In the 1950s and 60s, Eric Merton was a Technical Sales Supervisor, and later Technical Director, at Kodak Australasia, based at the Latrobe Street and Collins Street offices in Melbourne. According to the recollections of former Kodak staff, Eric started his career with the company many years earlier, in Sydney, New South Wales. He processed customers' enlargements and edited their pictures free of charge, improving framing and juxtaposition (Harvey, 2014). He was a practicing photographer and entered Kodak Camera Club competitions around the country.
Eric Merton had a reputation for being 'larger than life', both because of his tall stature, and his reputation as a skilled photographer and well-connected social networker. He appears to have been a major link between Kodak and its key stakeholders and customers in the photographic industry, but there is little detail about Merton in the Kodak Heritage Collection.
By the 1950s he was Kodak's Technical Director in Melbourne and was responsible for training dealers in the art of selling photographic products to wholesale and retail customers. He encouraged his staff to take photographs, and practice developing and editing them. Former Kodak employee John Harvey recounts being led to the roof of the National Mutual Building by Merton to take photographs as part of his training to be a Professional Photography Sales Representative. Merton also took Harvey to television studios and the Alfred Hospital to watch the latest in x-ray photography and television production (Harvey, 2014). Merton presented on television himself in a series of instructional episodes on photography entitled 'Camera Corner', aired circa 1965-1966.
Merton had many connections in the Melbourne photography scene - according to one of his former staff members, Merton played golf with famous photographers and received invites to special television events (Garrett, 2015). Merton worked closely with hospitals in selling and developing x-ray film, in conjunction with staff in Kodak's Research Department. Eric also had the enviable job of giving photographic presentations on cruise ships, and was billed on P&O's newspaper advertisements as a form of entertainment for passengers. Eric introduced exhibitions held in the Kodak Gallery on Collins Street in Melbourne, and gave presentations around the country on studio make-up, photographic techniques and new Kodak products. His connections and reputation must have been useful for Kodak's sales and marketing and he was sent on training exercises to Eastman Kodak's headquarters in Rochester frequently, according to his former assistant John Garrett (2015).
There are only traces of Merton's work/life history in the Kodak Heritage Collection: an invitation to one of his presentations on photography, a colour photograph of him standing with Senior Executives at the opening of the Coburg plant in 1961; and one staff portrait from Abbotsford, 1954. He appears the most in the 'Camera Corner' episodes, which provide a window into a different time in Kodak marketing history.
'Convention of Professional Photographers.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 29 June 1945, p. 4, viewed 18 November, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51755602
John Harvey in an interview recorded by Lesley Alves, 10 April 2014, Melbourne Museum, Victoria
John Garrett, pers. comm. with Hannah Perkins, 2015
'Local Girl Model For Unique Photo.' Sunday Times, (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), 27 Apr 1947 , p. 14, viewed 18 November, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59475979
'On 'Canberra's' Fabulous 28-day Cruise to Japan and Hong Kong', Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Oct 1966, p 27.
'Saturday 27 November 1965 - Victoria', Television.AU, visited 06 Apr 2017, url: http://televisionau.com/classic-tv-guides/tv271165
'History 1938 - 1940', Sydney International Exhibition of Photography, visited 6 Apr 2017, url: http://www.siep.org.au/General/Adelaide_Camera_Club_History_1938.html