Friday, September 4, 2009


It was on this day in 1888 that George Eastman received a patent for the camera design he called a Kodak. It used film that unspooled like a strip of flypaper. It required chemicals and enlargers and skill and patience to convert the images to paper. Now we snap pictures with our phones. Thousands of them. Most of them we never develop or print at all. We look at them in miniature form on a tiny screen. We phone them to our friends who do the same before throwing them away. I expect most of the photography of our era will last no longer than the cheap ephemeral devices we carry them around in, devices which we replace every few years. I suppose that this is an improvement on the boxes and boxes of printed photos that sit unsorted in closets and under beds. Charles Eastman doesn't appear in A Book of Ages, but photographers Diane Arbus, Ansel Adams, Lewis Carroll, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Louis Daguerre, Alberto Korda, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Mathew Brady, Annie Lebowitz and Abraham Zapruder do.

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