A family wedding took me to Rochester, New York, a pretty city bisected by the Genesee River, home to craft-beer breweries, better-than-average pizza, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks, and the George Eastman House, a museum of photography and film.
My husband and I set out on foot from our hotel to the museum, a walk that took us past imposing 19th and early 20th century houses and shade-giving street trees. We had two free hours and no expectations.
The museum’s history of photography proved absorbing as did an exhibit of photos by Lewis Hine, a photographer who spurred social change via his pictures. Mostly, though, I was fascinated by the story behind the 1888 creation of the Kodak camera, an invention that put picture-taking in the hands of the average American.
George Eastman came up with the name Kodak. He wanted a word that started with K (a crisp sound), was memorable, and easy to pronounce in any language. Eastman also came up with the Kodak’s first advertising slogan: “You press the button—we do the rest.” The company sold the camera for next to nothing because it made money on film and processing.
The success of the Kodak reminded me of the popularity of a 2007 invention that happened to start with K—Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon sells it cheaply because the company knows buyers will fill it with e-books purchased from--wait for it--Amazon.
Had Amazon founder Jeff Bezos visited Eastman House and studied George Eastman’s career? Perhaps, but it’s more likely the creation and marketing of the Kodak camera is the stuff of business-school classes.
Eastman Kodak went on to introduce the Brownie camera in 1900. It sold for $1 and film went for 15 cents a roll. Small wonder (pun intended) George Eastman is credited with the democratization of photography.
Two hours and no expectations changed my perception of modern-day photography, product marketing, and K-words. Oh, and did I tell you how much I liked Rochester?