A Dazzling Aerial Photograph of Edinburgh (1920)

The British pho­tog­ra­ph­er Alfred Buck­ham (1879–1956) came of age dur­ing the ear­ly his­to­ry of flight and served, start­ing in 1917, as a recon­nais­sance pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the Roy­al Naval Air Ser­vice. Appar­ent­ly a bet­ter pho­tog­ra­ph­er than pilot, Buck­ham “crashed nine times before he was dis­charged from the Roy­al Naval Air Ser­vice as a hun­dred per cent dis­abled,” writes the Nation­al Gal­leries Scot­land web­site. (At the age of 39, he dam­aged his voice box and had to breathe out of a tra­cheoto­my tube for the rest of his life.) But, nonethe­less, his pas­sion for aer­i­al pho­tog­ra­phy con­tin­ued unabat­ed.

In 1920, Buck­ham cap­tured this rather splen­did aer­i­al pho­to of Edin­burgh, the cap­i­tal of Scot­land. It’s his chef d’oeu­vre. About the pho­to­graph, the Nation­al Gal­leries writes:

Buckham’s aer­i­al view of Edin­burgh has become one of the most pop­u­lar pho­tographs in our col­lec­tion. The view is tak­en from the west, with the cas­tle in the fore­ground and the build­ings of the Old Town along the Roy­al Mile grad­u­al­ly fad­ing into a bank of mist with the rocky sil­hou­ette of Arthur’s Seat just vis­i­ble in the dis­tance. Buck­ham was always keen to cap­ture strong con­trasts of light and dark, often com­bin­ing the skies and land­scapes from sep­a­rate pho­tographs to achieve a the­atri­cal effect. As he does here, he some­times col­laged or hand-paint­ed the form of a tiny air­craft to enhance the ver­tig­i­nous effect. Yet accu­ra­cy remained a con­cern; Buck­ham lat­er pro­fessed a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for his view of Edin­burgh, ‘because it presents, so near­ly, the effect that I saw’.

If you fol­low these links, you can see a wider selec­tion of Buck­ham’s pho­tographs, includ­ing Sun­shine, and Show­ers; The Storm Cen­tre; Sun­set over the Pent­lands Range; The Forth Bridge; Vol­cano: Crater of Popocate­petl; and more.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Amaz­ing Aer­i­al Pho­tographs of Great Amer­i­can Cities Cir­ca 1906

New Dig­i­tal Archive Puts Online 4,000 His­toric Images of Rome: The Eter­nal City from the 16th to 20th Cen­turies

Beau­ti­ful, Col­or Pho­tographs of Paris Tak­en 100 Years Ago—at the Begin­ning of World War I & the End of La Belle Époque

The His­to­ry of Rus­sia in 70,000 Pho­tos: New Pho­to Archive Presents Russ­ian His­to­ry from 1860 to 1999

Behold the Very First Col­or Pho­to­graph (1861): Tak­en by Scot­tish Physi­cist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

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  • Kris says:

    Just want­ed to say thanks for an awe­some post. I’m always look­ing for new blog posts on pho­tog­ra­phy. The arti­cle helped me under­stand the his­to­ry of aer­i­al pho­tog­ra­phy and how it’s evolved over time. It also showed me this real­ly inter­est­ing pho­to that I think would be great to share with my friends on social media!

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