The American photography odyssey began at “Made in America: 1900 to 1950.” Eye-catching photos revealed, on closer inspection, familiar names (Weegee, Ansel Adams) famous faces (“Migrant Mother,” Frida Kahlo by Imogen Cunningham, Martha Graham by Barbara Morgan) and new favourites (Lisette Model: “Running Legs, New York”, “Coney Island Bather, New York,” Margaret Bourke White: “Woman who has just obtained meat after waiting in line, USSR”) From their earliest beginnings of trying to look more painterly, I was reassured to see how photographers have been playing with exposure, shadow and special effects since the medium was invented.
The next stop was a visit to Kodak’s hometown. Rochester, New York was in full bloom and the streets were full of friendly folks for First Friday: a plethora of open-doors art events which included bluegrass Cabbage & Baggage in a guitar shop and a gorgeous glass project in the Hungerford syrup-factory-turned-art-space.
Kodak company headquarters is in an building in downtown Rochester, while the founder’s mansion on a tree-lined street is the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. A representative range of cameras from photography’s earliest days is displayed above three floors of underground archives. A tour through the beautifully restored living space is animated by the riches-to-rags-to-riches story of Mr. Eastman: looking to restore his family’s fortune through land speculation, he bought his first camera and decided the secret to success lay instead in bringing the then-cumbersome process of photography to the masses.
The final stop was the stellar Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, where fibre-optic cable, glass blowing demonstrations and galleries of glass through the ages around the world are accompanied by explanations of how the first camera lenses solved the problems of curvature and colour distortion by combining differing layers of glass.
All that and a comfy place to stay, paths on the salt-less shores of Lake Ontario, fresh food and friendly people at the oldest (continuously operating) Public Market in the USA, and diners where the milkshakes are still homemade offered more than enough opportunities to capture one’s own Kodak (-inspired) moments.
American album below: square photos by me, rectangular by Bust It Away Photography.