Read DELIGHTS OF FLASHLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY of Said the Observer, free online book, by Louis John Stellman, on

“See those hands?” said the Observer, holding up two “bunches of fives,” whose digits were stained near the ends with some dark brown substance, “that’s pyrogallic acid and that burn near my thumb was made by Blitz Pulver. It wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to discover that I had the camera craze, would it?

“The other day I went into a photographic supply house to look at some of their cameras and the clerk sold me one of the kind that ’a child can operate.’ He didn’t say where the child was to be found, but I have since concluded that it must be a very remarkable specimen of the infant prodigy, and is probably touring the country as a dime museum attraction on the strength of its wonderful abilities.

“I took the camera home with me and carefully assimilated the printed instructions which accompanied it, fixed up a dark room in the woodshed and then sauntered proudly back with my machine under my arm to photograph the baby.

“Now, I’ve always prided myself on the genial good nature of my infant. He hardly ever cries or kicks the covers off, or becomes afflicted with colic about 3 A.M. The butcher says he takes after me, though my wife won’t acknowledge this, notwithstanding the fact that the butcher has six of his own and ought to know. Well, the moment I came in, that kid, instead of rolling his eyes and saying, ‘a-goo-goo,’ which means ‘papa,’ as everyone knows, set up a regular Comanche howl and threw his rattle at me. When I took him in my arms and tried to quiet him, he clawed at my eyes, kicked a pocketful of cigars to pieces and bellowed so vociferously that I gave him back to his ma.

“After a while he began to listen to reason and I set up my outfit near the window in order to have a good light. I tore down a blind and ripped a lace curtain clear across in my effort to get two exposures, and, Good Lord! you ought to see those prints.

“In the first snap I must have moved the camera, for I got only one side of the baby, but that side had three different arms and you could see the back of the chair through all of them. The second was normal, as to limbs, etc., and plumb in the center, but it was all fuzzy, like an impressionist picture.

“I took them to the photo’ store and asked the clerk what was wrong. He said:

“’Why, you’ve timed ’em too long. He’s moved all over the plate. You want to use a big stop and make it quick!’

“‘But what do you make it of and what is it for?’ I asked perplexedly.

“He laughed and explained that I should make the hole in my lens larger and take a more rapid exposure; then he sold me a bottle of flashlight powder.

“That night I thought I would take a group at the dinner table, so we all assembled around the board. After knocking down a couple of pictures and upsetting the cuspidor, I got things all ready to light the fuse, expecting to get back to my chair and be in the picture before the stuff went off. The moment I lit it, however, the durned thing blazed up like a small volcano and I ran around the room for a minute or so with my thumb in my mouth. Then I discovered that the slide had not been withdrawn from the plate-holder. Well, the room was full of smoke and the baby was so badly frightened that we had to put him to bed before I could make another attempt. When my wife came back I set the cat up in the high-chair to fill out the gap and tried it again. This time, by using a long fuse and making a third-base slide, I got almost to my chair and the prospects looked promising. The result was an excellent view of the back of my head, occupying three-fourths of the plate, through which could be dimly discerned a silhouette of my wife and a black streak in mid-air which represented the cat jumping over the coffeepot.

“I know a fellow, though, who had a worse experience than mine. He took home a kodak and a ‘crème de menthe’ jag one night, and, as all his folks had retired and he was too impatient to wait until morning, he went out to the stable to flashlight the calf. The calf was too sleepy to object till the stuff exploded. Then he became imbued with such sudden and tremendous vitality that he kicked poor B. and his outfit into the middle of next week. The hired man heard the racket and found him hanging by his pantaloons on a fence-post. Part of the tripod was about his neck; his hair was full of ground glass and he was murmuring something about a trolley-car. They put him to bed and the first thing he said after he came to, was, ’Did they arrest the motorman?’

“I hear fellows talking about golf and driving four-in-hand, but, if anyone wants to experience a real hot time, let him get one of these easy-working cameras and practice on the family.”