Todd Gustavson's Posts

Todd Gustavson is the curator of technology at George Eastman House, working with the collection for more than 20 years.. He is also the co-owner of Walbokat, an 18 foot 1954 Chris Craft Riviera Runabout, shown at dusk at the main dock in Chautauqua, NY.

How do you get to 500 Cameras?

Posted by on Nov 17 2011 | Other

Our recently-released book 500 Cameras is a survey of some of the most innovative and influential examples from the nearly 200-year history of cameras in our Technology Collection. The collection was featured in an earlier book, A Century of Cameras by Eaton Lothrup, documenting the 1839-1939 period— so of course this new book brings things more up to date.
The cameras are broken down into the catalogue types we use in the archive (box cameras, studio cameras, professional cameras, folding cameras, toys, etc.) and are arranged chronologically within each of those sections. This way, readers can experience how we categorize and work with the collection every day.
In my last book, Camera, we tackled a history of photography as seen through the camera and highlighted images made with them. This new book has a different focus: the cameras themselves. Each has a description and an informal narrative— somewhat along the lines as if I were personally touring you through the collection. It’s less about the technical nuts, screws and bolts and more about why they are culturally important.
The collection has over 8000 cameras, so of course picking 500 is a bit of a challenge. Right off the bat I started with those that are historically important, and that covers a lot of categories. Some were large selling products, others were milestones or ‘firsts’.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Above (top): Giroux Daguerreotype Camera: The first  manufactured camera.  Above (bottom): Page from ’500 Cameras’ featuring the Giroux. 



Super Kodak Six-20: First automatic exposure control camera

Some were owned by well-known photographers:

Alfred Steiglitz’ Eastman View

Ansel Adams’ boyhood Brownie

Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Delta Reflex
 Then there’s important advances:

The original Leica: the first high-quality mass produced 35mm camera

The oldest known Kodak (No. 6)
For the cover image, we wanted a fairly rare camera people could relate to both from a collecting standpoint and just from its physical appearance. 

Cover Camera: Bell & Howell Foton 

The style of the book was designed to make the book look somewhat like a 1950s camera instruction manual- even the color choice.


Editor’s note: Todd will be talking about and signing his book here this Saturday, November 19 at 1:15pm. 



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Forever Brownie

Posted by on Oct 11 2011 | History, Other, Photography

The other day I received an invitation to an exhibition opening, which isn’t unusual, except the envelope was wearing a Baby Brownie stamp. As a fancier of all things photographic, I was much more interested in the stamp than in going to the out-of-town shindig. A couple of research clicks later I discovered that back on June 29th of this year, the USPS issued a set of twelve commemorative stamps honoring Pioneers of American Industrial Design. Among those honored is Walter Dorwin Teague, considered the dean of American design, who styled a number of Kodak products.

My cancelled Baby Brownie stamp


I’ve always been curious how this arrangement began. A little research brought me to transcripts in the GEH library of a 1970s interview between Reese Jenkins (now professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University) and Kodak retiree Adolph Stuber. Stuber’s father, William G. Stuber, was hired by George Eastman in the early company days; he went on to be the company CEO after Eastman retired in 1925. Adolph grew up with Kodak and also had a distinguished career in the company himself, becoming manager of the Camera Works in the mid-1920s, then ending up as a company vice president in the sales and advertising department after WWII. It was Adolph Stuber who interviewed and hired Teague, then a fledgling New York City artist, to do facelifts on some of the cameras, as the old designs had become a bit dated. Teague became a design consultant for Kodak for the next thirty years or so. Many of the milestone Eastman Kodak Company products, such as the Baby Brownie (the first injected-molded camera made by Kodak), the Super Kodak Six-20 (the first auto-exposure camera), and the Bantam Special (the first Kodak camera with the f/2 Ektar lens) were Teague designs.

Super Kodak Six-20

Bantam Special


The success of the plastic Baby Brownie would prompt the company to produce more cameras of this type. Most Baby Boomers’ photographic experience began with descendants of the Baby Brownie, such as the Brownie Tourist, the Brownie Holiday, and of course the various Brownie Star models. One of the last cameras Teague was involved with was the Brownie Starflash of 1957; it was the first Kodak camera featuring a built-in flash holder. It was also my first camera.


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44 Photographs in Chautauqua

Posted by on Jul 20 2010 | Other, Photography

I was at Chautauqua, NY for the 2010 season opening weekend when I took these images of 44 Photographs, a billboard-format display of 44 images from the Eastman House collection.

Top: Lewis M. Rutherford (American 1816-1892)

March 4, 1865

albumen print
George Eastman House Collection

Above: Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
negative, gelatin on glass
George Eastman House Collection

My family has been involved w/ Chautauqua for a long time; My great grandfather was a mason who built the fountain in Bester Plaza; my father studied voice at the music school; one of my uncle’s played French Horn in the CSO (Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra) in the early 1970s. My first full summer was 1975; I was a summer school student studying photography at the Hall of Education with Doug Miller, which was the beginning of my formal photographic training.

The 44 Photographs display can be seen around the grounds. I noticed there were quite a few people getting their pictures taken next to some of them…

Editor’s note: To see more of Todd’s personal 44 Photographs album from Chautauqua and hear the latest about Chautauqua Institute’s Week Five Picture This:Photography (July 25-31), visit our Facebook page.

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