A Life Reviewed: George Eastman through the Viewfinder
In my experience, history and art have always been intertwined. I have studied history through art, and often incorporated historic elements in my work. When creating the images in this exhibition, I searched for a photographic method that would be intrinsically connected to its subject. I also wanted to produce the effect of peering into the past, so the viewer would be unsure if the scenes are old or new.
These images were made by photographing subjects through the viewfinders of old Kodak cameras. Many early cameras have an auxiliary lens used to frame the image before exposing. When the camera is placed in front of the subject, the image can be seen through a small mirrored viewer, or viewfinder, on the top of the camera. By taking digital Photographs of subjects seen in this device, I combine the dust and distortions of these old cameras with the present scenes in front of them. Through this process, I turn the technology that made Eastman famous back on his legacy.
I began photographing the city of Rochester to discover its past, and quickly decided the story I was interested in was George Eastman’s. As the founder of Kodak, and one of photography’s most significant entrepreneurs, he expanded the scope of photography from the wealthy to the average person. At a time of great advances in industry and society, he recognized photography’s potential. To highlight what remains today of his influence, I photographed places and objects directly related to his life and the corporation he founded. A Life Reviewed is a photographic biography. This project combines historical research with a nostalgic re-imagining of the past. It is an account of a human life, pieced together after the fact. Each image has a place within Eastman’s story, as well as my own journey to discover Rochester and its place in the history of photography.