Early photographers naturally wanted to exploit the new found ability to capture a moment in time. What better than to try and take images from the air.
The French Military saw the advantage of being able to see over the horizon and had limited success with balloons. But it was Frenchman Arthur Batut in 1888 who managed to record what is widely accepted as the first photograph from a Kite. From there the next recorded milestone were the images taken by George Lawrence of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

In the UK a certain Samuel Franklin Cody had also been pioneering man lifting kites for use with the military in observation and photography. Cody was a flamboyant character, originating from the States but of no relation to Buffolo Bill Cody. His is a truely awesome career and best left to this site to elaborate. S. F. Cody Society. Tragically his life was cut short in 1913 in an air accident and was buried in Aldershot with full military honours. But there was a war on the horizon and it would change the way aerial photography was done and the advantage it held over one's enemy. Kites were out and aircraft were in despite a few years earlier in 1909 when the British War Office released Cody from his contract saying there was no future in aeroplanes.

Samuel Franklin Cody is acknowlged by The Royal Aero Club as being the first person in the UK to have flown a powered heavier than air aircraft.

In the States around the same time as Cody there was a Silas J Conyne, described by the New York Times of the day as being a scientific Kitemaker. He developed what has become to be known as the French Military Kite but on a day in August 1900 in Chicago he got more than he bargined for.



S.F. Cody

The San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent page on the 1906 Quake. The detail on the photo is amazing considering the limitations of the technology at the time and the fact of raising and activating a plate camera remotely.

You can see the total devastation of building blocks and tented villages and life going on along the waterfront.
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View actual film footage of French Military Field Unit using KAP for aerial reconnaissance in 1917 during WW1
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Lutz Treczoks Cody