The following events happened this month in the history of photography:
In May 1969, Meroë Marston Morse was honored as the first woman elected Fellow of the Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers. After graduating from Smith College, Morse entered the Polaroid Corporation working as a lab assistant and later became the manager of the black-and-white research lab. Between her many accomplishments, Morse advocated for a favorable deal among artists using Polaroid and the Massachusetts’ company. In this deal, Polaroid would supply film to artists including Minor White, Ansel Adams, and Paul Caponigro in exchange for their technical advice and some of their best images. According to the Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Meroë Marston Morse held numerous patents on the development of fast black-and-white films using the diffusion transfer process. On July 29, 1969, Morse died of cancer at only 46 years of age.
American photographer Walker Evans traveled to Cuba in May 1933 commissioned by publisher J. B. Lippincott to make pictures for the book The Crime of Cuba. With text by radical journalist Carleton Beals, this book about the repressive eight-year regime of Gerardo Machado in Cuba came as a last minute assignment for Evans, who met Beals only once before departing to the island. With a loan from the writer Henri Hemingway, Evans managed to stay for a month photographing the streets of Havana and formulating a personal view of his lyrical understanding of the street, influenced by the work of French photographer, Eugène Atget in Paris. From out of a total of 400 images that Evans took, thirty-one pictures were published in the book. Evans’s photographs exposed Machado’s regime and the poverty and corruption of a country controlled by its dictatorship and the military. A year after his trip to Cuba, in a letter to a friend, Evans wrote: “What do I want to do? … I know now is the time for picture books.”
Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City on May 16, 1942. In the late 1960s she began studying filmmaking at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s film school. There she met the photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo who invited her to be his assistant. While assisting him, she was drawn to the art of still photography. Accompanying Bravo on his various photographic journeys throughout Mexico, Iturbide learned from him his poetic view of the world. Iturbide’s images go beyond documentary. Her work shows a humanistic orientation that reveals a vision that allows the viewer to access the culture, traditions, and everyday life of Iturbide’s subjects. With numerous exhibitions and worldwide recognition, Iturbide is one of our time’s most prominent Latin American photographers. She currently lives and works in Mexico City.
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Kodak, the company of George Eastman gave away 500,000 cameras and rolls of Kodak film to girls and boys born in the USA or Canada whose twelfth birthday fell in 1930. From May 1 through May 31 of that year, any child accompanied by a parent or guardian could go to an authorized Kodak dealer and accept the special anniversary Kodak camera. This was one the most successful campaigns of the company that would continue to heighten interest in amateur photography and that emphasized appreciation to “the parents and grandparents who, as amateur picture-takers, have played an important part in the development of photography and of the Eastman Kodak Company.”
T.H. Blair of the Blair Camera Company patented the Hawk-Eye camera on May 20, 1890. The Hawk-Eye camera was originally marketed by Samuel N. Turner of the Boston Camera Company and later acquired by the Eastman Kodak Company when they purchased the stock of the Blair companies in 1898. The large wood box camera took 4×5 inch pictures on glass plates. In 1911, the Eastman Kodak Co. renamed its then third plant as the Hawk-Eye Works in honor of Blair’s successful camera. For many years, optical research, as well as the manufacture of lenses, was carried out at the Hawk-Eye plant.