For a Brief, Glorious Moment, Camera-Wielding Pigeons Spied From Above

We are used to satellite imagery, drone photography, and of course pictures taken from airplanes. That was all pie-in-the-sky, so to speak, in 1909. Sure, people had used kites to take photographs from high above ground, but kites had their limitations. The pictures the public saw at at the 1909 Dresden International Exhibition of Photography were something else. They came about because a pigeon owner wanted to see where his birds went.  

His name was Julius Neubronner, and he had a family history of using pigeons in unconventional ways. His father, also an apothecary, received prescriptions and sent out urgent medications by pigeon. Neubronner also relied on pigeons to replenish his stocks of medications. But when a bird went missing for a month, Neubronner was curious to know where it had been. While other bird-owners might consider this thought a mere flight of fancy, an unanswerable question, Neubronner took a different view: He designed a camera, one that shot automatically, for his pigeons to wear.

The results were so good that in 1907 Neubronner filed for a patent on his pigeon-view photography. Read about Neubronner's pigeon photographers and see some of their images at Atlas Obscura.

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I served in the US Army Signal Corps in the early 1960's. Even though the MOS of Pigeoneer and the use of carrier pigeons was gone by then, we still had "pigeon paper" in the back of our message books.
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