the first commercially successful color film, and experienced a quarter-century of rich, unparalleled colors as well as a love affair with countless photographers. Kodachrome film was manufactured in various formats to suit still and motion picture cameras, and required a complex processing system.

When Kodak announced in 2009 it would no longer produce Kodachrome film, company officials announced two ways the famed film would be celebrated: 1) National Geographic and Magnum photographer Steve McCurry would be given the last roll off the Kodak production line and 2) the images from that historic roll would be donated to the archives at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

McCurry’s historic journey took him in 2010 to his hometown of New York City to western India and finally to Parsons, Kansas. That final stop was to the last lab in existence to process Kodachrome, which would close at the end of 2010, but not before developing his precious roll.

“I don’t think there’s ever been, in the history of photography, a better film, a better way to actually look at the world than with Kodachrome,” McCurry said. “This was the only way I shot for decades.”

McCurry spoke at Eastman House this week before a capacity audience, shared the 31 photographs he captured from the 36-frame roll — some frames were duplicate images — and told stories of his travels and his fears the roll would be harmed by airport security scanners. He talked with the audience and Anthony Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director at Eastman House, about celebrating Kodachrome. A color film process that lasted longer than any other, it was extolled since the Great Depression for its sharpness, archival durability, and vibrant yet realistic hues.

Dr. Anthony Bannon, left, and Steve McCurry with prints from the final roll of Kodachrome.


The subjects McCurry shot on the last roll include Robert DeNiro and photographer Elliott Erwitt, plus unknown people in various parks in New York City; McCurry in his hotel room in Parsons awaiting film processing; and in India – where McCurry noted “color is important culturally” and where he used Kodachrome’s magic to subtly render contrast and color harmony in depictions of Bollywood luminaries in Mumbai and the Rubari tribe in Rajasthan on the verge of extinction.

“I thought, ‘What better way to honor the memory of Kodachrome than to try and photograph iconic places and people?’ It’s in (my) DNA to want to tell stories where the action is, that shed light on the human condition,” McCurry said. He planned the trip, which he calls “a six-week odyssey,” for nine months. A crew from the National Geographic Channel followed him on his journey. That special has not aired yet in the United States but debuted this spring on European television.

Kodachrome was produced for 74 years, from 1935 to 2009, in a wide variety of formats, including 35mm slide film and 8mm movie film. McCurry used Kodachrome for his well-known 1984 portrait of the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” on the cover of National Geographic.

Kodachrome is appreciated in the archival and professional market for its dark-storage longevity, with colors remaining intact for decades. The early papers of one of the creators of Kodachrome, Leopold Godowsky, are held in the archives at Eastman House, as are many varieties of Kodachrome film in original boxes from several decades as well as moving footage, slides, and photographs, including the documentation of Sir Edmund Hillary’s history ascent of Mt. Everest.

“It’s definitely the end of an era,” he said of Kodachrome. “It has such a wonderful color palette…a poetic look, not particularly garish or cartoonish, but wonderful, true colors that were vibrant, but true to what you were shooting. It was the gold standard of imagery.”

Proof of its affect on popular culture, Kodachrome was the subject of Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome” and Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah was named for it, becoming the only park named for a brand of film.

Eastman House will present a display of projected images in early July and will mount an international tour of the photographs in 2012.


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FIRST film footage from Civil War found in Eastman House vaults; Ken Burns making trek to museum

Posted by on Mar 31 2011 | Photography

What may be the earliest film footage from the Civil War era has been discovered in the motion picture vaults at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, where preservation officers plan to immediately begin restoration.

The three-minute reel, which archivists estimate was filmed in 1861 or 1862, reveals an active battlefield as well as behind-the-scenes footage of Union soldiers in encampments and marching in formation.

After finding the unmarked reel and after determining its authenticity, Eastman House contacted filmmaker Ken Burns. He plans to visit the museum immediately to begin research.

“This moving footage would have significantly enhanced my Civil War documentary,” said filmmaker Ken Burns, who earned an Emmy® Award for his nine-part documentary The Civil War (1990), which featured thousands of still photographs. “We are seriously considering opening up the film to include this priceless new material.”

Eastman House preservation staff has painstakingly created digital scans of the rare and fragile footage, allowing for the creation of online video.

Click on the video link below to be among the first to witness history – the first motion pictures ever captured of the Civil War!


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Dryden Theatre Entertains for 60 years

Posted by on Mar 02 2011 | Other

Sixty years ago today — March 2, 1951 — the 535-seat Dryden Theatre welcomed its first audience and film screening.


The Greek Revival Dryden Theatre.


The theatre is named for, and built with donated funds from, Ellen Dryden and her husband, George, to honor the film legacy of George Eastman, the founder of Kodak and father of motion picture film. Ellen Dryden was Eastman’s niece, but was as close to him as a daughter. Her descendants remain friends and supporters of the museum to this day.


George Eastman with his niece Ellen Dryden, as well s his mother, Maria, and Ellen’s young son George Eastman Dryden.


Six decades later the Greek-Revival theater continues to screen films seven days a week, with nightly films Tuesday through Saturday and senior matinees on Monday afternoon.

The featured films are from the Eastman House’s extensive archive as well as fellow archives and major studios. Titles include classics, silent films, international films, cult favorites, and Rochester premieres. The Dryden offerings also include series honoring actors, filmmakers, and genres.

The long list of visiting artists and award recipients who have graced the Dryden include Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Tony Curtis, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra, Fred Astaire, and Mary Pickford,

While the Dryden Theatre was being constructed in 1950, seven rolls of acetate microfilm recording the life of George Eastman were deposited inside the cornerstone. Unique interior features of the Dryden include the lobby floor made from Italian-imported marble.

Opening Night at the Dryden Theatre, March 2, 1951.

And while the state-of-the-art projection and sound were recently upgraded in the theater, its interior looks very much as it did on opening night.


The first film screened at the Dryden was Jean Renoir’s silent film Nana (1926). Other films screened during the first series included Don Juan starring John Barrymore; The Docks of New York, directed by Josef von Sternberg; and The White Hell of Pitz Palu, directed by G.W. Pabst.


At various points throughout 2011, the Dryden’s 60th anniversary will be celebrated via special screenings.




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Saying “farewell” while celebrating 75 years of Kodachrome

Posted by on Jan 05 2011 | Photography

Last Thursday was a day in history that even Paul Simon longed wouldn’t happen as he sang “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

It was the final day Kodachrome was being accepted for processing anywhere in the world, as Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, had the glory of being the final lab to create those “nice bright colors … greens of summers … (that make) you think all the world’s a sunny day” (as per Simon’s lyrics). And these final hours of processing — expected to be completed this week — take place 75 years after Kodachrome was unveiled in 1935.

Envelopes filled with rolls of Kodachrome arrived from around the globe, as media from around the globe also descended upon Dwayne’s to capture this moment in history. Many of these media folks also contacted George Eastman House — including CBS News Sunday Morning, ABC World News, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera — to obtain related photographs to illustrate news stories and to speak with an expert who could put this pop-culture icon known as Kodachrome into context. That expert was Eastman House’s curator of technology, Todd Gustavson (who conducted countless interviews during his holiday vacation.)

The passing of Kodachrome has been news, of course, since Kodak announced in 2009 the end of the film’s production, due to dwindling sales and the difficulty photographers had having it processed. Kodak decided the final roll would be given to National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry, who will give these prints to George Eastman House later this year. He chose New York City and India as the backdrop for these precious 36 frames.

Why was Kodachrome so popular? Well, the search to produce stable and permanent images in natural color dates to the very beginning of photography. Fast-forward to April 1935, when Kodak introduced Kodachrome film. It was considered by many the first modern multi-layer color transparency film. First rolled out as an amateur 16mm ciné film, the still photography version became available in September of the next year in 35mm and 828 roll film sizes. Larger sheet film was offered to the professional beginning in 1938, although Kodachrome was the film that brought color photography to the amateur photographer.

Countless baby-boom families documented their personal histories, birthdays, graduations, holidays, and vacations on Kodachrome, creating slide-shows, projected with their Kodaslide projectors to show off imagery to friends and relatives. Its brilliant colors were also highly popular with magazine photographers. National Geographic used it exclusively for more than half a century.

Kodachrome was the culmination of many years of investigation, with the research preformed by two professionally trained musicians, pianist Leopold Godowsky, Jr. and violinist Leopold Mannes, who Kodak moved to Rochester in 1930 to work on the project. Their research papers, along with many Kodachrome artifacts, are in the archives at Eastman House.

The finished product was a film like no other. This multi-layer film contained no dye couplers, but rather the color dyes were added to the appropriate film layer during processing. Processing the film in this manner gave Kodachrome images their unique saturated color look, and created a very stable fade resistant color images.

“With a production life span of nearly 75 years, Kodachrome was one of the longest-lived of the light-sensitive products,” Gustavson said. “Its name was geographically memorialized with Utah’s Kodachrome Basin State Park, idealized by the Paul Simon song of the same title. Kodachrome, like the Barbie doll and Schwinn Sting-Ray, became a pop-culture icon product of the twentieth century. This shouldn’t be looked at as a sad day, but rather as a celebration of Kodachrome.”

And we’ll let Paul take us out …

“I love to take a photograph

so, mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome,

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome,

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”


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