California 1890

A recent article in Places Journal features this amazing photo from 1890 in California. These photographs were intended to show the size and scope of the Giant Redwoods in California to people on the east coast. This was for a professional museum project.

Up until the 1890s, photography was primarily a professional occupation. The advent of consumer photography in that final decade of the 19th century was a major step in photographic history.

This development was driven by technological advancements: in the 1880s, the American George Eastman had launched a flexible roll film as well as the first Kodak camera. This portable device – no longer requiring a tripod – offered 100 exposures, only to be processed after having returned the entire camera to the Eastman company. The result: circle-shaped pictures of recommendable quality. While professional photographers and artists explored this new tool from a creative standpoint, domestic and snapshot photography took a flying start: anyone capable of pressing a button and winding a crank could now be a photographer, capturing whatever he or she might find interesting – for an affordable price.

Thank you, Mr. Eastman!

Loggers working in a redwood grove, Humboldt County, California, ca. 1890. [Via Humboldt State University, in the public domain]

The position of this coast redwood testifies to the forest density that threatens the species in Monterey County and elsewhere. Photographed in 2013. [Unless otherwise noted, all photographs by J. Matt/ZUMA Press]

George Eastman