Our self guided tour started with a walk thru the gallery, which, at the time, was displaying The Unseen Eye, a collection by W M Hunt. The collection is mostly of portrait type photos where for one reason or another, you can not see the eyes of the subject. The reasons the eye was not visible ranged from the subject simply looking away, to the eyes, for one reason or another, being, uh, missing. There was a video loop of Hunt talking about the collection and in it he mentioned that he is a very “dark” man. Some of the photos in his collection were gruesome. If you would like to see this (or avoid it) it is on display until February 19th, 2012. I was looking forward to seeing some great photography, and for some this may be as such, but for me, I enjoyed the rest of our tour much more.
Just as you enter the museum there is a small room containing an exhibit called Cameras from the Technology Collection. This includes the very first Brownie cameras, a drive in movie projector, the first digital systems developed by Kodak, as well as other vintage photography and movie equipment. We walked right by it when we first walked in so make sure you don’t miss it!
The first room you arrive in when entering the home itself is the Dining Room. In the photo below, you can see a door in the background. This is the door to the China Cabinet. Inside those doors is a set of vault doors securing the china and silver.
Past the dining room is the Conservatory. The mounted elephant seen here is one of several trophies that Eastman brought home from his many African Safaris. With my prime lens I was a bit limited in my composition here. Be sure to check out Scott’s blog for a great photo of the Conservatory.
Beyond books, the Library contains a few more trophies from Eastman’s safaris. The table shown below is covered with hippo hide, and sitting on it is a vase made from a hippo foot.
At the time of his death, George Eastman’s net worth was about $95 Million in terms of 1932 dollars. According to an inflation calculator I found on the Internet, that is about $1.6 Billion in 2011 dollars. That would have him tied for 273rd on today’s Forbes 400. $95 Million also accounts for about 1/611 of the Gross National Product of the United States in 1932. Below is a photo of the filing system used by Eastman’s secretary to keep track of his donations. The card in the back shows quarterly donations of $50,000 to the Rochester Community Chest. During his lifetime Eastman donated $100 million to different organizations locally, nationally, and worldwide, but most of the money went to the University of Rochester and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Wiki)
Two days before visiting The Eastman House I purchased a Nikon 35mm f1.8 so I decided I would use that exclusively this day. The speed of the 1.8 was great but the very narrow depth of field was sometimes difficult to work with. Also, the 35mm on the DX sensor of the D300s made composition difficult, as it was simply not wide enough. One would think that when photographing the interior of a 35,000 square foot house you could easily stand in one corner of a room and cover the area but that was not the case. So composition was a challenge but it made for a good learning experience, forcing me to work within the limitations of a prime lens.
I highly recommend visiting the George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film. There are great history lessons on photography, the Kodak Company, and the man himself, George Eastman. Note that if you call ahead you may be able to visit the archives, which I plan on checking out the next time I visit.