Shanghai >> Shenzhen | from pigeon to airplane

Shanghai - Shenzhen | December 7, 2012

Last month, MovingCities flew from Shanghai 上海 to Shenzhen 深圳.
In the past years, we landed in Shenzhen 深圳 from many different directions. This time around we descended along the city’s most densified urban areas and used this opportunity to discuss the relation between aerophotography and the work German apothecary Julius Neubronner [1852-1932]. Or how aerophotography moved from pigeon photography to the cabin cruising.
But the ambition is the same, to develop a “Method of and Means for Taking Photographs of Landscapes from Above.

Shanghai >> Shenzhen | Julius Neubronner

As we can read on wikipedia, Julius Neubronnerwas a German apothecary, inventor, company founder, and a pioneer of amateur photography and film […] he invented the pigeon photographer method for aerial photography, was one of the first film amateurs in Germany, and founded a factory for adhesive tapes.” Here is a bit more background to his invention:

In 1908, Neubronner patented his invention, aerial photography by means of a pigeon photographer, which brought him international notability after he presented it to an interested audience at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909–1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, and the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. At the 1910 and 1911 Paris Air Shows he received two gold medals, for the method and for the photographs. The invention was tried out for military air surveillance in the First World War and later, but apart from honourable mentions in encyclopedias (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, Brockhaus Enzyklopädie) it only caused him expenses.

Julius Neubronner [1852-1932, source: wikipedia]

Julius Neubronner [source: lomography]

Julius Neubronner [Frankfurt, source: digitalfilmtree]

What is interesting about this pigeoncamera, is the merger between nature and technology, the relation between flying and photography, between control and coincidence, between medication and the metropolis.

Various sources presenting the work of Julius Neubronner [lomography, greensavers, pigeon photography, publicdomainreview, slate or digitalfilmtree] provide just a basic introduction to this invention. There we learn that “this idea probably came to him when he used the pigeons to transport prescriptions and medication“, that “when one of his pigeons lost its orientation in fog and mysteriously arrived, well-fed, four weeks late, Neubronner was inspired with the playful idea of equipping his pigeons with automatic cameras to trace their paths” and that “after a failed attempt to patent his device due to a misjudgment over the amount of weight a pigeon could carry, Neubronner finally got it right and was granted a patent in 1908.”

Furtheron, we understand that “initially his invention “Method of and Means for Taking Photographs of Landscapes from Above” was rejected by the German patent office as impossible, but after presentation of authenticated photographs the patent was granted in December 1908” and that “a tiny pigeon camera triggered by a compressed-air timing mechanism. Pigeons were fitted with a harness carrying a small camera and a timer would go off on a regular interval to take a photograph.

Beijing - Shenzhen - Macau | July 2009

Beijing - Shenzhen - Macau | November 2009

Shanghai - Shenzhen | November 2011

Click on the above to check out our previous travels from Shanghai 上海 to Shenzhen 深圳. We replace the pigeon by the airplane, the sequence of a regular intervals by varying instant frames, the idea of a patent by the investigation of a possibility.

Shanghai - Shenzhen | December 7, 2012

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