How George Eastman Changed the World

Every one of us, in some way, has had our lives impacted by George Eastman. Founding Eastman Kodak in 1888, he set out to change how people photographed. He began by creating the first roll of film in 1884 - a departure from the traditional method of using glass plates and a sink. One year later, he put that roll of film into the first Eastman camera. These were the first steps of a 20-year quest that would lead him to his most iconic camera...the Brownie.

The Kodak name came from Eastman's penchant for the letter "K" - its sound was something he found to be "strong and unyielding." The Brownie sold for $1.15 in 1900, the year it came out (still only $32 in today's money). Film cost 15 cents. Even with the wild success of the Brownie, Eastman continued creating cameras until he developed a debilitating spinal condition. In the end, the pain became too much, and he shot himself in the heart, leaving a note that read, "My work is done – Why wait? GE."

Eastman was one of the greatest philanthropists of his time, donating more than $100 million dollars, mostly towards health related causes and education. 

Chris Knight's picture

Residing in New York City, Chris is an internationally published photographer whose work has appeared in Vogue, People, MSNBC, ABC, Ocean Drive, GQ and others. He is an instructor of Photography and Imaging at Pratt Institute and the New York Film Academy.

Log in or register to post comments

I think I shot about 1/8 of those cameras shown in the video. Brought back some fun memories.

"I love the smell of HC110 in the morning, you know one time we were in a darkroom, for 12 hours. When it was all over we walked out, we opened every single film canister and processed every roll. Smell, that HC110 smell, smells like... Victory."

Fun fact: The first camera of Henri Cartier-Bresson was a Brownie.

I had no idea he committed suicide. Great share, thank you!

"Smell, that HC110 smell, smells like... Victory."

This film thing is going to be over one day...

I got my first Camera in the 1950's --- A Box Brownie the start of a life long passion, Today I have a Canon 70D and a bag full of Lenses and still love taking pictures. Thank you George Eastman

Kodak is present in many Leica sensors, for instance