Modern Photography Would Not Exist Without George Eastman

Illustration for article titled Modern Photography Would Not Exist Without George Eastman

George Eastman, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist, was born on this day 160 years ago. His innovations in standardized film and portable cameras made the nascent field of photography accessible to the layperson. Tonight, let's celebrate his birthday with a look back at PBS's George Eastman: The Wizard of Photography.


This documentary, produced by WGBH, takes us through Eastman's fascinating life and the many ways he made photography an accessible art. Yes, the production comes off a little PBS-y, like something you'd watch when your homeroom teacher called in a substitute. Look past all that. The story is great. Here it is in three parts on YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It's easy to forget, in this all-digital world, how something as simple as canister film and a camera you could sling around your neck could have such a huge impact on modern photography. Digital convenience is great, but film isn't dead. And if you like the idea of being able to snap photos on the go from a small, portable device, you've got George Eastman to thank.


Image: Wikipedia

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In the music world, we look at the great composers like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, and others, and wonder where we would be if those composers had not lived. It's impossible to say, but it's entirely possible that others would have been there to take their place. Things might be slightly different, but I think they would be largely the same. So saying that modern photography "would not exist" without George Eastman, is a bit alarmist. Certainly, Eastman's discoveries were extremely important, but that's not to say that somebody else wouldn't have come up with similar solutions.