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American Experience: The Wizard of Photography
American Experience The Wizard of Photography
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2008     1hr 0min

With his introduction of the popular Kodak and Brownie camera systems, George Eastman revolutionized the photographic industry, transforming a complex, expensive technology used by a small professional elite into one that ...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Biography
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/09/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The founder of accessible photography
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 12/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"We all know about Edison, Pasteur, Watt, and other men who brought technological innovation. Here, we can learn about who made photography an activity for the masses. I never knew Kodak was a made-up word. It belongs with inventions like the Simpsons' "D'oh!"
This work would appeal to engineers as well as business majors. Inventing processes was not enough: one had to find a way for many people to want to and to be able to buy the product. Actually, some law students may like it to since Eastman lost a patent case. Given the time period, I am a bit surprised that anti-trust matters didn't arise here. Speaking of time, Eastman was at his height at the fin-de-siecle, so if you like old-timey outfits and architecture, you'll love this work.
Like David Souter, Eugene Delacroix, and Richard Roeper, Eastman never married. The work didn't answer who inherited his 100 million plus wealth and I wish it had. He died in the same way as Hunter Thompson, Virginia Wolf, and Marilyn Monroe; this may depress some viewers.
The work is diverse in terms of gender. The work never discusses the matter, but Eastman seemed to hire a lot of women, and this was decades before women strongly entered the workforce in the 1960s. Half the interviewees are female. The narrator is a woman, but her quiet and quick voice was not a strength of the documentary, to be honest.
This work is not gushy. It speaks of Eastman's failures. It said he was a demanding boss and lacked strong social skills. This work kept it real.
I rented this work as a fluke and I leave it feeling more informed and educated. Knowledge is power, so I feel more powerful. I guess it's true that you learn something new everyday."
Fine documentary about George Eastman, The Wizard of Photogr
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 11/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This interesting documentary tells how George Eastman, a young junior bookkeeper who had never even studied chemistry, started a camera/film/photography supplies business that eventually became the maker of the original Kodak camera and the "Brownie," a camera even kids could use. The film flows along at a rather good pace although it does get a bit depressing at the end; and the filmmakers never hesitate to show that Eastman was not exactly the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet--he was brilliant but he was also a ruthless, competitive businessman.

We see "reenactments" by actors at several points along the way during this film but it works and it doesn't look too scripted or silly. Eastman started his work by experimenting late at night to manufacture a type of dry plate that wouldn't be as heavy as wet plates were for professional photographers and after a few years he met with critical praise and some business but not the true fame and fortune he craved. Although his company was beginning to take off, Eastman would never be satisfied with just that--and even his invention of a roll of film being wound along a roller inside a camera didn't quite land him in the big time which he so desperately wanted.

George Eastman (and his company) finally got the much needed shot in the arm when the Kodak, the first portable camera that anyone could use, came onto the market. There were troubles with that, however; but I won't go into that so as not to spoil it for you. The development of the "Brownie" is another interesting story; and there's also the story of the lawsuit Eastman faced when a competitor sued him for patent infringement. There's even more where that came from!

To some degree the film discusses Eastman's personal life but it mentions few friends specifically except for a couple living in England who befriended Eastman when he came there on business. Eastman is gradually, gracefully portrayed as a somewhat tragic figure with excessively rigid rituals and a foul temper; his office near the women's bathroom didn't exactly make things comfortable for the women working there even if they were employed at a time when women couldn't always find work. Eastman never touched those women; but if he thought they were going to the bathroom too much they were sure to get a very nasty look at the least!

The DVD doesn't come with any extras besides a plug for other items released through the Public Broadcasting System ([...])

I recommend this film for people curious about the history of photography; they won't be bored! It's also interesting to see just how the very first mass marketed cameras were developed and used in the day."