A very exciting day for Eastman House, National Film Preservation Foundation, the Cineteca del Friuli and Cinemazero.
A long lost film…found. It’s 35mm, it’s nitrate, it’s slapstick. Too Much Johnson.
Our very own Tony Delgrosso, Head of Preservation and Daniela Currò, Preservation Officer in the Motion Picture Department discuss their experience:
“Holding in one’s hands the very same print that had been personally edited by Orson Welles 75 years ago provokes an emotion that’s just impossible to describe.”
Paolo Cherchi Usai, Senior Curator of Film, George Eastman House
Super Kodak Six-20, 1938, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, New York. Gift of Eastman Kodak Company
July 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the Super Kodak Six-20, the first production camera to feature automatic exposure (AE) control. Aimed at removing the exposure guesswork for photographers, the camera’s shutter-preferred AE control meant that the photographer chose the shutter speed and the camera would then “choose” the correct lens opening. Kodak’s engineers accomplished this feat by mechanically coupling a selenium photo cell light meter, located just above the top half of the camera’s folding clamshell.
This advancement, though groundbreaking, was not picked up by most camera manufacturers for some twenty years after the debut of the Super Six-20. These days, automatic exposure is a standard feature on almost all cameras. And it is not much of a stretch to call the Super Kodak Six-20 the first “smart camera.”
But auto exposure was not the only cutting-edge feature of the Super Six-20. It was also the first Kodak camera to use a common window for both the rangefinder and viewfinder. The film advances with a single-stroke lever, which also cocks the shutter at the end of the stroke, thus preventing double exposures. And like auto exposure, these features would not become common on cameras for many years.
Features aside, the Super Kodak Six-20 is one of the most attractive cameras ever marketed. Its lovely clamshell exterior design was styled by legendary industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague.
All this innovation came at a rather high price and not without some issues. The Super Kodak Six-20 retailed for $225 in 1938 (that would be over $2,000 today) and it had a reputation for being somewhat unreliable—the built-in self-timer was known to lock up the shutter. Since few models were manufactured, some 719, it is highly sought after by camera collectors.
The initial group of 50 photographs on Google Art Project spans the 1840s through the late 20th century and a wide variety of photographic processes from the 174 years of the medium’s existence are represented. The variety of subjects featured include Frida Kahlo, Martin Luther King Jr., the first train wreck ever photographed, the Lincoln conspirators, the Egyptian pyramids and Sphinx in the 1850s, and a portrait of photo pioneer Daguerre.
The list of the masters include William Henry Fox Talbot, Hill & Adamson, Southworth & Hawes, Timothy O’Sullivan, Mathew Brady, Julia Margaret Cameron, Eadweard Muybridge, William Henry Jackson, Edward S. Curtis, Gertrude Kasebier, Eugene Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Lewis W. Hine, Dorothea Lange, Nickolas Muray, and Benedict J. Fernandez. We will continually add works to the project throughout the year.
Our partnership with Google is an exciting endeavor and truly opens the door to the contents within our photography vault, with a reach unlike ever before. The online exhibition experience allows for high resolution and high level research with otherwise unseen objects.