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Category : History

01 May 2020

George Eastman’s Kodak


“You push the button, we do the rest”

More than 130 years ago, in the year of the ‘White Blizzard’ of 1888, George Eastman revolutionised photography, with the launch of his Kodak camera. It was in the same year Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President of the United States. Eastman successfully brought to the world, an easy-to-use affordable camera, which for US$25 (around $680 in today’s money), came preloaded with a roll of 100 exposure flexible film.

The user simply pressed a button to expose the image, used a film-advance winder and, when the roll was finished, simply sent the camera to Kodak factory where the film would be processed, images printed and a new roll fitted in the camera before all were returned to the user – for the sum of $10. There was no viewfinder on the camera; instead two V-shaped lines on the top of the camera leather were intended to guide pointing the camera at the subject.

However, it wasn’t until the year 1900 when The Brownie camera, came to market costing $1, which made photography truly affordable.

A significant new era in photography had come about – no longer was photography only available to the well-off, thanks to Eastman, it was now available to the world. Gone were the days when photographers used the wet-plate or dry-plate method which featured heavy glass plates covered with a mixture of silver and other chemicals, taking an entire day to develop.

Eastman believed that, not only would amateurs be interested in his new Kodak camera, but so too would people who wanted pictures to serve as mementos of their daily lives. The world was his oyster and it was Eastman who himself coined the phrase “You Push the Button, We Do The Rest”.

Eastman, with an astute business brain,  wanted to make photography easy and for everyone – not only did he create a business selling his Kodak camera, he also created a second element to the business – that of developing customers exposed film and printing their photographs. In the first six months since launch, Eastman sold more than five thousand Kodak cameras.

Dominating competition and leading the way in photography innovation for years, Eastman’s Rochester-based business was soon to become one of the largest companies and biggest employers in the State of New York. The complex known as Kodak Park eventually covered several thousand acres. Entering into the twentieth century, Kodak controlled around ninety percent of the photography market.

The Kodak camera was an instant success. For the first time, anyone could easily take their own pictures. After 100 pictures had been taken, the camera could be returned to the Kodak factory for developing and printing at a cost of $10. The camera, loaded with a fresh roll of film was returned with the negatives and mounted prints.

George Eastman tragically died from suicide on March 14th 1932 as a result of a single gunshot to the heart. He was 77 years of age. In his suicide note, he said “To my friends, my work is done – Why wait?” Eastman had suffered in the final two years of his life with depression as a result of a debilitating spinal disorder. He was in intense pain, had difficulty standing and walked with a shuffle. He was buried in the grounds of the company he founded, now known as Eastman Business Park.

14 Dec 2016

7th Century Kilmacduagh – Tallest Round Tower in the World


7th Century Kilmacduagh – Tallest Round Tower in the World

7th Century Kilmacduagh - Tallest Round Tower in the World

Kilmacduagh (pronounced Kil-mac-dua, means the ‘church of Duagh’s son’)

Kilmacduagh has one of the finest collections of monastic buildings in Ireland, dating as far back as the 7th Century and has the tallest round tower in the world.

The 7th Century saint, Saint Colman, son of Duagh, established a monastery on land given him by his cousin King Guaire. According to legend, Saint Colman MacDuagh was walking through the woods of the Burren when his girdle fell to the ground. Taking this as a sign, he built his monastery on this spot.

The site was of such importance that it became the centre of the new diocese, the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, in the 12th Century. Owing to its wealth and importance, the monastery was plundered several times in the 13th Century.

With its 1.9m-thick base walls (6 feet), its round tower is reportedly the tallest round tower in the world at 34m (111 feet). The place of refuge for the monks in case of attack, and a place to secure their sacred church treasures (manuscripts, jewelled croziers and costly chalices). The round tower probably dates from the 12th Century. It tower has a considerable lean, likened to that of the Tower of Pisa, Italy.

For security and the preservation of its contents, the burial tombs within the inner cathedral are protected by locked gates, though clear views are possible (it is said that access keys can be obtained from the nearby Tower View B&B). Walking around the graveyard (still in use today) one can see family burial plots, complete with readable headstones dating as far back as the 1800’s.

Please exercise care and respect when visiting this important heritage site. Location Map – https://goo.gl/maps/GVkoj88QZQw

See the full collection of photos here.

03 Nov 2016

Farmleigh House and the Beautiful Colours of Autumn


Farmleigh House and the Beautiful Colours of Autumn

Farmleigh House and the Beautiful Colours of Autumn


Go Colour!

Many of you will already know that I tend to specialise in Black & White photography. For the past 6 months or so, the focus on the desaturated imagery increased apace. However, recently I have been in Ireland for family reasons and the breath taking colours of Autumn inspired me to go colour – at least temporarily! One weekend and based on a recommendation (thanks John!), I took myself off to Farmleigh House in Dublin for a couple of solitary hours. Immersing myself in the beautiful views within Farmleigh grounds, scenes were bursting with colour. Unfortunately, available time didn’t permit to take a tour of the interior of the magnificent Georgian house – I look forward to returning one day to do this.

Some facts on Farmleigh House

Farmleigh House is a wonderful Georgian house built in the mid-18th century. It is the official Irish State guest house and formerly one of the Dublin residences of the Guinness family. The estate of 78 acres consists of extensive private gardens with stands of mature cypress, pine and oak trees, a boating pond, walled garden, sunken garden, out offices and a herd of rare native Kerry Cattle. It was purchased by the Government of Ireland from the 4th Earl of Iveagh in 1999 for €29.2 million. A state body—the Office of Public Works spent in the region of €23 million restoring the house, gardens and curvilinear glasshouses, bringing the total cost to the state to €52.2 million. Farmleigh was opened to the public in July 2001. Click here for more details from Wikipedia.

Go capture your memories of Autumn now!
While there’s still time, grab your camera and get out and about capturing the wonderful colours Mother Nature has provided us! And if you are in or near Dublin, be sure to visit Farmleigh House. Visitor opening times and further details are available through this link. Free expert tips on taking great photographs.

View the complete collection of Farmleigh House and the Beautiful Colours of Autumn.

26 Oct 2016

Revolution in Photography



Summary of key developments in the revolution of photography over the last 190 years.

Revolution in Photography.

Recently, I saw a top-branded (body-only) 50MP sensor medium format camera body advertised online for $45,000 (new). 190 years ago, the first known photograph was created by French inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and took 8 hours exposure time (The view from the Window at Le Gras).

Between then and now, development in photography has accelerated rapidly in many ways – so much so that we could refer to this period as nothing short of ‘revolutionary’.

‘Revolution in Photography’ is intended as a summary of key events over the past 190 years or so. A brief, one-pager insightful summary of the developments in photography since the 19th century. Download the file here – revolution-in-photography-a-summary

04 Oct 2016

The World’s First Photograph – 5 Key Facts

View from the Window at Le Gras, World's first photograph

Le Point de View de la Fenêtre du Gras” (The View from the Window at Le Gras)

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, French, 1765 – 1833

The World’s First Photograph – 5 Key Facts

  1. The World’s first photograph was produced by the French inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in c.1826
  2. The photographs’ image was View from the Window at Le Gras
  3. The photograph was produced using a bitumen coated pewter plate and a wash of oil of lavender and white petroleum, which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen that had not been hardened by light
  4. It took a massive 8 hours of exposure time!
  5. The treasure slipped into obscurity after its last public exhibition in 1898 and didn’t reemerge until 54 years later in 1952

And here’s a brief story…it wasn’t until c.1826 that the world’s first photograph came about – a permanently fixed photographic image to be exact. Created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce It was a result of him experimenting with improvements to the new printmaking technique of lithography (which was terribly fashionable in France at the time). Niépce used a camera obscura and lens, a bitumen coated pewter plate and an exposure time of eight hours (yes eight hours!), together with a wash of oil of lavender and white petroleum. The resultant Niépce creation was his View from the Window at Le Gras, France. He called his process heliography (sun writing).

According to Barbara Brown in her article in the Abbey Newsletter Volume 26 Number 3 Nov 2002, the treasure had slipped into obscurity after its last public exhibition in 1898. It didn’t reemerge until 54 years later when in 1952, Helmut Gernsheim, himself a photographer and a photo historian, traced the work’s background and last recorded owner. Apparently, the owner had forgotten it was stored away!

In 1963, Harry Ransom purchased the Gernsheim Collection for The University of Texas at Austin and Niépce’s heliograph was subsequently donated to the institution. Quoting Barbara Brown, “The Niépce heliograph – the world’s earliest extant permanent photograph from nature – forms the cornerstone not only to UT’s Photography Collection but also to the process of photography which has revolutionized our world throughout the last one and one-half centuries. Because of its uniqueness and its significance to the arts and humanities, it is among the world’s and the University’s rarest treasures”.

Further research/recommended educational videos

The History of Photography

The History of Photography in 5 Minutes

Birthplace of Photography