As featured in “The Photo Issue” by Whalebone
(Originally published Fall 2020)
Clamber to the eighteenth floor of the iconic Kodak Tower, and you’ll find yourself admiring an empire built on cameras, film and innovation. Facing due north, the impressive five-mile expanse of the Kodak Industrial Park stretches before you, and one floor above is where its founder, George Eastman, presided over what he had created.
Eastman’s travels were what first brought him to photography, and it was his unprecedented vision that brought photography to the masses. In the late 19th century, he transformed the lavish and complicated newfound pastime into a simple, accessible hobby for all. He not only invented roll film, his coined slogan told the success story simply and pointedly, “You push the button, we do the rest.”
In the late 19th century, he transformed the lavish and complicated newfound pastime into a simple, accessible hobby for all.
Eastman lived an adventurous life while also finding solace in his reclusive nature. He was the type of person to stand in front of a stampeding rhino just to capture the perfect shot, but also spent hours alone reading and listening to music in his opulent estate.
Aside from his home, Eastman allowed himself few extravagances, preferring instead to donate his wealth to the greater good in monumental fashion—ultimately leaving his entire estate to the University of Rochester. In fact, only John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie donated more than Eastman during his time.
Kodak would eventually leap beyond analog practices to patent the first digital camera, forging the path for photography as we know it today. And while the company continues to embody the innovative exploration instilled by Eastman, it remains the sole manufacturer of analog film in the United States – thus preserving the tradition and art form revolutionized by its founder.