Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kodak First Snapshots

One of the first circular snapshots (with the Kodak nr 1 camera) 'Man with suitcase and others on the White House grounds' by photographer Uriah Hunt Painter (1889,  LOC)

The Kodak camera wasinvented by George Eastman (1854-1932). It was a simple, leather-covered wooden box – small and light enough to be held in the hands. Taking a photograph with the Kodak was very easy, requiring only three simple actions; turning the key (to wind on the film); pulling the string (to set the shutter); and pressing the button (to take the photograph). There was not even a viewfinder - the camera was simply pointed in the direction of the subject to be photographed.

The Kodak produced circular snapshots, two and a half inches in diameter. Apparently this format was chosen 'to ensure that the photographer didn’t have to hold the camera exactly level with the horizon, and to compensate for the poor image quality at the corners of the image'.


The Kodak was sold already loaded with enough paper-based roll film to take one hundred photographs. After the film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory for the film to be developed and printed. The camera, reloaded with fresh film, was then returned to its owner, together with the set of prints. To sum up the Kodak system, Eastman devised the brilliantly simple sales slogan: ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’


next episode: bonbon

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Henry Peach Robinson - Fading Away

Fading Away - Henry Peach Robinson, 1858

The Royal Photographic Society: 'The photograph shows a young girl on her deathbed surrounded by her family. This photograph is an example of combination printing: five different negatives were used to make one complete print. This is probably Robinson's most famous photograph, and it was widely exhibited at the time. The photograph depicts a girl dying of consumption, and was controversial when it was exhibited, with many believing it was not a suitable subject for photography.'

next episode: Kodak

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Emily Dickinson Portraits

Emily Dickinson, 16 years old, 1846-47 (Amherst College Archives)

There’s only one officially authenticated photograph of reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, who posthumously came to be considered one of America's major poets. It’s a daguerreotype taken in 1847 when she was 16 years old.

Daguerreotype taken around 1859 (Amherst College Archives)

This daguerreotype showing two women belongs to a collector who bought it in a group of items from a Springfield junk dealer in 1995. After years of study, he was able to confirm (thanks to two moles on her chin under either side of her mouth) that the sitter on the right was Mrs. Kate Scott Turner Anthon, a school friend of Sue Gilbert Dickinson, wife of Emily’s brother Austin. Austin and Sue lived in the house next door to Emily, and Kate stayed with them several times starting in January of 1859. She struck up a close friendship with Emily, as their extant correspondence attests to, until they had a falling out about a year later (

 Albumen photo (collection of Philip F. Gura)

This albumen photo was acquired by Philip F. Gura on Ebay in 2000. Recent assessment of the image suggests that it may be a cabinet-card-sized paper copy of a daguerreotype showing Emily Dickinson in the mid-1850s (

next episode: fading

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Napoleon Day!

Today would have been Napoleon's 244 birthday. Here are some Napoleonatical trivia:

The house where he was born, his family's ancestral home, Casa Buonaparte
in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica (source)

His death mask (source)

And, on a lighter note, some fun facts (source)

next episode: Emilies

Monday, August 12, 2013

Casper van Wittel - View of Florence and Arno River

Casper van Wittel (Amersfoort, 1653 – Rome, 1736): View of Florence and Arno River

He was nicknamed Gaspare degli Occhiali (Gaspar with the spectacles) from at least 1712, and his short sight may have prevented his working after circa 1730.

next episode: Napoleon

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gabrielle Ray

Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973) was an English stage actress, dancer and singer, best known for her roles in Edwardian musical comedies.

next episode: Florence

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Maria Kochubey Baryatinskaya by Christina Robertson

Maria Kochubey Bariatinsky by Christina Robertson (Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow)

Christina Robertson (née Sanders) (Fife, Scotland, 1796 - Sint-Petersburg, 1854) was a Scottish artist. In 1822 she married the artist James Robertson with whom she had eight children. She took part in the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Edinburgh. She was applauded by critics and became the first woman sworn in as honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy.

Her portrait work of the English upper class regularly served as the basis for engravings from magazines of the time, it was through these publications that her fame spread to the Russian dignitaries in St. Petersburg. England at that time was very much in vogue in Russia, it was a period of 'anglomania' in Russian high society, anything British was very fashionable.

Christina Robertson - Self portrait (1822)

Around 1830, during visits to Paris, she got the opportunity to portray some Russian officials. She exhibited in St. Petersburg and her popularity among the Russian nobility rose, after which they asked her to paint two full-length portraits of Tsar Nicholas I and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. In 1847 she settled permanently in Russia. But eventually the relation between Britain and Russia cooled off, culminating in the Crimean War. Her work wasn't appreciated anymore with full enthusiasm. Her health and perhaps her financial situation went backwards. In 1854 she died, and she is buried at the Volkovo cemetery in St. Petersburg.

next episode: Gabriella


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