When you think of film history, the first place you think of probably isn’t the Finger Lakes. But Upstate New York, in particular the Finger Lakes Film Trail, has a rich history in innovation and production.
The first stop is the Eastman Museum in Rochester. The museum opened in 1949, but Kodak released its first camera in 1888. After that, taking photographs was never the same for the general public.
“This is the only known box of Eastman's film for the Kodak," said Todd Gustavson, curator of the technology collection at the museum. “And what we have here is basically pretty much the whole history of the cameras that the company made over the years.”
What You Need To Know
- George Eastman and his company, eventually known as Kodak, changed photography with their 1888 camera
- Before 1888, photographers also needed chemistry knowledge to process a photo
- The museum is one of three stops on the Finger Lakes Film Trail
There are 22,000 cameras in the archives of the Eastman Museum.
“OK, so this is the original Kodak camera from 1888. One neat thing about it right off the bat: This little string cocks the shutter; the camera still works. Not bad from something that's from 1888," said Gustavson.
George Eastman didn't invent film or the art of photography, but he did make photography simple and affordable for the masses.
“He took something that was very complicated, and he made it easy. I mean, it's still complicated. This is all done. It's like the Wizard of Oz. Don't look behind the curtain," said Gustavson.
Before the 1888 camera, a photographer needed to know a lot about chemistry.
“They processed it for you, and it was sold with the advertising slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’ So basically, he took something that was really complicated, and he made it basically so anybody could do it," said Gustavson.
The company's innovations extended into motion pictures.
“And we have letters to prove this. They purchase film from Eastman to be used for some project, and they split it in half and perforate it and that's where a 35-millimeter motion picture film comes from to this day. It really goes back to this guy right here," said Gustavson, pointing at the original Kodak camera.
“Rochester is on the map because of Eastman Kodak because this was George Eastman’s home and he started his business here, and Kodak was the major supplier of all film materials to the film motion picture industry," said Caroline Yeager, associate curator, moving image department at the Eastman Museum.
At Eastman, they have an archive building where they work to collect, preserve and restore film as directors intended them to be viewed. Since 1951, they have been showing films at the Dryden Theater, attached to the museum. They’ve currently caring for 28,000 titles, and they are showed regularly in the theater.