Visual Heritage Photo Restoration and Picture Framing Melbourne Australia

History of Popular Photography

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The Birth of Amateur Photography

Late 19th Century / Early 20th Century
Until the last quarter of the 19th century the use of photography had been confined to professionals and the select wealthy. Putting the cost aside, a high degree of technical skill was necessary and the photographer was required to do all the preparation and developing. While many people now had portraits of themselves and family, very few had actually even thought of using a camera.

In the late 1870's George Eastman began to market a new type of photographic plate, known as the dry-plate. These commercially produced plates were supplied ready to be loaded into the camera and could be stored for development at a later time. With this development, photography not only became a more efficient and portable process for the professional, it also came within reach of a new breed of enthusiasts.

It was the introduction in 1888 of the KODAK camera by George Eastman that truly brought photography in reach of the people. The affordable and simple to use camera replaced photographic plates with a new form of flexible roll film. The KODAK was purchased pre-loaded with a roll of film and once completed it was sent to the factory for developing before being mailed back along with prints and a freshly loaded film. It was so simple that George Eastman penned the slogan "You push the button, we do the rest." The era of the "snapshot" and photography as we know it today had dawned.

At the turn of the century Eastman released the first incarnation of the infamous "Brownie" Camera. Costing only $1 ( about a twentieth of the cost of the original KODAK ) the camera used roll film that could be loaded and unloaded in daylight by the photographer. These advances in practicality and affordability resulted in the taking of many millions of snapshots over the coming years. The brownie remained popular for decades to come with many technical and aesthetic improvements along the way.