1 / 20

Kodak No.1 circular snapshots

Boy paddling in the sea, about 1890

(Collection of National Media Museum/Kodak Museum)

Kodak No.1 circular snapshots

Today, we take photography for granted. Anyone can take a photograph simply

by pressing a button. Yet, it was not always so simple.

The invention of photography was announced in 1839, but during its first

fifty years taking a photograph was a complicated and expensive business.

In 1888, all this was to change following the appearance of a camera that

was to revolutionize photography. Popular photography can properly be said

to have started 120 years ago with the introduction of the Kodak.

The Kodak camera was the invention of an American, George Eastman

(1854-1932). It was a simple, leather-covered wooden box – small and light

enough to be held in the hands. Taking a photograph with the Kodak was very

easy, requiring only three simple actions; turning the key (to wind on the

film); pulling the string (to set the shutter); and pressing the button (to

take the photograph). There wasn’t even a viewfinder - the camera was

simply pointed in the direction of the subject to be photographed. The

Kodak produced circular snapshots, two and a half inches in diameter.

The Kodak was sold already loaded with enough paper-based roll film to

take one hundred photographs. After the film had been exposed, the entire

camera was returned to the factory for the film to be developed and

printed. The camera, reloaded with fresh film, was then returned to its

owner, together with a set of prints. To sum up the Kodak system, Eastman

devised the brilliantly simple sales slogan: ‘You press the button, we do

the rest.’ (National Media Museum)