A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Georges Demeny (1850-1917) was a pioneer chronophotographer and Victorian cinematographer, a visual experimentalist, an exploratory photographer, who made great contributions to the earliest history of the motion picture. He was an assistant and associate to Etienne Marey--who we have met a number of times on this blog, and who happens to be one of my favorite 19th c sci/tech figures, along with Hermann von Helmholtz, Thomas Young, and w. Stanley Jevons--before moving along on his own following a developing coolness between the two men in around 1894. This wood engraving, which appeared in the June 18, 1892 edition of Scientific American Supplement, shows Demeny's chronophoto work (on himself) as he studies what the face looks like when saying "vive la France".
[Source: Scientific American Supplement, June 18, 1892, pp 13726-8]
A nice appreciation of Demeny's contribution to the earliest cinema is found here:http://www.victorian-cinema.net/demeny
JF Ptak Science Books [Reposting Post 2601 with an update]
There appeared in the wonderful pages of Nature (for 24 January 1878) a short but interesting technical communication from the probably/improbably-named Wordsworth Donisthorpe (1847-1914) about an invention that is deeply related to the early stages of motion pictures--in fact it was the first paper that coupled sound with the moving image. It appears eleven years before the first successful demonstration of a motion picture in 1889.
(The article is immediately preceded by another on the change of habits in toads.)
What Mr. Donisthorpe is talking about in the pages of the Scientific American is really the back-door entry to an even bigger topic: the first announcement of Thomas Edison's phonograph as it appeared on the back of the first page in the last issue for the year, 29 December 1877. "A Wonderful Invention--Speech Capable of Indefinite Repetition from Automatic records" was the aarticle by Edward Johnson on the introduction of Thomas Edison's phonograph.It is one and a half columns long, but contains a very compact 1500 words.
Edison's name was not a popular item in the average American home before his invention of the phonograph. It was actually some months later, after the initial announcement in 1877, that Edison became justifiably famous. It is difficult today to place the amazement and astonishment that greeted the invention--there was nothing like it, before, ever--except for writing, of course, and then the recording telegraph. It was a sensational piece of power, being able to record and save sound--and then play it back again. It was the first time in human history that the auditory sense world could be audibly preserved.
The first announcement in Scientific American appeared slightly earlier still, in the November 17 issue for 1877.
This is a wood engraving of the impressions left on the recording cylinder--it must be the first image of a saved sound.
There is also a two-page report on Edison's visit to the offices of Nature and his very successful demonstration of his new phonograph machine (the patent for which is applied for December 27, 1877). The editors record their favorable impressions of the machine and describe it in some detail--there is even a small woodcut illustration of the device. In all the article occupies pages 190-191 of the weekly issue. (Edison, Thomas. "The Talking Phonograph", London: Nature, January 3, 1878.)
So it comes to pass that the idea of saving and manipulating sound and then applying that to moving images come to rest within a few dozen pages of one another in Nature--it must have been an exhilarating experience at the time.
A hat tip to Cadre History http://histv2.free.fr/cadrehistory.htm a site with a LOT of material of high interest (in general) and with good references (in particular).
Before $999 selfie sticks, and before cell phones, there still was life! The agitations of great need for making self portraits has existed no doubt before this semi-delusional time, except of course there wasn't immediate and total access to the possibility of addressing the somewhat narco-curiosity to self aware recording. Nowadays you can have your own broadcasting service all about yourself all of the time and share it to yourself or to anyone else who can find your conceptual conceit--in the past, not so much so.
The antiquarian notation of the idea of the selfie finds itself in the invention of the photo booth. It is perhaps the first true invention that could address this notion of photographic self-allegiance, except that you can't fit it into your pocket like a cell/sel(f) phone because you fit inside of it. But it certainly was the only way that you could halfway address an instant need for making a photo of yourself, and do so without undue muss or fuss, and to be able to do it on your own.
The photo booth was the early version of radical expression of photographic self-interpretation made possible by a hands-free invention.
The results of the photo booth (around since about 1890 but not fabulously well accepted and ubiquitous until Mr. Anaotl Josepho with his Photomata in 1925) can be charming, and revealing, and be all that you wished it to be, or not. I've collected some examples (below) from the 1930's-1950''s--the results can be mixed, but almost always interesting.
The young Miles Davis is terrific.
Miles Davis, aged 9. [Source, Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/31454897367684842/]
For an interesting piece on artistic photo booth self portraits by artists, see Jonathan Jones on the Surrealists and the first photobooth in Paris, 1928, in The Guardian, here: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2004/jun/16/1
This is fascinating: 445 photo booth images of/by one unidentified man:
See the article by Pricilla Frank, "Exhibition Features 445 Vintage Photobooth Portraits From A Single Unknown Man" in the Huffington Post, here: [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/04/445-photobooth-portraits_n_5077544.html]
I found this collection of photographs a number of years ago, mostly for the way that some of the decorated panels were not outfitted with photographs. The photographs were made in the early 1860s (one is dated 1862) and the decorations I take it were made by hand at the same time or thereabouts.
One of the most interesting images is this family portrait--it has one of the most elaborate manuscript "frames", and it also depicts a space ship in the background. Well, not really--but it is an interesting design for what I suspect was an (iron?) conservatory or greenhouse. Also handling the photograph in person led me to the very minor discovery that the curled up and sleeping dog was an extra and "photoshopped"--that is, added after the photo was made, a cutout of the dog pasted onto the print. No doubt it would have been difficult to have a dog sitting there for a long period of time with the family without moving given the relatively slow exposure time in 1862. I find that detail, that the family though enough of the dog to paste it into the final/finished project, to be very touching.
Each sheet measures about 16"x 16" The originals are available on the blog's bookstore, here.
Earlier in this blog I wrote about an unexpected military use of the camera obscura, here ("The Camera Obscura at War, 1885"). Today I found another use, which was a guided/guiding anti-aircraft weapon. I assume that this was mostly employed against the slower moving zeppelins (although in 1915 airplanes weren't moving that much faster) due to its very limited range of fire. The camera obscura itself didn't move, and the relatively small occulus offered not that big a range of sky to work with. But that said the weapon was an ingenious and simple mechanism, an early and primitive semi-machine-directed anti-aircraft gun. There is no mention of whether or not any of these were actually deployed, and compared to the AA guns that actually appeared in the first and second yer of the war, this attempt looks a little antiquated for the time. The article also makes no mention of the artillery to be used, which is a major consideration.
The article appeared in Popular Mechanics, April 1916 (pp 486-7)
These are remarkable photos of folks standing at the edge of the world in Yosemite National Park. They were made by George Fiske, a New Hampshire boy who left for San Francisco and moved to Yosemite at age 44 in 1879. He worked there for decades, producing beautiful and iconic work before running out of steam after the turn of the century, and in the end committing suicide in 1918 because as he said he lost interest in being alive.
I came to Fiske today because of the dancing ladies, hanging out at the edge of the overhanging lock, a photo made by him in the 1890's at Glacier Point in Yosemite. That led me to another photo that Fiske made of his co-author Galen Clark, made at the same place some years later at the same famous spot, in 1910.
Building on some reaching and questionable physical identification work of Sir Francis Galton, Raphael Pumpelly tried to make photographs of what scientists looked like.
At a scientific meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., Pumpelly (along with Dr. (Thomas Mayo) Brewer and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, (Spencer F.) Baird) undertook the experiment to determine whether or not there was a certain composite "type" in groups of academicians. He employed the justly-named head of the photography department at the NAtional Museum, Mr. (Thomas Mayo) Smillie, to make a series of 2-second exposures of the scientists upon a single glass plate. Two seconds per portrait was not long enough to make a defined portrait for a single sitter, but if there 15 or 30 such exposures on the same plate it was seen that collectively a strong impression would be produced. The resulting portraits are interesting in their own way, but probably not so interesting without the backstory.
The problem of course is the interpretation and what could come of classifying external characteristics for internal capacities, which would make this exercise as useful as cranial bump reading or body mole mapping.
Also it is unclear that if you didn't identify these images as composites of leading American scientists but were told that they were pictures of murderers or meat thieves or sneak burglars, it would be as easy to believe. Instead of identifying their characteristics of "intelligence" and "imaginativeness", changing the grid-of-explanation to criminality would certainly change those readings to something else.
[The original paper is available via our blog bookstore, here.]
Here are two examples of Things That Almost Were But Weren't: Photography (1839) and Television (1928). The first item contains a woodcut of a heliotype (being the first image of a photograph produced by non-photographic means); the second displays the method for receiving images of radio shows but is not a television.
First: The first published non-photographic image of a non-photograph or "sunpicture", 1839
The following images were made by Farm Security Administration/Office of
War Information photographers during World War II and are part of the
famous FSA photography series that I have written about here.
The color photographs--which were made in the first decade or so of
the use of this new medium--represented only about 1,600 of the
collection of 160,000 images in the FSA archive, and are far less known
than their black-and-white complements, many of which are new iconic
symbols for this period. The color images are beautiful works, and
somehow seem to bring these historic images a little closer to the
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of the Zoomology series
This is a quick follow-up to an earlier post on Solomon Butcher in which there two two photographic images that are clearly "manufactured"--one is created in the darkroom (simply adding trees in a tress-less landscape), while the other (below) is an unlabelled recreation of an event. This is in the lines of Timothy O'Sullivan and Matthew Brady dressing up their images a bit by posing the dead or giving them added bits (like muskets and so on) to enliven the picture. This one though is entirely theatre--as it happens there are very few 19th century photographs depicting a crime-in-progress. Butcher just decided to show his audience what the crime probably looked like. In any event if not for a little Zoomology the scene could've perhaps passed for real.
This is a detail from the full-plate glass negative, printed out so:
Without the enlargement it is difficult to tell what sort of instruments the ranchers were holding. But up close the wire cutters are simply suggestions of that too, being made of wood and all.
When Solomon Butcher laid his head down on his final pillow he evidently thought of himself as a half-failure. His work as a photographer in a life full of travel through the Great Plains lead to not-much-"success" save for one book1, and his work wasn't recognized for the impact that it would have in the decades to come. Perhaps he wondered if his ways were all worth it, hauling his family and his enormously heavy collection of full-plate glass negatives from one house to the next. Of course that would change in death--not the money part, but certainly the recognition. His photographs are outstanding glimpses into late 19th century American frontier life, and especially so for the work he did making images of families and their belongings in the long rolling landscape of pioneer Nebraska.
not sure exactly what Solomon Butcher told his subjects when he photographed them
outside of their frontier houses out there in the Great
Plains in the 1880’s. His spectacular
portraits included not only the family of the house, but in many cases, everything
that the family owned. Possessions were
encumbrance making your way across the country in the mid/19th century,
especially if you didn’t have very many to begin with. These families—the first generation in their
mostly sod-built houses—would’ve been farmers scratching out a minimum trade
and decent subsistence. City/town goods
would’ve been not-usual in these circumstances, and evidently whatever it was
they had of these things wound up outside, displayed around the house and on
the roof, when Mr. Butcher arrived in his photographer’s wagon.
was it, I wonder, who came up with the initial idea of displaying the
family’s possessions: did Butcher set
out with that idea, or did it happen spontaneously? I wonder what it was the families thought as
Butcher was packing up his equipment, his horse fed, his cameras stowed away,
climbing up onto the driver’s bench. Did
they wait until he was a spot on the horizon to put away their things? Did they gather everything up as Butcher
gathered up his own material, or did they just wait for the stranger to
disappear before pulling the family back together? Sitting their surrounded by
the things that they owned, did these families feel a quiet pride, or were they
embarrassed have their pictures made together with their frontier opulence?)
There's much to look at in these images, and the Nebraska Historical Society does a very good job at it here, espcially when they work at some digital magic, making some of the disappeared stuff that lurks in the shadows of the interiors of the cabins appear. What is of interest to me today are the sunburns--this issue was brought up yesterday in another post on the invention of the satirical photograph, where the self-portrait shows a man with heavily sunned face and hands, the marks of a working man with dark settling on light becomes a little remarkable.
This is seen in Butcher's photographs from time-to-time. In the series of photographs of homesteads, he often captured images of men without hats--seldom the case, I guess, in the normal routine of a day. The men's faces are deeply tanned except for where the hat is pulled down to the middle of their forehead, where we see a much lighter complexion:
Which makes sense, of course, since these were pioneers and farmers, and working pretty much all of the time outdoors.
I remember being surprised the first few times I noticed this, and then not so. This is much like seeing all of those non-smiling photographic portraits of the 19th century and wondering about the sombreness, when the general explanation for the seriousness was far simpler: given the length of time for an exposure, it was took simply too much effort to hold the same smile for a minute or three, and so the rigid face became a necessity. The brands of the faces of these men was there simply because they wore hats outdoors doing hard work in the High Plains sun.
There's a world going on in these photographs, but for right now I'm just looking at faces.The Library of Congress site has an excellent collection of this images online, and there's a lot of micro-photo inspection to be done.
Another example, here:
Which is a detail from: (Source: The Library of Congress, "Rev. and Mrs. E.D. Eubank on Clear Creek west of Lee Park, Custer County, Nebraska".)
“Nothing is falser than people's preconceptions and ready-made opinions; nothing is sillier than their sham morality...”
(atribued to) Petronius,
(Image source, Gerry Badger blog, who also has some interesting things to say about the work as momento mori.)
The road in determining who was the first person to what discovery is sometime a bit rocky--so with the invention of the computer (ask Mr. Atanatsoff), and the telephone (ditto Mr. Gray) and the television (and so to with Dr. Korn). This is also the case with photography, the rights for the discovery of the process contested in the first year following the announcement of the process.
The response to rejected claims for priority in discovery are almost (?) never recorded visually, but in he case of photography the rejected party did make a visual response, which I think was a prosimentrum of sorts, a photographic novella, and the appearance of the first use of satire in photography.
Louis Daguerre's epochal publication in the Comptes Rendus in 1839 would bring about the general recognition of the birth of photography--his process was described in that article and was immediately set to use by hundreds of adventurers people even in the first few weeks after publication. IT may well be that there are legitimate claimants working on the "photogenic" science before this time but it is Mr. Daguerre who published his findings first.
Among the many "firsts" in the first year of photography (reckoned as PD or post Daguerre
Generally though the first photographic portrait has been recognized as being the work of Robert Cornelius, who was among the earliest practioners of the new science of the Daguerreotype. This is his work, dated 1839, made in his father's gas light importing business on Chestnut Street, Philadelphia:
(Both subjects have interesting hair issues.)
is is fine and remarkable, though the images simply record the bodies of the humans that are pictured. The first human portrait with an edge, with a political or social axe too grind and point to make, an image bent on a decisive end, belongs to a man who mildly and then hotly contested Daguerere's claim to the birth of photography--Hippolyte Bayard.
Bayard (1807-1887) experimented in the photographic science before the publication of Daguerre's paper and had shared some of his successes at this early date with members of the French Academy of Sciences (the publishers of the esteemed Comptes Rendus, the vehicle for Daguerre's paper). He was even in communication with Francois Arago, who as it turns out was the champion of Daguerre, and who introduced the paper to the world. After the appearance of Daguerre's paper Bayard--no doubt somewhat envious of the attention and money/funding that Daguerre was receiving) petitioned for help from Arago to establish his own claim and a chance for the experimenter's lament (funding). He was told in no uncertain terms by Arago to cease the attention, as it would hurt the chances of Daguerre to establish his priority and have the honor of the invention of photography to stay in France. It is a longer story than this, obviously, but suffice to say, Bayard's interests were mostly ignored, his priority claims relinquished. (He was later able to collect a few thousand francs for his scientific work, but the larger prizes eluded him.
And so in 1840, full of his own defeat and thoroughly impressed by Daguerre's success, Bayard composed the (above) portrait of himself as a drowned and dead man. On the reverse he wote:
"The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the
process that has just been shown to you. As far as I know this
indefatigable experimenter has been occupied for about three years with
his discovery. The Government which has been only too generous to
Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and
the poor wretch has drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life....!
... He has been at the morgue for several days, and no-one has
recognized or claimed him. Ladies and gentlemen, you'd better pass along
for fear of offending your sense of smell, for as you can observe, the
face and hands of the gentleman are beginning to decay." (From Helmut Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, with Alison Gernsheim, London: Thames & Hudson, 1965)
It seems that the use of satire in photography was not common in the first few decades following 1839, which makes Bayard's first use of he genre in 1840 even more remarkable. Satire in general has been aroudn for thousands of years, mostly in the form of drama and literature, and then in (Western, at least) painting in the Renaissance), right up through the Brueghels and Hogarth and Chaplin's Great Dictator and Dr. Strangelove. But it seems to me that the first photographic use of the genre came with the overtaken Bayard, who at least deserves this honor of "firstness".
I just wanted to remark on the hands and head of Bayard in his self-portrait--I believe that the man is just sunburned. It si common to see in 19th century photographs of working people that--when their hat is removed and so on--we see a big sun/tan line ont heir forehead. This is particularly the case in the work of Solomon Butcher, who recorded the lives of families on the SOdbuster Fronter in the 1880's and 1890's in Nebraska.
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of the Zoomology series
From the photography collection at the Library of Congress, offering deep and big graphic files. The file photograph looked interesting, but on closer inspection the magnificent central figure is revealed:
"Chain gang of convicts engaged in road work. Pitt County, North
Carolina. Autumn 1910. The inmates were quartered in the wagons shown in
the picture. Wagons were equipped with bunks and move from place to
place as labor is utilized. The central figure in the picture is J.Z.
McLawhon, who was at that time county superintendent of chain gangs. The
dogs are bloodhounds used for running down any attempted escapes."
These images from the Library of Congress daguerreotype collection offer a photographic glimpse into the everyday working life of Americans 150 years ago. Not as many of these jobs are as extinct as their expectations for extinction: