Pierre Omidyar created eBay (originally called Auction Web) in his living room in September 1995 as a social and economic experiment. Three years later, Omidyar along with Jeff Skoll, brought in Megan Whitman, a Harvard-trained businesswoman, to run the company. With a background in Fortune 500 companies, Whitman continues Omidyar's original philosophy: connecting strangers with shared interests. eBay's system is based on trust: bidders and buyers can leave "feedback" on their experience, transactions, and items. Omidyar graduated from Tufts University (Medford, MA) in 1988 with a BS in computer science, and is currently a Trustee of the university.
Today, over 200 million users worldwide utilize eBay's services, a population larger than most countries. For buying and selling photographic equipment and collecting photographica, eBay has been especially revolutionary. Vernacular photography in particular, including snapshots and everyday images, has blossomed via the Internet and now has emerged as an important scholarly topic. Today, vernacular photography is collected in prestigious museums and is the subject of important exhibitions, conferences, and scholarship.
eBay and the internet have been of immeasurable help to me in building my collection and in researching and acquiring Walker Evans materials. I've found things on eBay in days that I'd been looking for in the brick-and-mortar world for many years, as well as treasures I can't imagine having found anywhere else."
—excerpted from Rodger Kingston's online eBay profile
A member of the PRC's Board of Directors since 2000, Kingston started building his collection of over 4,000 vernacular photographs and photo-related objects in the 1970s. Since the advent of eBay, his collection has grown exponentially and has been featured in two exhibitions at the PRC, and in the 2004 Boston University Art Gallery's exhibition In the Vernacular: Everyday Photographs from the Rodger Kingston Collection.
In 1975, Kingston opened the Photographic Eye Inc., a gallery and bookstore in Harvard Square and later earned his EdM in education from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA). His own documentary and fine art work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of American Art (Washington, DC), Harvard's Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA), Saatchi and Saatchi (worldwide), and many others. Kingston, a Walker Evans scholar, has published Walker Evans in Print: An Illustrated Bibliography (1995). His 1998 exhibition, Fifty Years on the Mangrove Coast: Photographs by Walker Evans and Rodger Kingston, traveled for two years.