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Thread: historic photograph: real or fake?

  1. #1

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    historic photograph: real or fake?

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi..._1901-1902.JPG

    I say it was not possible to stop action like this given the technology of the day. Others say it would be possible with flash powder.

    Even if flash powder could stop action, I doubt that you could sync several of them, and this photo appears to have more than one light source.

    I have read that Fox Talbot apparently experimented with stop action via electronic flash in 1850, but I don't know if this was ever practiced commercially.

    AFAIK Muybridge just used a fast shutter, no flash.

  2. #2

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    If you used an electric carbon arc light (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_lamp) you wouldn't have to worry about syncing. They're continuous (and very bright) light sources. You'd just need a fast shutter.

  3. #3

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    I vote fake. The hair styles and garment fabric fit appear modern to me. But, as my wife occasionally says, my opinions have variable and frequently minimal value. )

  4. #4

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    A little more research indicates the image is from the Byron Collection of the Museum of the City of New York. From the museum's website on the collection:

    This database contains digital images and descriptive information about individual works in the Byron Collection. The collection consists of over 22,000 photographs of New York City and its environs taken by the Byron Company between 1890 and 1942.

    If you run a search on 'keith' and 'bicycle' in their online database, a series of four images come up, all taken of the same bicycle track- http://museumofnyc.doetech.net/wiz10.cfm

    If you just search on the term 'bicycle' there are actually a number of other stunt and trick bicycle images that are returned. So I'd say in the broader context of a known collection maintained by a museum that the image is 100% authentic.

  5. #5

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    Quote Originally Posted by lostjr View Post
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi..._1901-1902.JPG

    I say it was not possible to stop action like this given the technology of the day. Others say it would be possible with flash powder.

    Even if flash powder could stop action, I doubt that you could sync several of them, and this photo appears to have more than one light source.

    ...
    What exactly on the picture you think could not be done with the technology of that time?

  6. #6

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    It's certainly staged or a trick photo, as the spokes are visible all the way out to the rims, and they would certainly be blurred for the near rider on the left. You need some speed to stay up on a wall that steep. The rider on the near right looks to have his foot on the ground and is not moving. It's an odd photo for certain.

  7. #7
    Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    I don't think they're moving very fast, judging by the lean angle. It's possible they are moving very very slow if they are skilled bicyclists. I don't think flash is necessary to capture this.

    I see nothing that makes this technologically impossible for the early 1900's.

    ...Mike

  8. #8

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    Well, I do think Kirk's point about it being staged may have some merit, although it's a period photograph. In looking at the other photos of the track in the Byron Collection, 3 of the 4 images, each taken from very different perspectives, show all four riders in the same positions on the track. That seems a little odd.

  9. #9

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    Quote Originally Posted by benrains View Post
    In looking at the other photos of the track in the Byron Collection, 3 of the 4 images, each taken from very different perspectives, show all four riders in the same positions on the track. That seems a little odd.
    Beyond odd. At casual glance, the 3 seem identically positioned. If we didn't have the fourth, I'd say wax museum or something. As it is, it almost seems like it has to be some kind of show piece, with the riders not moving at all and held in place by means unseen. Very odd and pretty fascinating.

  10. #10

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    Re: historic photograph: real or fake?

    All bikes are very upright - so they were not going fast, and may even have been caught at the slowest point in some synchronized pattern they were performing.

    But that is rather irrelevant, as similar pictures would have been possible even at speed, with technology already common back then. The track is obviously erected on a theatre stage where there would have been plenty of bright arc light or limelight, film speeds already had reached 12-25 ISO, and lenses faster than f/4 had been widespread from the very start of photography (where slow plates made them mandatory). And last but not least, shutters were already capable of speeds of 1/1000s and faster at that time - they were not even experimental any more, Anschütz had been marketing his high speed cameras (mostly to rich amateurs - engineers were late at grasping their usefulness) since the 1880's.

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