Netflix, 2007 — The Jump to Streaming

Scientist Stan Lanning

CTO/Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt with the working prototype.

Has it been so many years? I increasingly meet people who didn’t know about (or remember) the Netflix red envelope and the delivery of DVDs, so they might not appreciate the struggle to move from DVDs to streaming. So these are images during the "Blockbuster years" and of the genesis of streaming at Netflix. Looking back now I realize what an unusual moment that was, one that I was privileged to experience. I was an employee, but I frequently kept my camera out, and everyone sorta knew this was what I did. In the years from 2005 to 2008, doubling from 4 to 8 million DVD subscribers, the already fast growing company was about to hit an inflection point—how would it leap from DVD rentals and delivery into streaming?

CEO Reed Hastings (framed by Bob Henderson, former Postmaster General of the US and Netflix exec

These images are from a single executive gathering in January 2007, where the Netflix box was completed and internally debuted, and instantly killed—spun back into Roku; while Netflix put its software inside every TV-connected device being created at the time, and continued to work on content. I've added a couple images from later that year, at a similar gathering. In hindsight, these quarterly gatherings were historic. It was an awesome time to be at the company. 



The Netflix Box, later released as the first Roku box.


Content Officer Ted Sarandos flanked by Talent Officer Patty McCord (co-creator of the "Netflix Deck") and Content Director Erin Ruane.

 CMO Leslie Kilgore, creator of the famous red envelope and brand (chatting with Patty McCord) and flanked by content VP Cindy Holland (left) and Tawni Cranz (right). [Sept. 2007]

CMO Leslie Kilgore, creator of the famous red envelope and brand (chatting with Patty McCord) and flanked by content VP Cindy Holland (left) and Tawni Cranz (right). [Sept. 2007]

 Sarandos with Content VPs Robert Kyncl and Erin Ruane. [Sept 2007]

Sarandos with Content VPs Robert Kyncl and Erin Ruane. [Sept 2007]


All images in this post copyright © 2007 by M.H. Rubin, All rights reserved.

It Starts with a Selfie

To the degree possible, I’d like to help people take better, more expressive, and more personal photographs. Just a decade ago, the only people who had the equipment to take great photos were hobbyists, artists, and pros; today we all have access to remarkable cameras. To be good isn't much about the equipment, it's about learning to see; and it only takes looking at lots of images for our brains to start to see things in a new way. Composing photographs on the fly, as it were, is a craft. There’s natural ability, like anything, but it’s mostly practice. While I manage a collection of many historic and beautiful photographs, there are a select few I think are particularly appropriate to show in the Neomodern gallery—the work of the mid-century street photographers of Paris, mostly. The beautiful, funny, poignant work of Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, and Elliott Erwitt, to name just a few, is characteristically similar to the kind of photographs people readily take with a smartphone: handheld, candid and mostly unposed, unlit by artificial means… they are not of models, or shot in a studio… and they aren’t “conceptual” or complicated, they are just snapshots from gifted photographers. Good for lots of different reasons. Sometimes even blurry, sometimes framed oddly. Still magical.

  by Julia Matsudaira

by Julia Matsudaira

Seeing the world through their eyes gives us a nuanced reference for improving our photos. They tacitly give us permission to see things differently, to crop, to break rules. Because there are no rules. I don’t think people need to take classes at first, or learn software. It all begins with looking at pictures, and taking pictures. For many people, it starts with a selfie.

  by Kyra Davis

by Kyra Davis

When those historic photographs were taken back in the 1940s, they were printed by someone who was particularly skilled at seeing and printing photographs; sometimes it was the photographer, but many times it was a printer. The printer is the partner to the photographer. They are a team, like a movie director and editor. In many cases, the images that we see as iconic are collaborations.

Our company has a simple purpose: to collaborate with people with cameras in the printing of their work, and to make a lasting physical object. I’d like to connect people to the historic work of artists like Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson through their own picture taking. There’s a direct connection from you with your smartphone to Ansel Adams.

Seeing a beautiful manifestation of your tiny digital image … it’s a cool thing. There’s a reason the hobby of photography has long flourished—the enshrining of a moment, rendering it permanent, is enormously gratifying. It’s great that we can so easily take pictures today. It’s wonderful that we have a constant opportunity to make them really good and occasionally special.

San Francisco, featuring Max Yavno (1911-1985)

 Cable Car, 1947

Cable Car, 1947

While he's not as well-known as a few other classic San Francisco street photographers (Peter Stackpole, Fred Lyon, to name two), Yavno's images are visually stunning and worthy of our attention. Maybe its enough to note that Edward Steichen selected 20 of Yavno's prints for the permanent collection at NY MOMA. In 1977 Max Yavno created a portfolio of his classic early works. Called "Image as a Poem" it is comprised of 14 prints, a number of those are on display at NEOMODERN from Thanksgiving and into the new year.

 Army Street, 1947

Army Street, 1947

Upcoming Shows at Neomodern

I make a big deal about Neomodern not being a gallery, meaning we generally aren't in the business of selling fine art. Still, we maintain something of a museum on the walls every day, showing iconic images that we think will inspire your picture taking. We intermix these with wonderful work from our customers—you—which we think demonstrates some amazing (and unselfconscious) art.

Today we have a group of Cartier-Bresson up, as well as Andre Kertesz, Robert Doisneau and Elliott Erwitt, all funny French street photographers. We have also just featured the work of German-American John Gutmann, a number of his prints that will remain up through Thanksgiving.

Army Street, San Francisco, 1947 (Max Yavno)

Following Gutmann, our Winter "show" will feature interesting prints of San Francisco, and particularly the work of artist Max Yavno who shot in SF and LA in the mid-20th century.

Mosquito Crossing, Georgia, 1939 (Marion Post Wolcott)

Looking ahead, our featured photographer in the spring will be Marion Post Wolcott, a depression-era artist who documented poverty for the government; interestingly composed images, full of heart and humor. Her work was rediscovered in the 1980s and now can be found in the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We'll add a few other fantastic women of photography throughout the Spring, including Helen Levitt and Alma Lavenson.

Stay tuned for updates.

Friends of Maasai Mara

 Gopala Krishnan, 2017

Gopala Krishnan, 2017


Since NEOMODERN opened this summer we've been interested in the various ways we've been starting to work with the community. Most recently we were excited to work with the Olive Seed Foundation, who have created a fundraiser for the "Friends of Massai Mara." Maasai photographer Gopala Krishnan donated some of his images to a charity auction being held in Palo Alto this evening, and NEOMODERN was able to contribute for the printing and framing.

This event supports the grassroots nonprofit Friends of Maasai Mara (FOMM), and their innovative work in wildlife conservation and environmental stewardship. FOMM is run entirely by members of the Maasai community in the village of Talek, on the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. By educating young people about conservation, FOMM is inspiring the next generation to love, respect, and become guardians of the natural world around them — vitally important in this age of increasing human-wildlife conflict and the tragic poaching crisis happening throughout Africa.

Prince Harris Taga and Amos Kipeen from FOMM will be at the Lucie Stern Community Center (1305 Middlefield Road) tonight from 5-10pm.

Meudon, 1928 by Andre Kertesz

In the history of photography and in photographic theory, there are a few icons, a few images that are discussed in almost every book on photography that exists. One such image is André Kertész’s Meudon, 1928. [Gasket]


[From the BBC] Meudon, a quiet Paris suburb, apart from the occasional high speed train. In 1928, roughly the mid-point between the invention of photography and our own digital age, Andre Kertesz, one of the great photographers of the 20th century, came here and took some pictures.

The photographs he took that day are as unremarkable as Meudon itself. But something about the place must have caught his eye, because a few days later, he came back and turned the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Kertesz's 'Meudon' captures something of the elusive genius of photography. With a photograph we can't help but wonder who the figure in the foreground is, where he has been, what he is carrying and where he is taking it. But Kertesz's photograph has no definitive answers. How can something that reveals so much keep so much to itself?

I'd like to say something personal here. I don't love this photograph, or more correctly, it's not my favorite picture by Kertesz. I enjoy a number of things about the image—the (apparent) happy accident of a composition of the guy in the foreground and the train in the back, for instance. I like there to be a take-away from the photos shown at Neomodern, and for Meudon, it's not its historical intrigue, although that's cool. The truth is that Kertesz staged this portrait: the guy in the foreground is an artist-friend. Kertesz had likely seen this cool scene, photographed the train there, and then returned a day later with his friend to see if they could nail a cool composition. Meudon is not a "decisive moment" so much as an opportunity constructed creatively. 

If you want to get introduced to Kertesz, check out his photos at his friend's home, the artist Piet Mondrian (some of my favorite photographs ever). And later his enigmatic "Martinique." (Neomodern will do a Kertesz exhibit next year.) Still, Meudon is quite classic and it's rare to get to see a signed print. Here are an assortment of links about the image and artist:

Gasket essay by Johannes Rigal

Essay by Bowdoin student

The Washington Post

Excellent comparison of Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson