Generally, every time I visit Vermont I make a quick stop into one of Burlington’s finest thrift stores, Recycle North, to take a look at their selection of cameras and camera equipment. One time I found a perfectly nice Polaroid 680 (often sells on Ebay for upwards of $200) for $10 with a case! Upon closer inspection, I even found the original sales reciept stating that the last owner paid $280. Great, right? So, this week I stopped into Recycle North and came upon another little gem — a panoramic point-and-shoot for $1. Though I’ve never quite experimented with panoramic photography, this seemed like an inexpensive excuse for me to do so.
Christian Patterson has been making some great posts on his blog about early color photography, educating us a bit on the techniques and pioneers of the medium. Since my interest in panoramic photography has gotten me curious, I thought I’d give myself a brief history lesson on it’s origin, starting today with the legacy of Thomas and John R. Connon. Feel free to learn with me.
Thomas Connon (1832-1899) was born in Scotland, but later emigrated to Canada around the age of 20, settling in Elora, Ontario. Thomas Connon had an interest in art early in his life and created a number of drawings and paintings. In 1851, after reading about the developments at the Great London Exhibition, he began to take photographs. He eventually developed an interest in commericial photography and, in 1859, started a general store in Elora. Thomas later married Jean Keith (?-1909) and had a child with her in 1862.
John R. Connon (1862-1931), their young boy, was taken with Jean and Thomas back to Europe in 1867, to Jean’s ancestral home in Elfhill, Scotland.
Lane and house in Elfhill, Scotland, 1867
© Thomas Connon
In Scotland, Tomas continued to paint and make photographs and his son, John, picked up an early interest in his fathers profession.
Two images of John R. Connon, age 5, 1867
© Thomas Connon
The Connon Photography Studio in Elora, between 1860 and 1929
© Thomas or John R. Connon
After a short time in Europe, the family moved back to Elora, Ontario where Thomas opened The Connon Photography Studio and also built cameras. In 1881, Thomas invented a roll holder for cameras. This was a significant contribution to the transition from glass plate to film negatives and it was later incorporated into George Eastman‘s Kodak camera.
From that point on, John spent most of his life in Elora and, like his father, has a pioneer photographer and inventor of photographic equipment.
John R. Connon, between 1860 and 1900 (posing beside a stereo camera, likely in the family studio)
© John R. Connon
Perhaps John R. Connon’s best known invention was the cycloramic panoramic camera which was patented in 1887, when Connon was living in New York. It was patented in England in the same year and in Canada in 1888. For Connon’s panoramic camera to work, the lens rotated at a speed equal to that of the film moving in the opposite direction. The result was a photograph that captured a very wide field of view.
The paper negative below may be one of the earliest photographs taken in the Elora area with the panoramic camera.
Diagram for whole circuit panoramic camera and Patent, 1887
© Connon Family Fonds
The work continued in New York:
John returned to Elora in 1891 and would remain there.
Over the next 40 years Connon continued to experiment with a wide range of photographic techniques and formats including stereo photography. He also developed an intense interest in local history and in 1906 he began writing a book detailing the history of Elora. Originally titled Early History of Elora and Vicinity (later Elora) the book was completed in 1930. It was reprinted by Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in 1974.
See more of John R. Connon’s panoramic photographs here.
As with any vein of the history of photography there always seems to be multiple practitioners working at the same time, or claiming to have invented, created, experimented first, etc. I was particularly drawn to the story of the Connon’s, but there are others important names involved in the history of the panoramic image. For example, Martin Behrmanx, who is said to have made panoramics using the daguerrotype process — or George Bernard (image sample) who was a photographer for the Union Army in the American Civil War during the 1860′s. One of the first recorded patents alongside John R. Connon, was that of Joseph Puchberger, from Austria for a hand-cranked, 150° field of view, 8-inch focal length camera that exposed enormous daguerreotypes up to 24-inches long.
And then following the invention of flexible film in 1887, panoramic photography was revolutionized. Just a few examples of the many panoramic cameras that flooded the market in the subsequent century (via Wikipedia):
Cylindrograph, Cyclograph, Cycloramic, Wonder Panoramic, Pantascopic, Multiscope, Cyclorama, Panomax, Veriwide, Wiscawide, Ultrawide, Cyclo-Pan, Fuji 617, Art Panorama 624 and 617, Tomiyama 617, Noblex 617, Roundshot 35mm & 70mm, Widelux, Technorama, Hulcherama, Tecnorama, Globoscope, Al-Vista, Cyclops Wide-Eye, the I-Pan, V-Pan, Hasselblad X-Pan, and Z-pan.
And, of course, my lovely $1 point and shoot!
© David Hilliard
It’s interesting, now, to think of the work of contemporary artists such as David Hilliard.