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Scientific Photography

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Nature's Camera

 

Spring, that time of rebirth for the temperate regions of the world, is thankfully showing itself off again. With new growth on trees, flowers showing off and the lingering sweet smells of airborne pollen, these are but a few signs of the season.

 

1-detail-nature-print-ca-Detail: Nature prints: English: unknown maker: (recto) leaf specimens with selective hand-coloring: ca. 1775-1825: 30.5 x 38.3 cm: laid paper leaf (separated) with Britannia shield and C&S watermarks. from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

2-philip-delamotte-talbotyDetail: "Flora", the Roman goddess of Spring and flowers: 1850: hand-colored lithograph from Talbotype by Philip Henry Delamotte (1821-1889) of hand-drawn and colored tracing of Roman mosaic (mid 2nd Century A.D.) at Cirencester, England. 14.5 x 10.2 cm: reproduced as plate V in: "Illustrations of the Remains of Roman Art, in Cirencester, The Site of Antient Corinium": London. This floor mosaic of Flora was one of three seasonal mosaics excavated at Cirencester in 1849. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

As children, our very first “photographs” joyously executed in winter climes would have taken the form of angelic impressions left in the newly fallen snow, or tropical: designs left on sandy seashores.

 

 

3-detail-nature-print-ca-Detail: Nature prints: English: unknown maker: mirror impression of unknown grass and leaf cluster specimens: ca. 1775-1825: 30.5 x 38.3 cm: laid paper leaf (separated) with Britannia shield and C&S watermarks. from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

6-nature-printed-british-sExamples of nature-printed British Seaweeds printed in intaglio by Henry Bradbury, English. (1831-1860) Left: Sphacelaria Scoparia Lyngb.: 1860; 23.9 x 15.5 cm: plate CLXXII from vol. III: "The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds: A History, Accompanied by figures and dissections, of the algae of the British Isles" : London: Bradbury and Evans. Right: Plocamium Coccineum, Lyngb.: 1859; 23.9 x 15.5 cm: plate LXVIII from vol. II: "The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds": Bradbury's technique commercialized nature printing for the masses-he adapted an 1852 process invented by Viennese engravers Alois Auer and Andreas Worring creating a matrix by placing botanical specimens between a sheet of soft lead and steel which were then electroplated, inked and printed. from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

photogram-of-fern-carrie-ta"Ink Splatter Photogram of Fern and Flowers on Paper", 1904: by amateur Irish artist Caroline Emily Tallis, (1889-1972) (21.9 x 17.2 cm): single page from English or Irish compiled Edwardian album signed lower right: "Carrie Tallis, Scotch House Kilkenny 15/7/04": from: PhotoSeed Archive

Our very own Pencils of Nature.

 

An impression of ourselves for sure, but also quickly obliterated-or not, like nature herself. Photography in this form has in a way been part of Earth’s plant and animal fossil record stretching back millions of years, with Mankind’s permanent efforts barely stretching back to the early 19th Century.

 

4-plant-and-flower-photogr(6) individual Photograms, ca. 1925, by unknown American photographer on Kodak Self-Toning, single-weight glossy paper. (gelatin-silver developing out paper) each: 10.8 x 6.4 cm. Even before he discovered how to permanently "fix" what eventually became known as paper photographs in order to prevent their fading, Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) first used his Photogenic Drawing method in 1834 to produce photograms. To do this he first placed a botanical specimen on a sheet of salt and silver nitrate-coated sheet of writing paper which produced a temporary, exact image of it when exposed to the Sun. Soon after, the lustrous blue Cyanotype process, perhaps best known today by the artistic plant studies perfected by Englishwoman Anna Atkins (1799-1871) made between 1843-53, gave way to even cheaper commercial methods for the photogram. Using store-bought, pre-sensitized photographic paper which home darkroom hobbyists readily exploited-similar to these examples- the art form was popularized even more in the early 20th Century. Specimens: top row, left to right: Shepherd's Purse, Purple Violet, Yellow Violet; Bottom row, left to right: Bell Wort, Narcissus, Blue-Eyed Grass. all from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

5-nature-print-combined-caNature prints: English: unknown maker: ca. 1775-1825: multiple, mirror impressions of unknown grass and leaf cluster specimens with selective hand-coloring on laid paper leaf (separated at middle) with Britannia shield and C&S watermarks: 30.5 x 38.3 cm. Addressing an 1857 meeting of the Royal Society of the Arts, English Aesthetic Movement designer Christopher Dresser (1834-1904) gave the following historical account of the art of nature printing, of which this sheet is a rare surviving example: "The earliest mode with which we are acquainted of producing impressions of plants was this:—The plant, after being dried, was held over the smoke of a candle or oil lamp, when it became blackened by a deposit of soot, after which it was placed between two sheets of paper and rubbed with a smoothing-bone, which caused the soot to leave the prominences of the leaf and adhere to the paper. In this way an impression of the plant was produced. This method of procuring impressions was employed as early as the year A.D. 1650." from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

Enjoy this gallery of images celebrating the beauty of flora. From original Nature Prints ca. 1775-1825: dried leaves impressed into damp paper after being hand-coated with carbon from a candle or oil lamp; to mosaic red flowers adorning the head of a Roman goddess imagined by an artist around 250 A.D. transcribed and copied by the radical Talbotype process and published in 1850; to delicate British seaweeds copied into lead and printed 1859-60 to modern examples still nearly a century old: six silhouetted jewels ca. 1925 from the time photographic hobbyists gazed in wonderment at their first efforts emerging from developer trays in home darkrooms.

 

 

 

Beauty, Underwater

 

With Autumn upon us in the more seasonal regions of the United States, a remembrance, particularly if we are young, of the joys of cooling off in the lakes, ponds, and rivers of our youth.

 

4-gulick-mermaid-studyDetail: Gelatin silver print: "Mermaid Study : Ki-lo-des-ka": ca. 1914 or before: by Charlotte Vetter Gulick: image: 7.1 x 9.2 cm: mount: 16.7 x 22.7 cm. Subject shows Katharine "Kitty" Gulick swimming underwater at Camp Wohelo in Maine. from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Memories made all the more indelible if we ever had the opportunity to attend summer camp.

 

So lets go further and think about taking a photograph of someone underwater. Not a photo taken with a camera underwater, a remarkable feat in itself accomplished beginning in 1893 by the Frenchman Louis Boutan, (1.) but from the outside looking in.

 

Before researching a series of photographs recently acquired for this archive showing a young woman swimming underwater, I would have thought no big deal- perhaps they were rare but could the subject matter actually be unique? After all, they were first published for a mass audience in Everybody’s Magazine in the U.S. in August of 1914, with the author exclaiming them to be “remarkable photographs…taken under conditions not easily duplicated, and have aroused great interest among artists and others who have seen the originals.” (2.)

 

No doubt other examples of this activity exist in the form of vintage photographs. Snapshots perhaps-but ones where actual intent existed  in order to show the beauty of the human figure swimming underwater? Before or perhaps a decade or two after 1914?  Somehow I doubt it.  ✻

 

3-everybodys-magazine-guliThree individual halftone and letterpress page spreads showing mermaid "Ki-lo-des-ka" (Katharine "Kitty" Gulick) swimming and lying submerged underwater: from: Everybody’s Magazine: New York: August, 1914: pp. 225-232

 

With a bit of research, I not only discovered the subject of the “mermaid” doing the swimming in the photos: Katharine “Kitty” Gulick, (1895-1968) but the remarkable story behind the amateur photographer who took them: her mother Charlotte Vetter Gulick. (1865-1928) Taken at Wohelo girls summer camp on the shore of Sebago Lake in Raymond, Maine, a camp founded in 1907 by Gulick and husband Luther Halsey Gulick (1865-1918) that is still going strong today, the following article from Everybody’s explains how these remarkable photos were taken and provides guiding principals behind the Camp Fire Girl movement founded by the photographer herself.

 

1-ki-lo-des-ka-water-bird-inset: detail: Gelatin silver print: "Mermaid Study : Ki-lo-des-ka" ca. 1914 or before: by Charlotte Vetter Gulick: image: 8.1 x 10.5 cm: mount: 16.8 x 23.2 cm: This was an early effort showing "Kitty" wearing a dark-colored bathing-suit "which was too nearly the tone of the rocks to give definition" before the garment was substituted for "a flowing garment of cheese-cloth" which showed up much better against the darkness of the water.: from: PhotoSeed Archive. Background: Camp Wohelo Indian symbol for "Ki-lo-des-ka" aka: "Water-bird": from 1915 volume by Ethel Rogers: "Sebago-Wohelo Camp Fire Girls"

 

Illustrating the article were eight photographs of Wohelo camper “Ki-lo-des-ka”, or “Water-bird”, the aforementioned “Kitty” Gulick, with several of the originals formerly owned by her appearing with this post:

 

The Mermaid

A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS BY MRS. LUTHER HALSEY GULICK


THESE remarkable photographs are instantaneous pictures of a young girl swimming under water. They were taken under conditions not easily duplicated, and have aroused great interest among artists and others who have seen the originals. The photographs were taken by Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick at her private summer camp for girls on Sebago Lake, Maine. The subject was a girl who possessed the unique accomplishment of being able to swim under water as far as one hundred feet. By a long under-water swim the ripples caused by her plunge had plenty of time to die out before she passed the rock on which Mrs. Gulick stood with the camera.


The experiments were made on a brilliantly clear day. The water also was extraordinarily clear and the swimmer passed the camera’s field two or three feet below the surface. The final clue to success was found when a flowing garment of cheese-cloth was substituted for the dark-colored bathing-suit, which was too nearly the tone of the rocks to give definition. Both the figure and the draperies, under the equalizing buoyancy of the water, give a rare representation of poise, as they are entirely unaffected by the force of gravity.

 

How far short this description fails of conveying the art value of the photographs, their rhythm of line and beauty of form and tone, is significantly obvious; for in this margin of appeal to the imagination lies the motive that produced the pictures. They were taken at the birthplace of the Camp-Fire idea of which Mrs. Gulick is one of the chief sponsors.

 

2-mermaid-studyDetail: Gelatin silver or Bromide print: "Mermaid Swimming" ("Ki-lo-des-ka") ca. 1914 or before: by Charlotte Vetter Gulick: image: 8.7 x 11.2 cm: mount: 16.5 x 22.9 cm: reproduced as opening photo for article "The Mermaid" A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS BY MRS. LUTHER HALSEY GULICK: in Everybody’s Magazine: New York: August, 1914: p. 225: note: hair at center of frame result of negligence from contact-printing from original negative. from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

The photographs are a suggestive interpretation of the first law of the Camp-Fire, “Seek beauty;” a revelation of the poetic side of one of the simple, wholesome, normal acts of life. This is the principle, full of possibilities yet undeveloped, upon which the Camp-Fire ceremonial and symbolism are based.


The first ideal of the Camp-Fire girl is the development of a well proportioned physique; a body under perfect control and responsive to every call of the spirit within. Her other ideals include an all-around training in the art of home-keeping in the modern sense, which involves a knowledge of community conditions as well as of the simple processes of home activity. This points to the further ideal of patriotism in the sense of loyalty to country, to church, to humanity, and of service in its broadest meaning.


But to hold forth these aims and say “These are the Camp-Fire” would be as inadequate as to inscribe beneath these rarely beautiful photographs the legend, “A Girl Swimming,” and consider the story told. The Camp-Fire girl makes an art of living. She finds in the mystic glow of the Camp-Fire the joy that burns at the heart of simple things, and life for her is never without beauty and romance.

 

5-diptych-mermaidLeft: example of Camp Wohelo water-related challenge symbol badges from 1920 Wohelo camp yearbook: courtesy: Gulick Family. Right: detail: full-page halftone: "Ki-lo-des-ka swimming under water" : from 1915 volume by Ethel Rogers: "Sebago-Wohelo Camp Fire Girls"

 

A girl swimming can not always be a creature of mystic beauty, any more than speech can always be lyric or motion be always grace. But when once the beauty in a simple act has been revealed, even in a single poetic moment, a reflected glory is thrown over the commoner moments of which this is but the type. This is the poetry that the Camp-Fire girls all over America are writing into life.  (3.)

 

Camp Fire Girls, Basket Ball and More

Born Emma L. Vetter on Dec. 12, 1865 in Oberlin, Ohio to missionary parents, (4.) Charlotte “Lottie” Gulick was educated in Kansas public schools and undertook her secondary education at Washburn College (now Washburn University) in Topeka, Kansas doing college preparatory work. She then matriculated and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Drury College in Springfield, MO. (5.) It was at Drury that she met Luther Halsey Gulick , (1865-1918) whom she married in 1887.

 

6-family-diptych-charlotteLeft: photographer Charlotte Vetter Gulick is at center surrounded by her four daughters. Photograph by Alice Boughton ca. 1900. Katharine (Ki-lo-des-ka) is believed to be at right holding a flower. Reproduced later as an engraving in a New York Times article profiling the new Campfire Girls of America organization: "Girls take up the Boy Scout Idea and Band Together" (March 17, 1912) (private collection) Right: detail: members of the Gulick family from a photograph most likely taken by Charlotte Gulick around 1911. From left to right: Katharine "Kitty" Gulick (Curtis) (1895-1968); Frances "Franta" Gulick(1891-1936); Halsey Gulick; Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick (Timanous-1865-1918); Louise Gulick. (1888-1941): courtesy: Gulick Family

 

A strong advocate in the promotion of physical eduction as well as an organizer and author in his professional life, Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick also came from a missionary family, his father being missionary physician Luther Halsey Gulick Sr. (1828–1891) Receiving his medical degree from New York University in 1889, Dr. Gulick is perhaps best remembered today for his role in the development of the game of basketball, although this is but an interesting side story of a remarkable life.  In 1891, while superintendent of the physical education department at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, MA., (now Springfield College) he became the catalyst and inspiration for colleague James Naismith to first draw up rules for the new game of “Basket Ball”, with a peach basket nailed above the inside of a gymnasium playing court serving as the goal. His beliefs, as embodied in a poster issued after his death, were in the

unity of body, mind and spirit, and in an education which includes all three. He devoted his life to establishing this ideal, by emphasizing the social and ethical values of physical exercise, especially through play and recreation.”

 

While at the YMCA, he was also responsible for designing the triangular logo which represented the YMCA philosophy of Mind, Body and Spirit. (6.)

 

Summer camp was an activity the Gulicks thrived on and made a lifestyle out of. Beginning in 1887, a year before their first child Louise was born, they established a camp on the shores of the Thames River in Gales Ferry CT. Co-educational, with the couples friends as well as extended Gulick family members acting as counselors to their own children and others, (7.) it operated for 20 years. In order to share what was learned to a larger audience of girls, the couple then established Camp Wohelo on Sebago Lake in 1907. An acronym comprised of the three virtues of work, health, and love, Wohelo was embodied from the start as outlined in 1915 by Charlotte Vetter Gulick:

 

I believe deeply and earnestly that spiritual health and development is a direct corollary of bodily vigor and control; that the joy that comes from the exercise of efficient muscles has its counterpart in the soul; that to exercise the one is to exercise the other.

Upon that rock has Wohelo been built, and its use of symbols is, perhaps, more than anything else, a working and ever-present declaration of the spiritual values inherent in all the humblest phases of our everyday life in the world. (8.)

 

7-gulick-mermaid-submergedDetail: "Mermaid Study : Submerged": Gelatin silver print: ca. 1914 or before: by Charlotte Vetter Gulick: image: 8.4 x 10.8 cm: mount: 16.7 x 22.7 cm. : reproduced as final photo for article "The Mermaid" A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS BY MRS. LUTHER HALSEY GULICK: in Everybody’s Magazine: New York: August, 1914: p. 232: from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Five years before this philosophy was written, in 1910, Charlotte Gulick, known by her symbolic Indian name at the Wohelo camp as Hiiteni, which translated to  “Life, more life”, came up with the idea for the Camp Fire Girls movement. An organization for girls much as the Boy Scouts of America was structured for boys, and coincidentally founded the same year, Camp Fire Girls promoted all the values she and her husband had already been teaching at their earlier camp at Gales Ferry and at Wohelo:

 

The idea originated in the mind of Mrs. Gulick, and was at once indorsed by Dr. Gulick, who believes it to be logical and necessary to proper development of girls amid the changing conditions of our National life.” (9.)

 

8-undearwater-old-and-new-Left: detail: photo by "David": title: "Portrait Instantané D'un Plongeur" ("Instant Portrait of a Diver") : photogravure plate XI by Paul Dujardin showing French underwater photography pioneer Louis Marie-Auguste Boutan (1859-1934) holding himself steady underwater: from: 1900 volume "La Photographie Sous-Marine et Les Progres de La Photographie" (The Progress of Underwater Photography) (between pp. 210-211) : Gallica: National Library of France online resource. Right: a modern-day mermaid: Nicole Marino plays the starring role in "The Little Mermaid" at Florida's Weeki Wachee Springs Waterpark. In 1947, former Navy frogman Newton Perry conceived of the idea of using an air hose and perfected "hose breathing" here. Culturally, mermaids are a tourist attraction, and have entered the popular imagination through films like "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" starring Don Knotts. (1964): 1999 photo by David Spencer/The Palm Beach Post

 

Today, the history of the Gulick’s shared virtues of work, health and love continue on in the summer operation of their Maine camps. In a promotional 1919 silent film on Wohelo released a year before women in the United States had the Constitutional protection of the right to vote, these changing conditions of America’s National life for young women were on display. Seated in teams of coordinated paddlers in three large over-sized canoes on Lake Sebago, the ideals of resourcefulness in working together shown in the film remains an ideal for young women still valued today.

 

9-katharine-gulick-mermaiDetail: "Mermaid Sunbathing " ("Kitty" Gulick) : Gelatin silver print: ca. 1914 or before: by Charlotte Vetter Gulick: image: 7.3 x 10.8 cm: mount: 17.0 x 22.5 cm. : In this photo, a figure study of Katharine "Kitty" Gulick by her mother, "Ki-lo-des-ka" sunbathes next to granite boulders on the Sebago Lake shoreline in Maine.: from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Much like these photos of Ki-lo-des-ka the mermaid, “her yellow hair glinting golden in the sunshine” (10.) reveal beauty to us in the physical form, lines from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson cited by the amateur photographer Charlotte Gulick after she mastered the art of water diving at the age of 35 brings forth a desire in the human spirit to symbolically enter the depths as well:

To vision profounder
Man’s spirit must dive.“  (11.)

 

Notes:

1. Louis Marie-Auguste Boutan. (1859-1934) Boutan used specially-designed underwater camera housings, publishing his research conducted from 1892-1900 for a large audience in the 1900 volume “La Photographie Sous-Marine et Les Progres de La Photographie”. (The Progress of Underwater Photography)
2. from: The Mermaid: in: Everybody’s Magazine: New York: The Ridgway Company Publishers: August, 1914:  p. 225
3. Ibid: pp. 225-232
4. 1870 U.S. Census. Gulick changed her name to Charlotte sometime after 1900 but was known as “Lottie”
5. Gulick background: Margaret R. and Dennis S. O’Leary:  Adventures at Wohelo Camp - Summer of 1928: 2011: iUniverse: p. 24
6. 1921 poster of Luther Halsey Gulick: Makers of American Ideals poster issued by the National Child Welfare Association: Springfield College Digital online resource accessed Oct., 2014
7. background: Camp Timanous website accessed Oct., 2014. Owned by the Suitor family since the 1930’s, the camp was originally founded by Luther Halsey Gulick in 1917, whose symbolic Indian name Timanous- was “Guiding Spirit”. In the introduction to the 1915 Sebago-Wohelo Camp Fire Girls volume, Charlotte Gulick states as many as 75 people camped together at Gales Ferry before Wohelo was established.
8. excerpt: Introduction: Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick: Ethel Rogers: Sebago-Wohelo Camp Fire Girls: Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Company: 1915: pp. 22-23
9. excerpt: Girls Take up the Boy Scout Idea and Band Together: Edward Marshall: in: The New York Times: March 17, 1912
10. Sebago-Wohelo Camp Fire Girls: p. 94
11. Ibid: p. 22

✻  : and of course I’m happy to be corrected

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Say Can you See?

 

Walt Whitman certainly did. Just check out his eyeballs on this photograph taken in 1887 by George C. Cox for confirmation. Especially on this most personal of American holidays, the Fourth of July, the continuing birthday idea of our messy, evolving experiment of a democratic republic called the United States can never be said to be boring.

 

1-walt-whitman-photographiDetail: 1887: Walt Whitman-1819-1892 by George C. Cox: (portrait known as the "Laughing Philosopher") 23.9 x 18.8 cm | 45.2 x 33.3 cm: vintage large format, hand-pulled photogravure printed circa 1905-10 by the Photographische Gesellschaft in Berlin on Van Gelder Zonen plate paper. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Need proof of his vision? - Whitman’s metaphorical call in this famous quote: “What is that you express in your eyes?” ; and response: “It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.”

 

You could say America’s poet (1819-1892) of the everyman didn’t need a camera, he was one. His genius of observation, something all great photographers possess, gave him the power to indelibly express his convictions. So when words flowed from his pen, they possessed the power of photographs, especially on the very idea of America in the aftermath of the Civil War:

 

2-walt-whitman-birthplace-"Walt Whitman Birthplace in 1903" (South Huntington, New York): by Ben Conklin: 1903: vintage albumen print: 20.3 x 25.2 cm from: PhotoSeed Archive: (Benjamin Sargent Conklin: 1873-1964)

 

from Leaves of Grass: intro to “Thoughts”:

Of these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass’d through convuls’d pains, as
through parturitions,
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the
sure fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of people-
illustrates evil as well as good,
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one’s-self;
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste,
myths obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity, … (1.)

 

3-walt-whitman-by-cox-sun-"Walt Whitman" by George C. Cox: 1887. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade" New York: March, 1892: whole #43: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 21.5 x 16.7 cm | 34.7 x 27.4 cm: from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

But enough of the history lesson. Since most of us will never rise to the level of a Whitman in prose, photography as an art form is a comparably easy stretch. Speaking for myself as a young newspaper photographer in the mid 1980’s hunched over a light table editing film, an early mentor told me as long as a person’s eyes in the negative were tack sharp through the loupe, it was a “keeper”, and worthy of publication.

 

And so it was for my colleagues a century before my own light table revelation, but with the slow, fragile dry plates in use at the time a much greater technical challenge. In 1887, New York portrait photographer George Collins Cox (1851-1902) had the sitting of a lifetime in none other than Whitman. Strolling into his New York studio with oversized fedora, it was 22 years to the day no less on April 15th when American president Abraham Lincoln finally succumbed to an assassin’s bullet in 1865.

 

4-abraham-lincoln-by-alexaAbraham Lincoln by Alexander Hesler (1823-July 4th, 1895):taken in Springfield, Illinois on June 3, 1860: vintage platinum print © 1881 by George Bucher Ayres: print from late 1890's: Meserve #26|Ostendorf #26" One of the most famous Walt Whitman poems, "O Captain! My Captain!", eulogizing the death of this American president, was written by Whitman in 1865: from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

And he nailed it, as they say in America. Eyes tack sharp. The following historical account of the Whitman portrait sitting from the Charles E. Feinberg Collection at the Library of Congress gives a nice working account of Cox the photographer in action. A result of that session: the “Laughing Philosopher”, was the title Whitman declared as his favorite:

 

5-walt-whitman-and-the-butDetail: "Walt Whitman and the Butterfly" :1877(?):by W. Curtis Taylor of Broadbent & Taylor (Philadelphia): vintage hand-pulled vellum photogravure: 13.8 x 9.8 cm | 22.6 x 15.0 cm: from: Leaves of Grass II: The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman: New York:1902: Henry W. Knight:National Edition limited to 500 copies:"In fact, the "butterfly" was clearly a photographic prop now in the collections of the Library of Congress. The die-cut cardboard butterfly is imprinted with the lyrics to a John Mason Neale hymn and the word "Easter" in large capital letters."… What is not often noted is that the photo simply enacts one of the recurrent visual emblems in the 1860 edition of Leaves: a hand with a butterfly perched on a finger. …"The butterfly … represents, of course, Psyche, his soul, his fixed contemplation of which accords with his declaration: 'I need no assurances; I am a man who is preoccupied of his own soul.'"- The Walt Whitman Archive online resource- from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

On the morning of April 15th, 1887, George Cox took several photographs of Whitman, who was celebrating the success of his New York lecture on Lincoln, delivered the day before. Whitman recalls that “six or seven” photos were made during the session, but Whitman’s friend Jeannette Gilder, an observer of the session, said there were many more than that: ‘He must have had twenty pictures taken, yet he never posed for a moment. He simply sat in the big revolving chair and swung himself to the right or to the left, as Mr. Cox directed, or took his hat off or put it on again, his expression and attitude remaining so natural that no one would have supposed he was sitting for a photograph.“  (2.)

 

6-statue-of-liberty-at-nigDetail: "Statue of Liberty at Night": Seneca Ray Stoddard: Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade" New York: September, 1890: whole #25: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 18.5 x 12.0 cm 35.2 cm x 27.6 cm: For many, the dream of America still holds true in the light, or darkness, of Lady Liberty's torch-even when viewed against the backdrop of the messy, evolving experiment of a democratic republic called the United States- one fully embraced in the writings of Walt Whitman. A technical description of this photograph copyrighted in 1889 by Stoddard: "Mr. Stoddard employed five cameras on this occasion, stationing them on the Steamboat Pier. A wire was stretched from the torch of the Statue to the mast of a vessel a considerable distance away. Placed on this wire, controlled by a pulley, was a cup containing one and one-half pounds of flash powder; an electric wire was connected with it, and at a given signal the current turned on, by the electrician in charge of the torch, the flash exploded and the exposure made." from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

1. from “ThoughtsLeaves of Grass II: The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman: New York:1902: Henry W. Knight, publisher: National (limited) Edition: p. 275
2. excerpt: Walt Whitman Archive online resource accessed July, 2014

 

 

Heels of Progress

 

If you ever wanted to learn about the importance assigned or excitement surrounding the discovery of the X-Ray, look no further than any photographic journal published the world over between 1896-1897. Chronicled in breathless detail within their many pages, this new and miraculous revelation was aided by photography’s very ability to record the see-through results of these “mysterious rays” on a myriad of materials.

 

boot"Foot in a Shoe": full-page halftone plate identified as figure 6 accompanying article "Radiography and its Application" published in "The Photographic Times": July: 1896. Believed to be photographed by author Arthur Willis Goodspeed with the assistance of G. C. McKee.

 

And so this new victory was shouted far and wide: the symbolic Iron Heel of Progress, represented by the dual disciplines of scientific investigation and photography coming together, marched forward. In my own convoluted way of thinking, the splendid specimen of shoe including said iron-studded heel protecting a foot within makes perfect sense, literally and perhaps symbolically making a full-page debut along with other objects in the July, 1896 issue of The Photographic Times.

 

goodspeed-addressUniversity of Pennsylvania physics professor and Radiology pioneer Arthur Willis Goodspeed was the addressee of this personal letter sent by Photographic Times editor Walter E. Woodbury in 1896 seeking the procurement of X-Ray photographs to accompany Goodspeed's published July issue article: "Radiography and its Application". Detail from original envelope with dimensions of 9.3 x 16.5 cm

 

The reason for all this excitement was the official announcement late the year before: German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen (1845-1923) had “produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays”. (1.) For his efforts, Röntgen in 1901 was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics.

 

I will be the first to admit scientific photography is not a collecting focus for the PhotoSeed archive, however, the possession of a postal cover and several pages from a hand-written letter by Photographic Times editor Walter E. Woodbury (1865-1905) posted to this site was reason enough to visually explore X-Ray photography in this space as the profound discovery it remains even today. On May 22nd, while working in advance of the July issue, Woodbury penned a short missive to America’s equivalent of Röntgen: University of Pennsylvania physics professor Arthur Willis Goodspeed. (1860-1943) Radiography and its Application was the name of the article he had already written, dated April 30th and eventually published. But at the time, working more than a month in advance, editor Woodbury was willing to hold up publication of his journal until he could secure the necessary photographs showing the dry-plate, x-ray-effected negatives he knew would cause a stir, and thus providing proof for and generating interest in Goodspeed’s article.

 

goodspeed-hand-carbuttLeft: Arthur Willis Goodspeed (1860-1943) circa 1903-04 when he was 4th President of the American Roentgen Ray Society. Middle: An X-Ray photographic negative from 1896 showing Goodspeed's hand taken by Philadelphia photographer John Carbutt. Right: Englishman John Carbutt, (1832-1905) inventor of specialized glass dry plates sensitive to the newly identified x-rays that were provided to Goodspeed for research purposes.

 

Goodspeed was no stranger to photographic experimentation. In the mid 1880’s he had witnessed and assisted the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) while he conducted the now famous Animal Locomotion studies under the support of the University of Pennsylvania and more unbelievably, had made by accident along with British photographer William Jennings, the first known X-Ray photograph in the physical lecture room at the school on February 22, 1890 . A centennial  remembrance written by TL Walden Jr. for the journal Radiology in 1991 partly states:

 

On that evening, Goodspeed and Jennings had been making brush electrographs of coins and brass weights. After they finished their experiments, Jennings stacked all of the photographic plates; two coins—either left from the experiments or Jennings’ trolley fare—were placed on top of the plates. Goodspeed then demonstrated to Jennings the university’s collection of Crookes tubes, with the idea of photographing the glow from the tube. While the two men were talking, however, the Crookes tube was emitting x radiation that affected the nearby plates. After the plates were developed, Jennings noted that one had the shadow(s) of a disk(s) on it; neither man could explain the image. (2.)

 

xray-hand-in-rundschau-1896One of the most popular subjects it seems for early depictions of X-Ray negative photographs was the human hand. This full-page halftone presentation of a full hand with ring was included in the February, 1896 issue of the German photographic journal Photographische Rundschau. Original caption: Aufnahme einer menschlichen Hand nach dem Röntgen'schen Verfahren vom Geh. Regierungsrath Prof. Dr. Slaby und Assistent Klingenberg in Charlottenburg.

 

The photographic holdup for Woodbury was worth it. Englishman John Carbutt, (1832-1905) who had first made a name for himself in America by taking stereoscopic landscape photographs as well as running a Chicago portrait studio in the 1860’s, had become an important collaborator in the late 1890’s with Goodspeed in Philadelphia. Carbutt’s invention of specialized glass dry plates sensitive to the newly identified x-rays were provided to Goodspeed for research purposes; the same year his article appeared in The Photographic Times.  Carbutt’s role as well as the importance of these plates was acknowledged in it:

 

With a view to developing the sensitive plate to produce the best results possible, Mr. John Carbutt has given untiring attention and made many experiments. The Carbutt plates have most of them been tested by the writer in comparison with other makes, and those now in use give by far the best results of any yet tried. The negatives from which the illustrations accompanying this article have been reproduced are samples of the plates referred to.  (3.)

 

baby-xrayUnknown health hazards did not seem to present issues with photographers keen to exploit the miracle that was X-Ray photography when first discovered in late 1895. Although it is not known what the exposure time for this 3 day old child was when Philadelphia photographer John Carbutt recorded it in 1896, exposures of over 1 hour in length are commonly mentioned. This photograph appeared as a full-page halftone in the December, 1896 issue of "The American Amateur Photographer".

 

woodbury-letter-"Photographic Times" editor Walter Edward Woodbury (1865-1905) was the son of Walter B. Woodbury, who invented the Woodburytype. Woodbury edited the journal from 1895-1899. He died from yellow fever while later editing the English section of the "Panama Star and Herald and Inter-Ocean Critic" newspaper in Panama.

 

In closing, and with a nod to collectors like myself seeking out the ultimate published examples of Röntgen, or X-Ray scientific photographs, I suggest a further investigation of the 15 oversized, hand-pulled photogravure plates published in 1896 under the direction of Austrian photo-chemists Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta. Containing magnificent studies of human bones, various small animals as well as man-made objects including a set of lockets, this portfolio, titled Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen’schen Strahlen, features as its’ final plate the now iconic coiled snake titled Aesculap-Schlange. First taken by Eder and Valenta and presented to members of the Viennese Photographic Society in January of 1896, (4.) these photographs have long ago entered the canon of modern photographic art, a scant two months after Röntgen’s initial discovery shook the world.

 

aesculap-schlangeDetail: Aesculap-Schlange (Facsimile des Negativs). pl. XV: from portfolio: "Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen'schen Strahlen" published in 1896 as a large plate photogravure. Symbolic of healing and native to Europe, the Aesculapian snake is associated with the Greek god Asclepius and Roman god Aesculapius. The symbol of modern human medicine is often represented by this snake intertwined around a rod.

 

 

1. Wilhelm Röntgen: from: Wikipedia: accessed: 2012
2. excerpt: The first radiation accident in America: a centennial account of the x-ray photograph made in 1890: TL Walden Jr.:in: Radiology: December, 1991: pp. 635-639
3. excerpt: Radiography and its Application: A.W. Goodspeed: in: The Photographic Times: New York: July, 1896: pp. 308-309
4. from: Beauty of Another Order-Photography in Science: Ann Thomas: Yale University Press: New Haven and London, in association with the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; 1997