A Tale of a Tail

Every “serious” equipment-laden photographer can tell you how he or she started out with the most basic of cameras. It seems even the pioneers had their own version of the box Brownie story.

This [adventure in photography] began on my eighth birthday [1890] when two of my Californian uncles gave me a 4×5 Kodak, which had to be loaded in a darkroom with a roll of film for forty-eight exposures. The shutter was set by pulling out a piece of cat-gut with a round button on the end of it, the release of which produced the exposure. It had only one speed, and that was not very fast. My first picture was of the neighbour’s dog, a friendly little animal who wagged his tail at the moment of exposure so that the result resembled a fan where there should have been a tail, which pleased me greatly.

Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 – 1966) Photographer. An Autobiography. Ed. Helmut and Alison Gernsheim. Dover Publications Inc., 1978.

Did all of you DSLR owners get that? One shutter speed – and cat-gut!


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