Julius G. Neubronner, born 1851 in Kronberg im Taunus as the son of a pharmacist, cultivated a curious passion for photography. In 1907 he patented the design of a camera which could be attached to pigeons and would automatically take pictures during their flight in order to track their journey. Winner of the the Historical book award 2018 at the Prix du Livre at Rencontres d’Arles.
“Photographing the earth from above in the early twentieth century required great ingenuity. One hundred years before drones, the two best ways both had their drawbacks. Balloons and kites could take a camera but were very restricted in their movement and speed. The stage was set for a faster, rangier kind of aerial reconnaissance. In 1907 the apothecary and amateur pigeon fancier Dr Julius G. Neubronner presented a solution to the German patent office — the pigeon camera.
The photos – with their skewed angles and random framing – share a live, wild quality familiar to Generation GoPro but completely novel at the time. One in particular (the first of the aerial shots featured below), of the Schlosshotel in Kronberg, became famous for accidentally capturing the wing tips of its intrepid creator. The German military considered the images sufficiently impressive to test the pigeon cam on the battlefields of the Western Front. However, rapid improvements in aeroplane reconnaissance consigned Neubronner’s birds to their traditional role of carrying messages. The Public Domain Review
Essay by: Joan Fontcuberta | Book 96 pages, hardcover, 16x24cm | Booklet 30 pages, softcover, 16x24cm | Newspaper 48 pages, 24 x 32cm.