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Colin Harding, on:
the Kodak camera

Colin Harding Q: What was revolutionary about the Kodak camera in 1888?

The Kodak camera did incorporate a few novel components, but in itself, the camera wasn't in fact revolutionary. It was by no means the first hand camera. It wasn't even the first camera to use a form of roll holder. What was revolutionary was the fact that the camera was just part of a general system, the Kodak system. And it was this system that revolutionized photography. The Kodak camera effectively separated the art, in Eastman's words, of picture taking from picture making. So for the very first time, you didn't have to be a skilled photographer and skilled in the darkroom to actually make your own photographs. All you had to do was press the button and then send the entire camera off, back to the Kodak factory. At the factory, your film would be processed, your prints would be printed, a new film put in the camera, and it would be sent back to you. So in Eastman's wonderful slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest." And they did the rest for you. That was a revolutionary thing. It was the Kodak system, rather than the Kodak camera. The camera was just one part of the system as a whole.

Q: So the first Kodak was a toy for the rich?

The first Kodak was by no means a camera that everyone could afford. It was confined largely to those who had the means to afford it, but also the motive to use it. It was aimed very much at those who went on long holidays, who traveled, people who wanted a record of their travels but didn't want to buy commercially available photographs. So the Kodak was aimed very much at the affluent middle class or the upper classes.

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