How Many of These 15 Weird Photography Facts Did You Know?

By Federico Alegria / July 31, 2017

If we skip the centuries that “Camera Obscura” has existed, we can narrow the history of photography down to nearly 200 years. In all this time, a lot of curious things have happened to our beloved pastime. This time we'll relax a bit and get into some weird facts about photography that will probably surprise you. Enjoy!

  1. Canon and Nikon were friends

Before reflex technology, rangefinder cameras were pretty much the standard. For some years, Canon used lenses from the “Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha” company, which later became Nikon Corporation, like the Canon S from 1938.

  1. There are 12 Hasselblad Cameras on the Surface of the Moon

Hasselblad was a great NASA favorite in the early space missions due to their interchangeable lenses and magazines, as well as the build quality of the gear. The cameras that shot the surface of the moon during the Apollo Program were sacrificed in the name of science to allow 25 kg of lunar rock samples a seat in the back travel to Earth. Thankfully, the film magazines were brought back as well.

  1. The Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7

Have you ever wondered what the fastest lens around is? Well, the answer to that has a name and a history as well. The Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f0.7 was crafted thanks to the blueprints of the Zeiss Jena UR-Objektive 70mm f/1,0, which landed in U.S. hands as a result of Operation Paperclip. Ten lenses were made, 6 for NASA, 1 for Zeiss, and the other 3 were acquired by Stanley Kubrick for a pretty curious purpose. They were used to film Barry Lyndon, some scenes of which were lit only by candlelight.

By Gbentinck – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50427873

  1. Post-Mortem Photography was a popular thing

Post-mortem photography is the practice of photographing recently deceased people. This was a popular practice in America and Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It became popular because, in most cases, for their loved ones, this was the only visual remembrance of the deceased.

These photographs may be a little bit harsh for some viewers.

  1. Mothers hidden as furniture

Early photography was slow, and therefore staying still was a little bit difficult to achieve, but still doable if you were an adult. But kids were a different matter. Mothers managed to keep children still by transforming themselves into furniture, as you can see in these images.

  1. A camera was created just to capture the first nuclear explosions

The Rapatronic Camera, invented by Harold Edgerton, was capable of capturing the first instant of a nuclear explosion. These cameras were single-use and able to snap a photo one ten-millionth of a second after a detonation from about seven miles away, and with an exposure time of as short as ten nanoseconds.

Image By U.S. Air Force 1352nd Photographic Group, Lookout Mountain Station – http://www.radiochemistry.org/history/nuke_tests/tumbler_snapper/ has source info for that photo and attributes it to the US government, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=199190

  1. We're equaling the number of photographs made in the 1800s every two minutes

This one doesn't need much of an explanation, and really could make us think about why we’re generating so many images these days (See Erik Kessels’s exhibition for a good illustration about this phenomenon).

Image by Kaique Rocha

  1. The first ever digital camera created was made in December 1975

And it was also pretty huge. It weighed around 8 pounds and was capable of producing images of 0.01 Megapixels. It was invented by Steven Sasson, and it looked like a gadget made for a high-school science project.

  1. There is a non-military use lens that weighs 564 pounds

The Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 1700 mm f/4 lens is the largest and heaviest non-military use lens on the planet. It has been designed to work with a Hasselblad 6×6 medium format camera, and is made-to-order only.

  1. A Leica was the most expensive camera ever sold

In 2012, a 1923 Prototype Leica O-series was sold for £1.75 million, the world record for the most expensive camera ever sold. Here is the auction.

  1. Andreas Gursky holds two world records for the most expensive photos ever sold

Personally, I see Gursky's work as an acquired taste. At first I didn't really get his images, but with time and sometime actually reading the images, I find his work completely amazing. It is like Pollock, but – unlike Pollock's – I really understand his work. He holds two records for the highest price paid at an auction for a single image.

Image By Sotheby's, http://www.popphoto.com/photographynewswire/3911/the-first-3m-photograph.html, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18551656

  1. Some guy turned a truck into a camera

Purists will hate this, but I'm sure Ansel Adams would love to at least give it a try. Kurt Moser got an old Russian military truck and turned it into a camera. Simple as that. You can see the thing at work here.

  1. Early portraits lacked smiles

No, people weren't that serious back in the nineteenth century. Early photographic capabilities were low in terms of speed, and keeping a smile is hard to do for an extended period of time. So people posed in front of cameras for long times, but with a grim face. It was just easier to keep it still. As soon as the technology allowed faster exposures, people had the liberty to smile without ending up with a facial cramp.

  1. Windows XP’s default wallpaper is the most-viewed photograph in history

Seen by over a billion people, the default wallpaper from Windows XP is considered to be the most-viewed image in history. Charles O'Rear took a photograph officially titled as “Bliss” in 1996. The image consisted of a green hill with a cloud and a blue sky in the Los Carneros American Viticultural Area of Sonoma County, California. After selling it to Corbis, Microsoft bought it years later.

Image By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4705583

Here you can see the curious story behind the most viewed image on the planet.

  1. There are ~80 genres of Photography

At least, that is what Wikipedia says, so now we can be sure we all have plenty of options for finding our own voice in the vast and generous world of photography.

Image by Unsplash

Hope you all enjoyed this curious post!


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About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a one of our staff writers and has 8 years of experience in making documentary photography, he is currently working in long-term photo essays and you can watch more of his work here. He is also a photography educator at a design-focused University, and is currently pursuing his PhD (and of course, his thesis is around Photography). His work has been featured in museums, newspapers and magazines. He is currently based in El Salvador.

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