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)