How the Kodak Brownie Changed Privacy Rights Forever

It was the kind of summer day that your mind instantly recalls when you hear the words “summer day”. Warm, sunny, gorgeous. William Meredith’s daughters, as was their habit when a day felt this good, lounging in the backyard, sunning in their swimsuits. All was peaceful — until the girls entered the house, warning their father of an intruder in their backyard.

Meredith grabbed his shotgun and bolted outside. He scanned the surroundings and quickly found his target, now creeping around a neighbor’s yard. Before too long, the snoop turned and headed back William’s way. He waited until the peeping tom had crossed over the property line, and…

All it took was one shot.

But the visitor had not been alone. Four men approached his home from the front. William was ready. As the angry men approached, he issued a warning:

“Cross my sidewalk, there’s gonna be another shooting.”

The men decided to take their frustration to the local authorities. Shortly thereafter, William Meredith was arrested for the murder of… an $1,800 drone that had been flying around his neighborhood.

Photo by Jaron Schneider

The owner of the drone, David Boggs, claimed he had simply been flying around taking photographs of a nearby house for a friend. For Mr. Meredith’s part, he viewed the intrusion as tantamount to the home invasion you probably imagined I was describing. It is likely this is not the only such story you have heard over the last several years regarding drones and privacy. But while the technology is new, the argument is anything but.

It has now been well over a century since Joel Benton’s poem “The Kodak Fiend” warned, in ominous verse, “Oh, de Kodak fiend, he’s sly an’ mean / An’ you can’t go out near his machine.”

The democratization of photography has, from its very start, brought with it the risk — as well as the fear — of loss of privacy. The story of how society reacted to this phenomenon is rich and far-reaching, upending social norms and creating wholly new legal precedents. One camera, more than any other even to this day, helped build the world we occupy: The Kodak Brownie.

In the late 19th century, the Eastman Kodak company had been making strides toward — and waves with — more inexpensive, portable camera options. Still out of the reach of many consumers, though, at $25 each (over $700 in today’s dollars), these first attempts found their way into the hands of a very particular class of citizens: reporters. It is no wonder, then, that the first group to sound the loudest alarms over privacy were not the common folk, but rather the well-heeled, upper-class types most likely to generate headlines.

The Original Kodak camera, made by George Eastman, released in 1888 | Image via the National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution

While American society has always been stratified and public personas of the powerful have always been carefully manicured, in the late 19th century the elite enjoyed considerable control over their separation from the rabble. With affordable photography, they found the veil being lifted, a click at a time, and they were not pleased. Gossip merchants and sleuthhounds were now empowered with a vastly more potent tool to shed light upon and wrest away control from their carefully crafted public image.

It is no wonder, then, that the first major treatise on these concerns emerged from one of the nation’s most elite institutions. In 1890, the Harvard Law Review published an article entitled “The Right to Privacy” by Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis. The document became one of the most influential writings in American legal history.

While attributed to both men, the reality is far more telling. Brandeis, a Jewish immigrant and future Supreme Court Justice, handled most of the writing but had been urged toward it by Warren. Warren, the son of a paper mill magnate and a member of the high society so threatened by this accessible technology, was incensed by the intrusion of this proto-paparazzi upon his way of life. The article itself makes the concerns quite plain:

The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle.

These concerns were not relegated to the wealthy for long, however. A decade after the influential article’s publication, the Eastman Kodak company released the first undeniably mass-market camera: The Kodak Brownie. For the price of $1 (equivalent to $32.66 in today’s dollars), anyone could grab a cheap cardboard box with fake leather coating and a meniscus lens and aim it anywhere they pleased.

In our current world, news has exploded with revelations of Instagram’s effect on teenagers, particularly young girls, and how, despite this potential harm, the company was actively designing an alternate version of its app for an even younger audience. It has since been put “on hold” due to public pressure. The power of algorithms and information harvesting is significant, but the Kodak Brownie was doing it all first.

The name “Brownie” itself was more than merely a reference to the camera’s designer, Frank A. Brownell — it was a bit of marketing genius. The cutesy name, accompanied by magical mascots from a popular series of children’s books, existed solely to target Kodak’s affordable camera to children.

“Plant the Brownie acorn and the Kodak oak will grow,” was a popular slogan at the time. It worked like gangbusters. Eastman Kodak shipped more than 1.5 million Brownies in the first year of production. Forget the socialites outside their fancy soirees, the Brownie is when schoolyard had become a photo studio. At every level of American life, privacy had changed.

The explosion of images was inextricably linked to an explosion of intrusions, new and strange to the culture. The public could not get enough of the Brownie, and their sense of propriety began to relax in order to accommodate their new fascination. Your average citizen could now capture moments of extreme humanity, poverty, embarrassment, and harm that had been unthinkable before. The common person was now also beginning to wonder, what were the new rules? The law was going to have to catch up with the times, and the very same year the Brownie was introduced, it would face its first test.

Abigail Robertson was a teenager from Rochester, New York who had sat for a portrait at a local studio. This was, by now, a common enough practice. What was uncommon, however, is what Abigail saw in shop windows some time after her photograph was taken. All over the town of Rochester and well beyond, Abigail’s face graced poster after poster, advertising the flour of a nearby mill. Without her knowledge, with no agreement on her part, Abigail had become the mascot for a product, and in storefronts, warehouses, and even saloons, acquaintances saw and recognized her daily. All in all, 25,000 such posters were produced and distributed.

Abigail Johnson’s photo in a Franklin Mills Flour ad

For Abigail, this was horrific. The embarrassment and confusion she experienced led her to severe nervous shock, leaving her bedridden and attended to by a physician. This was simply not something a person of this time period was prepared to handle.

Abigail sued Franklin Mills, the flour mill for which the advertisements were produced, and the Rochester Folding-Box Company, which were responsible for the production of the posters, for $15,000 in damages (nearly half a million dollars in today’s currency) and an order forbidding her likeness being used in any advertisement.

At the first trial, in the Supreme Court of Monroe County, the defendants’ argument was simple: They had the right to use Abigail’s photograph because there was no law saying they did not have such a right. The judge was unmoved. Interestingly, his reasoning hinged a great deal on Abigail’s station in life as an everyday citizen. In good conscience, he could not rule that a normal person should be placed in such a position, as they had invited no attention on themselves and had sought no celebrity. He concluded that such use of Roberson’s likeness without consent was not only plainly traumatic, but the very act of selecting her image for advertisement indicated it possessed value, and the right to such value belonged to Robertson herself.

Franklin Mills and the Rochester Folding-Box Company appealed, unwilling to cede payment and stop the use of their popular advertising campaign. The case finally traveled all the way to the State of New York Court of Appeals. There, over a decade after its publication, Warren and Brandeis’s “Right to Privacy” was invoked repeatedly by Abigail’s lawyers.

Shockingly, it did little good. By a four to three decision, Robertson’s victory was overturned. The Court of Appeals ruled that Abigail’s face had no inherent value whatsoever, was not physical property, thus nothing had been stolen from her. Additionally, Chief Judge Alton Parker concluded “right of privacy” had no firm basis in present jurisprudence. It was a devastating conclusion, made more bitter by the court’s dismissal of Abigail’s suffering as “purely mental,” and Chief Judge Parker’s demeaning comments to the young woman about how she should be “flattered” someone found her so beautiful.

Unsurprisingly, Abigail’s case had become immensely popular with the public, touching on concerns shared by many Americans at the time. To see her defeated in this way infuriated the public. The country was long past the self-pitying complaints of the bourgeoisie over gossip rags. This was about the common folk. If they could do this to this innocent girl, who was next? The outcry was so immediate and intense that the New York State Legislature was compelled to act.

In 1903, New York became the first state to recognize a right to control the use of one’s name and image. Though limited in scope, it did criminalize the non-consensual use of one’s image for advertisement and trade. Others who had experienced invasions of privacy like Abigail’s were empowered to file a civil suit to cease further use of their likenesses and be compensated. Other states followed. Warren and Brandeis’s “The Right to Privacy” was used in over a dozen cases to bring about the recognition of the common law right of privacy.

Within a few years, a manual on the law of advertising was already recommending written and signed releases from models. By 1909, the issue found its way to the Supreme Court, where a woman successfully won, arguing that a photograph of her used in a whiskey advertisement constituted libel. Mrs. A. Schuman argued reputational harm in being associated with such a product when she was quite proudly a woman of impeccable sobriety. In this new era of the snapshot, the new rules were quickly coming into focus.

Brandeis, for his part, was not done with the topic. His passion for privacy rights followed him all the way to the Supreme Court, wherein in 1928, he wrote a thunderous, historic dissent in Olmstead v. United States, arguing evidence obtained by wiretap violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Though he lost at the time, some four decades later, the court would overturn the ruling and finally agree with his position.

The right to privacy became a core consideration for Americans. Increasingly, this right found itself at the center of a variety of issues. In the 1960s, it was invoked to protect the right of married couples to purchase contraception, which set the stage for one of the most consequential victories for privacy in our nation’s history, Roe v. Wade.

Every year that passes, we encounter new, frightening ways in which our privacy is intruded upon. Terms of Service for virtually any transaction, purchase, or online membership have become an inscrutable rats’ nest meant to overwhelm the average citizen to the point of ceding their rights without even knowing to what degree they have done so. Facebook and Instagram are probably, collectively, the largest photo album in the history of the medium. There have long been concerns, some well-founded, that the images we are sharing online will show up in an advertisement, or as part of some corporation’s “content.”

Even as recently as last year, the social media giant began updating its rights management systems, working with certain, undisclosed partners to grant them the power to claim ownership of their images and dictate when and where those images show up across the platform. How will this impact you in the future? This remains unclear.

What is undeniable, however, is the shift to accessible photography — pioneered by Eastman Kodak and brought to new heights over a century ago with their cheap little Brownie — started a conversation in the country that has since spilled into every aspect of public life.

Sources: Wikipedia, WireWheel, The Chronicle, Timeline.


Stunning Landscape Photo Captures the Incredible Ever-Changing Weather of Iceland

The small country of Iceland is renowned for its natural beauty and a diverse landscape that includes volcanoes, mountains, and geysers. Due to its location, this island also has a remarkably active climate. Moscow-based photographer Mikhail Shcheglov traveled to Dyrhólaey Cape in South Iceland and managed to capture a mesmerizing change in the weather. While sunshine falls on plants in the foreground, a large rainbow appears from dark, stormy clouds, framing the coast.

“The weather in Iceland is changing dramatically—all-time strong winds draw in the sky fantastic images which follow each other rapidly,” Shcheglov tells My Modern Met. “Sometimes they are vivid, picturesque, and rich in contrast, sometimes deep and dramatic. You need to stand by holding your camera ready to shoot the outstanding moment of nature transformation.” The 51-year-old photographer managed to do just that when he snapped a shot of this incredible moment during an evening walk, prior to a thunderstorm.

Shcheglov's brilliant photograph, entitled Before a Storm, was even shortlisted for the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) Weather Photographer of the Year 2020 award. “As the name suggests, this image was taken just before a storm and the wispy virga are clearly visible,” RMetS explains on its website. “Virga frequently precede heavy downpours when the air below the cloud base is not yet humid enough to support full precipitation. The trails of precipitation evaporate or sublime in the drier air before they reach the ground.”

You can keep up to date with Shecheglov's latest photography projects by following the photographer on Instagram.

Mikhail Shcheglov: Instagram | 35Photo


As the Photographers’ Gallery in London turns 50, we look at five of its defining shows

Sue Davies, the founder of the Photographers' Gallery standing at its entrance 
on Great Newport Street, between Leicester Square and Covent Garden.

The institution's director Brett Rogers has selected five key shows from the past five decades.

“Everyone put pressure on her to call it the Photography Gallery,” says Brett Rogers, the director of the Photographers’ Gallery in London. “But she said no, it’s a place for photographers, we want them feel comfortable here.” The “she” in question was Sue Davies, the founder and first director of the Photographers’ Gallery, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The Photographers’ Gallery was the first public institution dedicated to photography in the UK. In the lead up to its formation, Davies had been working at the Institute of Contemporary Art where she met several photographers who like her felt that London was in need of a space dedicated to the medium. One of her key goals was “to gain recognition for photography as an art form in its own right”. Davies drummed up support for the venture and raised funds, which included remortgaging her own house, before finding a space on Great Newport Street, near Covent Garden. And on 14 January 1971, the Photographers’ Gallery was born.

“[Davies] wanted to create a space for photographers who aspired to be artists and also for photographers who were photojournalists and trying to find their way within the industry, within editorial and advertising,” Rogers says. “That was quite surprising. She wanted to both recognise it as an art form but also to acknowledge the very important roles played by applied photography: magazines, print press, medicine, Nasa photography, picture postcards.”

The Photographers' Gallery moved to its new home just off London's Oxford Street in 2012

In the first year alone, the new gallery hosted 19 exhibitions. Among these were shows of photojournalism; landscapes; Polaroids by Andy Warhol; Zoe Dominic’s pictures of ballet dancers; a Jacques Henri Lartigue survey; sepia prints of London in the 1870s; and a group show of erotic photography. “All I ever say is, her view was very eclectic and Catholic and that was a good thing,” Rogers says. “[Davies] embraced the whole breadth, and we do today.”

Davies was director of the gallery for two decades, stepping down in 1991. She was followed by Sue Grayson Ford, Paul Wombell and in 2005 Rogers took over. The gallery moved to its new space in central London, just off Oxford Street, in 2012. For the past eight years Rogers has been planning the Soho Photography Quarter, an outdoor pedestrianised zone around the gallery “where you can see photography 24/7 free of charge”. The area underwent a soft launch in September with the final completion and formal opening planned for February 2022. “It’s going to be safe, and beautifully lit, welcoming and not smelly,” says Rogers, referring to what was often a urine-scented alleyway.

Rogers took some time away from planning the future of the institution to cast her mind back to its past and select five exhibitions that have defined the Photographers’ Gallery.
Five key exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery

The private view for The Concerned Photographer, the first exhibition at The Photographers Gallery
The Concerned Photographer (13 January-13 February 1971)
Featuring: Werner Bischof, Robert Capa, Leonard Freed, André Kertész, David Seymour, Dan Weiner

The first exhibition at the newly formed gallery was an unplanned one. “Although Sue [Davies] wanted to do a show on Civil Rights photography, this came into her lap at the right time when we had to open,” Rogers says. The exhibition was organised by the International Fund for Concerned Photography in New York, founded by Cornell Capa, and which later spawned the International Center of Photography. “This was the heyday of Magnum and the photo agencies, so [the show] reflected the importance of photojournalism,” Rogers says. Among the highlights were works by Robert Capa—“there were some unusual ones by him”—and David Seymour’s “beautiful images of children during the war in Poland”.

The exhibition also experimented with new curatorial ideas, “transferring what had always been seen in print and in magazines, onto the gallery wall,” Rogers says. “That had never been done in the UK really. We very successfully did big blow ups [with] small images framed.” Rogers adds that the exhibition “set the tone” for the Photographers’ Gallery and led to many photojournalism and reportage shows over the decades, including work by, among others, Margaret Bourke-White, Elliott Erwitt, Eugene Smith, Bruce Davidson, Werner Bischof and Sebastião Salgado. “All the great names,” Rogers adds.

Installation view of Five Years with the FaceCourtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery Archive
5 Years with The Face (18 April-17 May 1985)
Featuring: Anton Corbijn, Chalkie Davies, Jill Furmanovsky, Mike Laye, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jamie Morgan, Sheila Rock and Carol Starr

The now legendary magazine The Face was at the height of its powers in the mid-1980s, covering youth culture and fashion its unique style. The exhibition included work by 37 photographers, including Anton Corbijn, Jill Furmanovsky and Robert Mapplethorpe. One of the key elements that it explored was the importance of the stylist in fashion and commercial photography. “Fashion photography is very collaborative; it’s not like most other independent photography,” Rogers says. “They always work with stylists and art directors. [The exhibition] very much investigated the role of Ray Petri, this incredible stylist from the 80s who subverted the whole way you took a fashion photograph.”

The graphic designer Neville Brody, who was the magazine’s art director at the time, designed the exhibition and its distinctive poster. Rogers adds that there is “a lovely link to our 50th anniversary” as Brody recently got back in touch with the gallery offered to design its 50th anniversary logo, because he had such “fond memories” of the show. The exhibition paved the way for later exhibitions by trendy fashion photographers such as Juergen Teller and Corinne Day, Rogers says. “We’ve always prioritised [fashion exhibitions] because we know young people love fashion. We’re just off Oxford Street, so why wouldn’t we?”

The poster for the Photovideo: Photography in the Age of the Computer exhibition
Photovideo: Photography in the Age of the Computer (1 November-7 December 1991)
Featuring: Susan Boyce, Susan Hardy, Brian Harris, Graham Howard, Pedro Meyer, Clinton Osbourne, Esther Parada, Philip Benson & David Perret, Keith Piper, Simon Robertshaw and Kativa Sharma

“The gallery was full of video screens and electronic buzzing and datasets,” Rogers says. It was an exhibition that showed how photography was going “from the darkroom to the computer screen—and how that change was already happening already in the 90s”. The exhibition was curated by Rogers’s predecessor Paul Wombell and Steven Bode, who runs Film and Video Umbrella. “What they recognised was the early impact of new technologies on the image,” Rogers says. “It was influenced by Tiananmen Square and all those images of the tanks and the blurry images and pixilation that came down through video stills.”

As well as examining the beginnings of the digital culture that we take for granted today, it also looked at who made and stored images and the use of big data. It explicitly asked “what are the implications for society?” Rogers says. “They looked at mass surveillance, the role of the military in creating images, and datasets—even in ’91. We think this was a prescient exhibition because nobody was talking about that.”

Taryn Simon's exhibition An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar showing one of her works documenting a nuclear waste storage facilityCourtesy The Photographers’ Gallery Archive
Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (12 September-11 November 2007)
Featuring: Taryn Simon

“We have always had a very big commitment to promoting women artists and somebody who really set the bar high in interrogating documentary [photography] and really put conceptual photography on the map, is Taryn Simon. We were the first to show her [in the UK],” Rogers says. The impact of the topics covered by the American photographer marked many who saw the show. “Doesn’t it stay with you? She went into a forensic laboratory, she documented a Palestinian woman having a hymen reconstruction, [she photographed] inside the CIA, [showed] the big internet cables coming up from the sea. It was one of the most staggering exhibitions ever. She just struck a new chord with where photography could go.”

Simon went on to have a major shows around the world, branching out from photography with notable performance installations such as An Occupation of Loss (2016). There was a real “conceptual richness” to the show at the Photographers’ Gallery, which “reset the bar”, Rogers says. And led to “photographers thinking differently: what is photography capable of? What can it uncover?”

Installation view of Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s© Kate Elliot
Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works from the Verbund Collection (6 October 2016-15 January 2017) Featuring: VALIE EXPORT, Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman and Martha Rosler, among others

“That show had everybody from Cindy Sherman to Hannah Wilke, to our lovely Alexis Hunter who died shortly after,” Rogers says. “As well as many unknow names.” The exhibition of 48 female photographers from the Verbund Collection in Vienna focused on work made during the 1970s that dealt with political issues such as the patriarchy and sexism. As well as photography, the show also include collage works, films and videos. Rogers says that with such a show it was important to see the works in the exhibition rather that in photobooks. “It’s the visceral quality; their work is so hard hitting. And some of them are stitched and you can’t really see that in a book.”

“To younger photographers coming to our gallery, they may have heard their names but they had never seen their work,” Rogers says. “[It was] really radical, provocative, political work. And I really think it shook them up; it had a big impact.”


Portugal Masters returns to Algarve

The European Tour has added the Portugal Masters to its 2021 schedule, with the rearranged tournament now set to take place at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, in Vilamoura, from November 4-7.

This will be the 15th consecutive edition of the event which became part of the European Tour in 2007.

The €1.5 million event was originally due to take place at the end of April but was postponed due to travel difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has now been rescheduled for 4-7 November, replacing the Volvo China Open which, due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, will be played as a national event only this year and will not be sanctioned by the European Tour.

South African George Coetzee claimed the title when the Portugal Masters was last played in September 2020, finishing two shots clear of Englishman Laurie Canter to secure his fifth European Tour title.

He joined a list of champions that includes Lee Westwood (2009), Shane Lowry (2012) and Pádraig Harrington (2016).

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We are delighted to confirm the rescheduled Portugal Masters as we continue to reshape the end of our season following yesterday’s announcement of the Mallorca Golf Open.

Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course has been a popular venue with our players, and it has produced plenty of drama, so we are very pleased to be able to return for the 15th year in a row. We are grateful to the venue for accommodating us at a busy time of the year and to Turismo de Portugal for their long-term support of this tournament.

“Naturally, it is disappointing we are unable to sanction the Volvo China Open again this year, but we have long-standing relationships with Volvo and the China Golf Association, and we look forward to that event returning to our schedule in 2022.”

Stefano Saviotti, Chairman of Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection “The Portugal Masters is an incredibly important showcase of golf in The Algarve and we are delighted to once again welcome some of the world’s finest golfers to the Dom Pedro Victoria Course.

“After a difficult period, the European Tour's return to our facilities enables us to demonstrate why Vilamoura and Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection has a reputation as one of Europe’s most sought after golf destinations. We look forward to hosting such a prestigious event and crowning the 2021 champion.”

Luis Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal, said: "The Portugal Masters is of great importance for the tourism sector in Portugal, providing great media exposure of the whole country. It confirms that Portugal continues to be an excellent destination for all golfers, and an international presence in terms of major sporting events. This is a very prestigious competition, and it will be an important moment to showcase the international prestige of our country.”


Kodak Snapshots 120 Years of Manufacturing in Australia

Between 1884 and 2004, Kodak and its local predecessors manufactured and marketed photographic products to the Australasian region. This digital showcase provides a snapshot of that 120 year history, told through Museums Victoria's Kodak Heritage Collection.

Kodak Australasia's long history stretches back over 140 years to the 1880s. Discover the entrepreneurs who founded Kodak’s photographic manufacturing and marketing operations in Australia.

In 1908, 24 years after Thomas Baker made his first dry plates in his home cellar, the company he co-owned with JJ Rouse, known as Baker & Rouse Pty Ltd, merged with George Eastman‘s American based company, Eastman Kodak Company, to become Australian Kodak Limited.

"…a splendid opportunity of acquiring a practical monopoly of the whole Australian trade in films…" Letter from Thomas Baker to George Eastman, 14 August 1907, Eastman Museum.

In September 1907, photographic manufacturer Thomas Baker, along with his wife Alice and sister-in-law Eleanor Shaw, left Australia in a hurry.

They boarded a ship to America with only about a week’s notice and weren’t back in Australia for ten months.

Earlier on in the year, the Australian government had announced that it was going to introduce a new duty on sensitised photography goods and cameras.

The new duty, which gave an advantage to British goods, would potentially devastate Thomas Baker’s business, Baker & Rouse Pty Ltd, which he co-owned with JJ Rouse.

As sole agents of Kodak, Baker & Rouse Pty Ltd was contracted to mainly sell goods from Eastman Kodak in America. If the duty went through, Baker & Rouse would suffer “a great blow” and probably be unable to fulfil its terms of contract with Kodak.

It wasn’t all bad news though. The potential tariff also gave Baker & Rouse a unique opportunity to create a monopoly in the Australian photographic industry by becoming a local manufacturer for Kodak, which would avoid paying the duty.

Baker had written to George Eastman in August of that year, “… it has occurred to me that the circumstances give a splendid opportunity of acquiring a practical monopoly of the whole Australian trade in films and to a considerable extent in apparatus.”
“…the question arises whether you would be prepared to join with us in the manufacture of films here and perhaps eventually of many forms of cameras… The present opportunity of starting the manufacture with so heavy a protective duty is not likely to recur in our time.” Thomas Baker

MM 140939 – Eastman Kodak Company founder, George Eastman, circa 1920s.

Kodak already had an option to buy out Baker & Rouse, but Thomas Baker wanted to propose a merger instead. On behalf of JJ Rouse and himself, Thomas Baker, the senior director of Baker & Rouse, put plans in motion.

The Baker party set out on the first steamer to America they could secure tickets for, to urgently negotiate with George Eastman about the future of their business.

It was a successful journey.

In December 1907 a contract was settled on for the creation of a new business known as ‘Australian Kodak Limited’.

George Eastman had wanted a Kodak ‘house’ in Asia for some time, and Baker & Rouse wanted to continue their success in Australia, so the new arrangement suited both parties.

On 7 August 1908 the transfer of business officially took place. The manufacturing component of the Baker & Rouse Pty Ltd business was acquired by Eastman Kodak. The Baker & Rouse retail operations became a subsidiary of Australian Kodak Limited, but under the terms of the contract it could still trade under the name Baker & Rouse.

The new company would take over the Australian and NZ agencies of Kodak and have the sole right to use the Kodak brand name in those countries.

The capital for the new company was 150,000 pounds, issued in £1 shares. Eastman owned 50.1% and Baker & Rouse owned 49.9%. This deal made both Thomas Baker, the primary shareholder of Baker & Rouse, and JJ Rouse, and their families, wealthy.

HT 25775.8 – Australian Kodak Limited’s first book of Share Certificates, with certificate number 1 issued to chief managing director Thomas Baker, 26 April 1909.

TL 63609 – User Guide - Australian Kodak Limited, 'List Of 
Velox And Chemical Preparations', Abbotsford, 1908-1911

As well as being shareholders, Thomas Baker & JJ Rouse were appointed as the founding directors. Thomas Baker oversaw the factory, while JJ Rouse was in charge of retail.

The new Australian Kodak Limited range was to include Kodak non-curling films, collodio-carbon paper, Aristo paper, Velox paper, Solio PO paper, and ferro-prussiate paper, in addition to a new brand of dry plates.

Thomas Baker and his party travelled to and fro between America, England and Europe for the six months following the negotiations at Kodak headquarters in Rochester. Baker was busy, arranging design plans and equipment for a new factory building to make Kodak products. This was going to be built at the original Baker & Rouse Austral Works in Abbotsford, at the cost of £25,000.

Ten months after they hastily had left Australia, Thomas and Alice Baker and Eleanor Shaw finally returned home. They returned as Kodak shareholders – their lives and those of JJ Rouse and family, and the local photographic industry, transformed forever.
Kodak (Australasia) Limited [1911-1920]

Kodak (Australasia) Limited letterhead from correspondence dated May 1914.

At two extraordinary general meetings at the registered Australian Kodak office in Bond Street, Abbotsford in September 1910, it was agreed that Baker & Rouse Pty Ltd would be wound up. Kodak company secretary John Sutherland was appointed liquidator.

HT 23456 – Portrait of John Sutherland, was company 
secretary, and later a company director, circa 1930s.

The notion of closing Baker & Rouse had been entertained by Thomas Baker as soon as twelve months after Australian Kodak Limited was formed. Baker wrote to George Eastman of Eastman Kodak, telling him that liquidating the company would save paying double income tax, and provide other benefits.

Eastman Kodak had also not been happy with the way that Baker & Rouse was trading and wanted to bring all the distributed retail branches under the Kodak umbrella.

At the same time, it was suggested by JJ Rouse that the company name be changed to acknowledge the Australasian reach of the business, in particular its presence in New Zealand, where a branch had opened in 1909.

Thus, in 1911 the Australian Kodak Limited company structure was changed to be fully Kodak operated, with the retail branches now branded as Kodak. To legally manage these changes, a new company was formed.

The new company was known as Kodak (Australasia) Limited.

Baker & Rouse still held considerable currency in Australia, however, and it took some branches time to change over their shopfront branding.

Kodak Australasia Limited Shop in Argent Street, Broken Hill, 1912.

In 1920, Kodak became a proprietary limited company. This was the final change of name for the Australian subsidiary of Kodak.

Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd letterhead from company letter dated December 1941.

However, a new addition to the Australasian Kodak family was made in 1931 when Kodak (New Zealand) Limited was formed. The managing director of Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd was responsible for the New Zealand operations.

Austral Standard dry plates made by Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd at Abbotsford, circa 1930s.

Over coming decades Kodak Australasia underwent significant changes when Thomas Baker died in 1928, followed by JJ Rouse in 1938. JJ Rouse’s son Edgar subsequently became managing director and then chairman of the board.

When Edgar Rouse retired in 1959 it marked the end of half a century of Kodak leadership from Baker and the Rouses. It also signalled a shift away from the family led business towards a more corporate operation.

Two other key changes occurred that shaped the future of Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd. The first was when a new factory was finally opened, at Coburg, in 1961 – while the second was when this factory was closed down in 2004.

The transformation of photography by digital technology decimated Kodak’s worldwide profits and resulted in manufacturing plants around the world closing, with Melbourne’s factory being an early casualty.

Although manufacturing no longer happens in Australia, Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd continues to trade in the 21st century. It distributes imported photographic equipment and supplies throughout Australia, as the company always has - including now digital cameras.

Museums Victoria Kodak Collection

Advocate, 4 July 1908, p.39
Age, 19 Sep 1908, p.13
Ancestry, Year: 1908; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 9; Page Number: 8; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010
Argus, 31 March 1908. p.4; 19 Sep 1908, p.14
Australasian Photo-Review, 21 September 1908, p.331; 15 November 1930, p.532
George Eastman Museum, Correspondence - Thomas Baker to George Eastman, 2 Sep 1907; 14 August 1907; 22 May 1908; 31 July 1909; 17 August 1910; 1 Oct 1918
Museums Victoria Kodak Collection, HT 25783.3, Balance Sheets - Kodak Archive, Series 12, Australian Kodak Ltd & Baker & Rouse, 31 May 1908; The History of Kodak in Australia, Nigel Beale (unpublished, 1983)
University of Rochester, Kodak Historical Collection #003, Series II, Corporate papers National & International, Subseries 10: National and International Kodak Locations, Box 59: Annual Reports and Data, Folder 9: Information on Foreign Companies (File 1 of 3), Report
Victorian Gazette, Thomas Baker, 12 October 1910, p.4743; JS Sutherland, 13 December 1911 p.5960


Madeira Electricity Museum Receives The New Book + Internacional Exhibition From United Photo Press

Madeira Electricity Museum received the new book from United Photo Press delivered by the UPP member photographer João Sá e Sousa to the director of the Museum, Luísa Garrido. (photo João Sá e Sousa)

The book delivered at the Madeira Electricity Museum was the second volume of the UPP's 30th anniversary celebrations. This new 220-page book features 29 black and white projects by international UPP artists, including photography and painting.

“This new volume that we call“ United Photo Press 30 Years Of Creative Projects In Black & White ”, in addition to celebrating 30 years of the UPP, also intends to celebrate the ever present black and white photography in the lives of all of us throughout these decades , because it made perfect sense to have copies for consultation at the Museu da Electricidade, which is also an international reference for many international institutions, in addition to being a UPP partner in the international exhibitions that take place in Madeira ”. Refers the president of the UPP, Carlos Alves de Sousa.

The book delivered at the Madeira Electricity Museum has the participation of two photographers native to the island, João Sá e Sousa and Rod Costa, who exhibited their work together with members from other countries at the Museum, in the context of the 30 years of the UPP last October 2020.

The UPP highlights the project presented by the photographer João Sá e Sousa in the presentation at the exhibition and in the UPP book on "Podengo de Porto Santo" due to the need to register the breed, otherwise its destiny will be extinction, says the photographer who also is the breeder of these animals.

The book will be released live if pandemic conditions permit around the world, starting in April in the city of Setúbal in Portugal, going to Madeira Island, Brazil in Curitiba and Piauí, Russia in the city of Moscow, Germany in the city of Munich and others will be programmed according to the pace of the global pandemic that affects the entire world.

The Exhibition + Book "UNITED PHOTO PRESS | 30 YEARS OF CREATIVE PROJECTS IN BLACK AND WHITE" will be presented at Madeira Electricity Museum from 17 September to 15 October 2021 in the heart of the City of Funchal. The vernissage of the exhibition will be held on September, Friday 17 at 5pm. Second presentation of the documentary "Laboratory Greece" by UPP member filmmaker and photographer Jacopo Brogi, which portrays the genesis, decline and revenge of liberalism. Background music by UPP member’s Tan Ses, winner of Academia Music Awards in Los Angeles for Best Ambient/Instrumental Song, Alison Welles Jazz Quartet from New York. 

Special Guest from Moscow, Russia, Anna Neizvestnova

Admission is free for all visitors. 

"United Photo Press 30 years of creative projects in black and white" can, however, be purchased at the UPP online store or by email info@unitedphotopress.net for € 35.00 or the book + ecological kit kit for € 40 00 plus shipping costs.


Forget Supersonic. This Hypersonic Jet Can Fly From NYC to London in Under an Hour.

Supersonic flight is arriving—in a hurry. In the last 18 months, Boom has successfully tested its XB-1 demonstrator aircraft and pre-sold 15 of its still-in-development 30-seat Overture models to United Airlines. Virgin Galactic and Rolls Royce rolled out a partnership to develop a 19-seater. Even the Russian Federation revealed plans to build a supersonic jet for commercial use.

Then there’s the Hermeus Quarterhorse. Think supersonic or Mach 1—the speed of sound—multiply by five and you have the hypersonic Quarterhorse.

Last week, the Atlanta-based company announced a $60 million award from the US Air Force to finance testing of the aircraft. Like the Greek god Hermes, this Hermeus is designed to travel seamlessly between worlds, with a projected top speed of Mach 5.5—or 4,219 mph. That makes it the fastest reusable aircraft on the planet, so a New York-to-London flight will take less than an hour.

Belly of the beast: The Quarterhorse’s engine is based on the GE J85 turbo jet, but has been modified to reach hypersonic speeds. - Credit: Courtesy Hermeus

The speed will come from a unique engine set-up, a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) propulsion system. Such systems use a standard jet engine for launch and landing and to build enough speed in flight to feed air into a second turbine—known as a ramjet or scramjet—which produces more power, but requires high-speed air flow in order to ignite. The difficulty is managing the transition between the turbines and achieving the necessary aerodynamics.

Hermeus is off to a good start. In nine months, it designed, built and tested its engine, which is based on GE J85 turbo jet, and it has two advantages when it comes to testing. The Quarterhorse will fly autonomously, so the development team can get prototypes in the air and learn from them without risking pilots’ lives.

Right now, it plans to test a small-scale version in 2023, a mid-size cargo-carrying version in 2025 and a larger commercial passenger version in 2029.

This is the Hermeus cargo version, scheduled to be tested in 2025. - Credit: Courtesy Hermeus

The other advantage is, of course, the government money. “While this partnership with the US Air Force underscores US Department of Defense interest in hypersonic aircraft, when paired with Hermeus’s partnership with NASA announced in February 2021, it is clear that there are both commercial and defense applications for what we’re building,” said AJ Piplica, Hermeus CEO.

Yes, defense is important, but really, let us know when we can wake up in the morning and make it to a late-afternoon tee time at St. Andrews.

J. George Gorant