Shutter test (Agnes Blake), ca.1888.
Shutter test (Agnes Blake), ca.1888. Image property of the Massachusetts Historical Society

My recent research on the history of the telephone has led me to learn more about Francis Blake (1850-1913), an American scientist who experimented with early sound technology and worked with Alexander Graham Bell.  Blake, who was also interested in photographic technology, made significant shutter-speed advances to improve high-speed photography. Like Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey, Blake used high speed-photography to capture a moment within a movement and to trace stasis amidst speed. The Massachusetts Historical Society’s website has a wonderful exhibition of Blake’s photography including the requisite high-speed photographs of horses and trains. Their publication also contains an article by Keith F. Davis on “The High Speed Photographs of Francis Blake” that is illustrated by an array of Blake’s photographs.

One thought on “Horses, Trains, and Francis Blake

  1. Thanks for posting this, Jen. I love this stuff about the photographic desire to capture a moment. Have you read Leo Charney’s book, Empty Moments: Cinema, Modernity, and Drift? Not really much there about the telephone, but Charney is very interested in fantasies of stored time at the turn of the century. I think he refers to Muybridge and Marey as the artists of emptiness, or something to that effect. It’s a very poetic book in a theoretical sort of way.

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