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Regular Feature | Film Reviews the case of patent infringement on celluloid film carrying a potentialjudgment oftwenty-fivemillion dollars. When Eastman lost the case, he negotiated the settlement down to five million and again moved on. While asserting that Eastman "democratized" photography and changed the way we see our world, The Wizard ofPhotography is by no means an analysis of the cultural impact of Eastman's enterprise. Instead, the one-hour biography focuses on the man himself, demonstrating that the "wizard" was, overall , thoroughly human and not without some considerable idiosyncrasies the program does not ignore. Eastman was a complex combination of tinker and entrepreneur; a driven, demanding, and suspicious employer. Yet even as he made his first million dollars in 1898, or held social gatherings in the thirty-seven room mansion he had built for his mother and himself in 1905, he remained shy and awkward on social occasions. He never married . In his private and personal life, he applied his methodical business practices to the routine of the mansion and its staff of forty. He demanded that his gardeners count the roses on each bush in his extensive gardens to see which varieties produced better. He ordered monthly reports on the output of his cows and chickens. Once a year he hired public accountants to audit his housekeeper, whom he required to keep double entry ledgers of household expenses. The program narrator notes that even Eastman's breakfast followed a careful ritual: "Organist Harold Gleason arrived early to play music that pleased his prickly boss. At exactly 7:30, as Eastman opened his bedroom door, Gleason began to play. The organist would try to sense his boss's mood as he entered the room and adjust the music accordingly. The conservatory table was always set with a linen tablecloth and his silver tea service. Sometimes guests were invited to join him but increasingly over the years he ate alone." For readers of Film & History, The Wizard ofPhotography provides insight into one captain of industry at the turn of the century. Ofcourse, these readers will recognize that the transparent roll film and improved emulsions attained their commercially viable forms in the 1890s at the same time a new industry was beginning. By the turn of the century, movie film had become a key element of Kodak's success. Thus, Eastman's innovations did indeed democratize photography, facilitate the vernacular snapshot, provide a new form of private and public history, and act as midwife to the new visual medium of motion pictures. For viewers seeking further information, the PBS web site at provides the transcript ofthe program; a timeline ofphotographic history; and interviews with and essays by commentators in the film, including Grant Romer, conservator at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House; Colin Harding, Curator of the Kodak Collection at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Great Britain; and Reese Jenkins, historian and author of Images and Enterprise : Technology and TheAmerican Photography Industry, 1839 to 1925, an important study published by John Hopkins University Press in 1975. The site also offers a gallery ofKodak advertisements and three Kodak tunes from the turn of the century. As the program and these ancillary materials demonstrate, George Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company were clearly important cultural forces in the twentieth-century commodification of picture taking and memory making. But this PBS episode of The American Experience suggests something else Film & History buffs may find familiar: Eastman's search for order, for ritual and routine, may have been as important as his entrepreneurial spirit and his search for financial security. By the second decade of this century, after all, his personal poverty was no longer a problem. He began to disperse his fortune ofone hundred million dollars, giving large sums to found the Eastman School of Music and the Eastman Theatre and providing other gifts to the University ofRochester, as well as to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was training many ofhis best scientists. His suicide in 1932 had nothing to do with the economic depression, everything to do, our commentators suggest, with his fear that his deteriorating medical condition would leave him confined to a wheelchair...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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