Saturday, June 15, 2019

Eastman Kodak Pavilion, 1964 New York World's Fair

Most of you know that I am a big fan of the 1964 New York World's Fair; if only I could have seen it for myself! But I just have to find enjoyment in vintage photos of the place.

One of my favorite photo subjects is the Eastman Kodak pavilion, with its distinctive "Kodak Picture Tower" that featured five giant photos (the tower looks square from many angles, but it was a pentagon when seen from above - or even when it wasn't seen from above). The photos were actual huge prints (30' X 36'); each one was lit with 6 million "candles". Exposure to the elements meant that these photos were replaced approximately every 4 weeks; and that means that most (if not all) images of the Picture Tower that I have display different photos. Which I love!

Here's one, date-stamped "June, 1964". There's a trio of Siamese kittens on one side, and boats on the ocean on the other.

Next we can see some flowers, and a little boy playing baseball. I wondered about the photos and where they came from, and one piece of publicity said, The pictures will be changed every three or four weeks while the Fair is open six months this year and six months next; consequently, there was a need for a great many special pictures for this part of the Kodak exhibit. That need set off the most extensive picture-taking project ever for Kodak's Photo Illustrations Division. People, places and things were photographed, with emphasis on the beautiful, the dramatic, the familiar and the unfamiliar. To provide the necessary pictures, Kodak's in-plant photographers covered the United States by caravan and flew all over the world.

You can see the same little boy in this brochure image.

A mother and son are attacked by seagulls in a charming beach scene, while collegiate chimpanzees clown for the camera on the other screen.

Another Kodak brochure showed some of the many photos that eventually wound up on the Picture Tower. There are the three kittens in photo #1, and the chimps in photo #3. I know I have another slide with the pretty bride, too. Eventually I'll have to dig out my other pictures of the tower and feature them here on GDB.

I hope you have enjoyed today's visit to the 1964 World's Fair!


Nanook said...


It's hard not love the Kodak Pavilion - a standout, in spite of fierce competition across the fair. "Kodak's in-plant photographers covered the United States..." Those were certainly the days-!

Thanks, Major, for sharing these beauties.

TokyoMagic! said...

I think the bathing suit-clad woman in the beach scene is Tippi Hedren.

I see paintings displayed around the walkways in all three slides and even in that aerial view from the brochure. Do we know if the paintings were part of a specific exhibit in the area or if it was just random artwork on display?

Chuck said...

When I was with Combat Camera, our job was to take pictures for the Pentagon. Apparently, Kodak's Photo Illustrations Division had the same mission.

I am embarrassed to admit that I never noticed that the Kodak Picture Tower had five sides. I guess Kodak was trying to one-up the Tower of the Four Winds.

My first introduction the the Fair was through a random pile of five or six B&W Instamatic prints that used to live in a drawer of an end table in the family room when I was around seven years old. I was most fascinated by the photo of the Picture Tower. It still looks odd to me to see it in color.

Great stuff today, Major. Thanks so much!

JC Shannon said...

By 1975 we would all be living like the Jetsons. That was the kind of optimism that permeated the fair. "Now Jonny, hang up your Visiphone and go out to the garage and make sure your Jet Pak is full for school tomorrow!" Maybe because I was a kid the future looked so bright. I don't remember the Kodak Exhibit, but I do remember us kids speculating about how cool the future would be. Thanks Major for sharing these awesome photos.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I feel like I would have wanted to see the Eastman Kodak pavilion, had I ever gone to the Fair. Home photography is all about recording the best times in your life - parties, weddings, vacations, etc. How could the Kodak pavilion be anything but a feel-good experience?

TokyoMagic!, ha ha, well, “The Birds” did come out in ’63! Maybe Tippi was already typecast. I’m not really sure what was up with those little billboard-type paintings, to be honest. Might be part of the International Gardens, I’ll have to look online.

Chuck, “Combat Camera”? This is the first I’ve heard of it, and I’ve done extensive background research on you! ;-) You must be quite the photographer, knowledgeable about film and lenses and that jazz. I always wish I’d taken a basic photography class. And don’t feel bad, I’m sure most people assume that the Picture Tower is a cube. You said there were photos in a drawer showing the Fair, did your parents go before you were a twinkle in their eyes?

Jonathan, I do want to live in a flying-saucer shaped building atop a tall spire! And have one of those cute bubble-domed little cars that make that distinctive noise. You know what I mean. Remember George Jetson would complain about how hard he worked, and his button-pushing finger was all kinked?

Dean Finder said...

The billboards are part of the Pan American Highway Gardens

People also commonly assume that those are giant slides or transparencies, not prints. Considering how bright they are, it's understandable.

I'm surprised that they didn't have some kind of contest to have customers send in images. That would have sold a lot of film and processing. Back then, Kodak really got that they are in the memory business. Their Sherman Brother's song at EPCOT Center was even called "Making Memories" Too bad they they didn't realize that it was time to move past film

Anonymous said...

It's ironic to me that Kodak failed to foresee the future in digital photography...or more likely...passed on being part of its future. KS

Nanook said...

@ KS-

Major corporations love to maintain the status quo; as long as profits are rolling in. It applies to almost all industries and companies, alike. That kind of short-sighted thinking often sneaks-up on these behemoths, and then suddenly... it's too late. A dinosaur they become.

Melissa said...

Proof that people were posting cat pictures long before the Internet came around!

Chuck said...

Major, my BA is actually in Film Studies with a specialization in production, but that was in another life, before the Air Force inexplicably merged the "Visual Information" officer career field (photo, video, and graphics) with "Information Management" (administration, records management, etc.) and "Communications & Computers" (radars, radios, telephones, SATCOM, and computers).

It was really more of a hostile takeover by the Comm & Computers folks; there were more than 3,000 of them and only 54 of us. Our very different expertise, training and background was ignored, and we were forced into comm jobs and prevented from ever returning to another VI position. The joke in our community at the time was "resistance is futile; prepare to be assimilated." Some of us assimilated better than others. I was one of the others.

I've lost a lot of the old edge; the technology is different today, and family demands (and that expensive Scouting habit) demand that my money gets invested elsewhere. But I haven't forgotten everything, and I still have a working knowledge of, oh, you know, those clicky things that you take snaps with.

And yes, my parents did indeed attend the Fair more than four years before they found me in the cabbage patch. I think I was aware of the Fair's connection to Disneyland before I learned my parents had seen all of those exhibits first in Flushing Meadows.

stu29573 said...

I was a photographer in another life, and a one hour photo lab manager as well. I remember how were kind of interested when corporations began using digital, but we were firmly convinced that they could never get the resolution and color of film. Oops. I still have a lot of my old equipment (mid format camera, strobes, 35mm bodies, etc) gathering dust. I can't bring myself to part with them...

Major Pepperidge said...

Dean Finder, thanks, I still haven’t had time to do any further research today. And yes, they do appear to be lit from behind! I agree with you, it would have been fun to get the public to participate and submit their own photos - in fact it almost seems like such an obvious idea! Tons of publicity, and people would feel invested in the pavilion.

KS, I know, that lack of foresight seems like the biggest blunder ever. They could have led the way with digital cameras and supplies!

Nanook, yes, I think that your assessment is right.

Melissa, maybe that was the beginning of cat memes!

Chuck, aha, I had no idea about the Film Studies thing! I can understand the Air Force’s desire to streamline several departments into one - not that it necessarily would be the best thing to do. It’s really too bad that they could not have found an avenue that would have more fully used your skills. And I would probably have made an attempt at being a better photographer except that I don’t want to spend the thousands of dollars it would require to get a truly good camera (and lenses). Oh well. Do you know where those Fair photos are today?

stu29573, I still don’t know if we are at the point where digital is “as good as” film. I used to hear different numbers. “When digital gets to 20 megapixels, it will be indistinguishable from film!”. Or some such thing. I still have a very nice Canon 35mm camera that I bought in college, and it has gathered dust for YEARS. I wish I could convert it to digital!

Chuck said...

Sadly, I don't know where those photos are. My parents' basement flooded 12 years ago, and I know they lost some photos in the event. I hope those pictures survived. I will ask.