The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Collection Profile: Francis Blake Photographs

One of the most interesting of our image collections here at MHS are the Francis Blake photographs, more than 1,000 images taken by physicist and amateur photographer Francis Blake (mostly during the years 1875-1898). Blake is known for his early use of high-speed photography: "In the mid-1880s, Blake designed a focal-plane shutter that allowed him to take photographs with exposure times of 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second. (The average working speed of a contemporary commercial shutter was about 3/100 of a second.) The resulting stop-action images of trains, pigeons, horses, bicyclists, and athletes were exhibited in Boston, Philadelphia, and London from 1891 to 1893 to critical acclaim."

We've digitized a selection of Blake's photographs, including a few of his well-known portraits and high-speed images; these are browsable here. The image included here (taken c. 1886-1889) is an "action shot" of Blake's son Benjamin.

You can read more about Blake and his photos in a short biographical essay introducing the digital images.

permalink | Published: Monday, 26 April, 2010, 11:10 AM