These days there are plenty of opportunities to take interesting photographs from unusual angles, including strapping tiny digital cameras to birds. But some early aerial photography was rather more clunky — and used massive cameras strapped to the breasts of pigeons.
In fact, the whole concept was pioneered by a German photographer named Julius Neubronner. From a Wikipedia article describing his early work:
Neubronner began the development of a light miniature camera that could be fitted to a pigeon’s breast by means of a harness and an aluminium cuirass. Using wooden camera models weighing 30 to 75 grams […], the pigeons were carefully trained for their load. To take an aerial photograph, Neubronner carried a pigeon to a location up to about [60 miles] from its home, where it was equipped with a camera and released. The bird, keen to be relieved of its burden, would typically fly home on a direct route, at a height of [160 to 330 feet]. A pneumatic system in the camera controlled the time delay before a photograph was taken.
While you might not expect much from such a technique, some of the pictures Neubronner’s pigeons snapped, like the ones below, are pretty impressive. While the concept was initially used excitedly — especially by the military for spying operations — perhaps understandably, the technology was soon superseded. Shame. [Wikipedia via PetaPixel]
Images from German Federal Archives