The Navy put lights on the rotor blades of a helicopter used in night missions and called in the press to show off its innovation. After newspapers had published their photographs, Life magazine’s picture editor asked Andreas Feininger if he thought he could do better.
“Of course, Feininger replied.
The Navy brought the helicopter out again, and Feininger talked to the pilot. He asked him to lift off, fly forward a bit and then go straight up. That way Feininger imagined, he could fill two pages of the magazine.
Positioning himself opposite the moon, Feininger opened the camera’s shutter and fired a flash to illuminate the chopper. Then he let the lights on the rotor blades trace a spiral on the negative as the craft took off.
“The effect,” Feininger noted, “was like Santa Claus going up the chimney.”
John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance.
Celebrating the Negative