Last week I visited the George Eastman House in Rochester NY -- something I had dreamed of for most of my nearly 40 years in photography. It's more than just a huge collection of cameras and photographs - one of the largest in the world - but more importantly, it's a preservation, and celebration, of the people and technologies that shaped our profession.
My daughter Sara had just completed her Masters Degree there at the University of Rochester/George Eastman House. She spent her entire first year at the house, where she obtained her museum certificate in Film Preservation, and then completed the academic course work on campus. What a great opportunity for her, and it gave me this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get an insider's tour of the GEH, its museum and its archives.
The camera on the right, for example, is the very first one produced by Kodak. It's amazing to look at it and touch history, and imagine the kind of revolution it created in photography. We have a direct visual link to our past because of this and the finishing process offered by Kodak. Ordinary people made extraordinary images of their lives, and those who saw the art in it -- Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Steiglitz, Strand, Dorothea Lange and so many others -- were my inspirations.
It was good to feel like a kid again and get that rush of excitement that made me pursue photography in the first place. 39 years later, I'm still energized and amazed by it, even though I now use a computer instead of a cold-lighthead enlarger. Museums don't just preserve the past; great ones, like the George Eastman House, also point the way to the future.
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