One picture one story

Upshot-Knothole Grable, a test carried out by the U.S. military in Nevada on May 25, 1953.

A 280mm nuclear shell was fired 10km into the desert by the M65 Atomic Cannon, detonating in the air, about 500 feet above the ground, with a resulting 15 kiloton explosion. (U.S. Department of Defense)

source: http://www.retronaut.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan - Shoshone Falls, Idaho, 1868
Timothy H. O’Sullivan – Shoshone Falls, Idaho, 1868

O’Sullivan was part of a group of critically acclaimed 19th-century photographers — A.J. Russell, J.K. Hillers and William Bell — who went West in the 1860s and 1870s.

O’Sullivan was a photographer for two ambitious geographical surveys. He accompanied geologist Clarence King on the Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Fortieth Parallel and Lt. George M. Wheeler on the Geographical and Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. During seven seasons (1867-1874) traversing the mountain and desert regions of the Western U.S., he created influential visual accounts of the American interior.

O’Sullivan first saw Shoshone Falls in September 1868 and it is the only site in the American interior he photographed twice during all his years in the West. So enraptured with his first 10-day experience of the Falls during the King Expedition, he returned on his own in 1874 to make what would be his last published photographs of the West.

sources/portfolios: and

Wil Blanche - New York City, NY, USA (1973)

Wil Blanche - New York City, NY, USA (1973)

Construction on lower Manhattan’s west side. In the background, the all new World Trade Center

In 1971 a new Agency for Environmental Protection (EPA) organized a large-scale documentary photo project called DOCUMERICA, to capture the rapid development of the U.S. and its effect on the environment. More than 100 photographers were hired to document US landscapes  in rural or urban areas and by 1974, they had took more than 80 000 photos. They are nowadays hold at the National Archives.

Credits: National Archives, all rights reserved

A crew of observers on the Empire State building, during an air defense test, on January 21, 1941 in New York City, conducted by the U.S. Army.
A crew of observers on the Empire State building, during an air defense test, on January 21, 1941 in New York City, conducted by the U.S. Army.

Their job was to spot “invading enemy” bombers and send information to centers which order interceptor planes. The tests, to run for four days, covered an 18,000-square-mile area in northeastern states.

Photo credits: AP Photo / John Lindsay – All Rights Reserved

source: the Atlantic

This picture is considered today as the earliest reliably dated photographic portrait ever made.

Robert Cornelius, head-and-shoulders (self-)portrait, facing front, with arms crossed”, approximate quarter plate daguerreotype, 1839.

As the french physicist Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre published in english “An Historical Account and a Descriptive Account of the Various Processes of the Daguerreotype and the Diorama“, the book sparked enormous interest in America in Fall 1839. Daguerre, recognized for his invention of the first commercially successful photographic technic, induced with this publication many to explore the photographic chemistry process on the other side of the Atlantic.

One of them was Robert Cornelius (1809-1893), an Dutch born American chemist. As a young manufacturer of lamps, he worked to learn the basics of the daguerreian light process on silver plate with Joseph Saxton from the Central High School in Philadelphia, himself a pionier of photographic experimentations in the USA. In the 19th century, the city was already famous for scientific research.

The technology developed at the time needed long exposure times to make successful photographs (around 30 minutes), which made it difficult for portraits. And yet Cornelius’ knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry allowed him to overcome the problem and, as a result, he managed to take a picture of himself by perfecting the photographic process described by Daguerre.

This photograph on silver plate is said to be taken outside of his place of business (on 8th Street) in Philadelphia. Hard to say today if it was the very first experimentation of the 30 years old chemist, but this picture is believed to be nonetheless the very first (self-)portrait ever made.

In 1940, Robert Cornelius opened with his partner, chemist Paul Beck Goddard, the second daguerreotype studios in America. Their improvement upon the original daguerreotype process by adding bromine to iodine enabled soon portraits to be produced more quickly. Later, those advancements were receiving international attention, especially in France where daguerreotypists wanted to apply the latest techniques to their own works.

It remais today less than 50 of Robert Cornelius’ daguerreotypes, own by the Library of Congress, the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia’s Library Company), and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House.

Credits: Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress – All rights reserved.

sources: Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Volume One, New York, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, pp. 338-340.

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