Monday Motivator #18 – George Eastman (Kodak)

At the age of 24 George Eastman made plans to holiday in Santo Domingo, a friend suggested he document the trip and Eastman bought the gear to do so.  This was 1878 when photography gear required a Sherpa and the Canon Sure Shot was not even a distant thought. The media was big, heavy, glass plates.  Oddly enough, Eastman did not make the trip, but he became absorbed with photography and eventually made it simpler for everybody that has snapped a picture in the last century.      

After three years of photographic experiments, Eastman had a formula that worked, by 1880 he had not only invented a dry plate work flow, but had patented a machine for preparing large numbers of the plates. He quickly recognized the possibilities of making dry plates for sale to other photographers and went into business.  Ongoing experiments took imaging from glass to paper and eventually emulsion film.

   Eastman & Edison

Thanks to Eastman’s inventiveness anyone could now take pictures with a handheld camera simply by pressing a button. He made photographers of all of us.  Be it family photos or professional captures of times and places.  Eastman coined the slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,” when he introduced the Kodak camera in 1888.

The word “Kodak” was first registered as a trademark in 1888.   He created the word Kodak.  “The letter ‘K’ had been a favorite with me — it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with ‘K.”

Eastman lived his philosophy, “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.”  He was a tough competitor in business and philanthropic man away from office.

Kodak set many of the standards in the world of imaging, from film to paper, from transparencies to motion pictures and instant cameras throughout the past century.  

Over the past decade. Kodak has struggled against the emerging digital photography age.  Who would have thunk Hollywood would be using RED’s and EPIC’s and ARRI would be in the digital world with a camera named Alexa.  The writing may have been on the wall, but sadly on 19 January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection and Citi is providing Kodak with $950 million in financing to allow the company to keep going. Kodak plans to continue operating normally during bankruptcy.


Mama has taken the Kodachrome away, times change, the look and feel of film will / has been duplicated by technology.  The grain structure of the 131 year old Eastman generation documented remarkable times that would have been left to sketches.  News, sport, politics, life of the nineteenth century are the “Kodak Moments,” and just as “Video killed the Radio Star” megapixels are leading sprocket holes to the exit.

We can be snobbish or stubborn, reflective or romantic, for the smell of the darkroom or the emotional quality of the medium, but let’s just recognized how George Eastman contributed to society as both a man and inventor.

“Kodak sells film, but they don’t advertise film. They advertise memories.”      – Theodore Levitt


3 thoughts on “Monday Motivator #18 – George Eastman (Kodak)

  1. FYI – I was recently told that Kodak actually discovered the digital camera first, but was afraid of the technology and what it could mean for their business so they buried their invention.

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