Doc Chat Episode Twenty: Aerial Photography in Focus

By Julie Golia, Associate Director, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books and Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscri
April 5, 2021
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

On March 18, 2021, Doc Chatters peered into the fascinating history—and many uses and meanings—of aerial photographs. 

9A - N.Y. City (Aerial Set)

Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation, 9A - N.Y. City, 1924. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1532590

weekly series from NYPL's Center for Research in the Humanities, Doc Chat pairs a NYPL curator or specialist and a scholar to discuss evocative digitized items from the Library's collections and brainstorm innovative ways of teaching with them. In Episode Twenty, NYPL’s Ian Fowler and Elizabeth Cronin revealed the cultural and technological origins of aerial photography, analyzed several examples, and provided historical context for its use in exploration, the military, mapmaking, and more.

Doc Chat Episode 20: Aerial Photography in Focus from The New York Public Library on Vimeo.

A transcript of this event is available here.

Below are some handy links to materials and sources suggested in the episode.

Episode Twenty: Primary Sources

Elizabeth and Ian examined the following collection items: 

Le premier départ du Géant de Nadar, au Champ de Mars

Le premier depart du Geant de Nadar, au Champ de Mars, le 4 octobre 1863. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1693457.

Aerial photographer

"Aerial photography...", 1917-1918. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5111991.

Air-plane view of Cantigny, topography

Air-plane view of Cantigny, topography, 1860-1920. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 115844.

Aerial picture of railhead at Conflans

Aerial picture of railhead at Conflans, notice how plain the trenches and trucks in the foreground show up by not being camouflaged, 1917-1918. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1160257.

10C - N.Y. City

Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation, 10C - N.Y. City, Aerial Set., 1924. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1532596.

Aerial maps of New York City geo-located over a digital map, from NYPL Map Warper.

Episode Twenty: Readings and Resources

Burnside, Mapping from aerial photographs (Wiley, 1985).

Fleming, Basic guide to small-format hand-held oblique aerial photography (Canda Center for Remote Sensing, 1981).

Hardesty, Camera Aloft: Edward Steichen in the Great War(Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Mattison, “Aerial Photography” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, ed. John Hannavy (New York: Routledge, 2008), 12-15.

McCabe, From above: the story of aerial photography (Laurence King Publishing, 2019) 

Newhall, Airborne Camera: the world from the air and outer space (Hastings House, 1969).

New York State Map Information Unit, Inventory of aerial photography and other remotely sensed images of New York State (MIU, NY State Dept. Transportation, 1979).