Who invented KAP? & Who took the first KAP photo

edited March 2007 in General
From reading through the boards there seem to a number of threads which are touching on different parts of KAP history and the original KAP photographer as well as KAP related patents. I thought it might be handy to summarize the information here in this thread.

For a discussion on KAP Patents see:


For a discussion on the history of AutoKAP (defined by Simon H as "AutoKAP combines the automatic triggering of the camera WITH an automatically controlled movement of the rig" see:


For early KAP images and techniques see:


And there are some excellent overviews of KAP related history, such as James S Aber's over at http://www.geospectra.net/kite/history/history.htm

While it has been mentioned that the subject of who was first to KAP has been covered (such as here: http://arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap2/php/wind/discuss/comments.php?DiscussionID=661&page=1#Item_25) my readings suggest that the matter might still warrant a bit of open ended investigating. And while the ideas of "Who invented KAP?" & "Who took the first KAP photo" are not absolutely related there is enough overlap in any discussion to warrant sticking them together.

My only request for this thread is that any information presented have a citation, either to print or to an online resource.


  • edited October 2008
    Here is my first stab at synthesizing some of the literature as it relates to KAP. Thanks to Eric Wolf for getting me a copy of some of these more obscure journals and for putting his KAP thesis up on line http://www.aerialarchaeology.com/index.php?option=com_bookmarks&Itemid=35&task=view&id=75 .

    The first attempt to use kites for aerial photography came in 1858 after Nadar's work at Petit Bicetre. Colonel Aim
  • From all this list, which are the documents describing a successful process, equipment and showing the results of a kite aerial photography?
    The three most important historical documents of KAP history are:
    The paper of Arthur BATUT's work in LA NATURE published august 1888 describing his operating kap process and results got.
    A second paper in LA NATURE published march 1889 giving more on Arthur BATUT's improving experiments.
    The booklet of 74 pages published in 1890 by Arthur BATUT titled "La photographie aerienne par cerf-volant".

    The full contents of this booklet have been included in 1988 in a book relating Arthur BATUT's life and work and titled "LABRUGUIERE". This book is bilingual French/English and written by Danielle Autha, Serge Negre, Geoffroy de Beauffort, Raoul Fosset.
    Page 94 there is the duplicating of a the photograph of Labruguiere city shown in Arthur Batut's booklet.
    One chapter of this book named "Arthur Batut and aerophotography by kite" has been written by Geoffroy de BEAUFFORT. Page 64 of this chapter, there is a paragraph "Archibald or the intermittent memory" which should be read to know Archibald' soap. This paragraph is the summary of the detailed investigation which have been published by the KAPWA.
    Let me quote this sentence page 65: " ... the evidence of the historical manipulation carried out by ARCHIBALD finally came to light , exposing his deliberate purpose to usurp at any cost on BATUT's invention."
    That sounds clear to me! The idea of kap is found as early that 1880 by R. JOBERT in 1880 speaking to the French Society of Aerial Navigation and by others. At that time, several cameras have been designed for aerial photography, but to be used in balloons, not for kite. A. Batut have built the kite, the camera, experimented and improved the operating method. Only in 1890 others achieved kap following Arthur batut's way.
    Note Labruguiere book ISBN n
  • The book "Labruguiere" is available at: KAPshop.
  • The use of what some one has written in a book is hardly what might be described as sound evidence to support any argument other than the argument "not to believe every thing you read".
    People have continually rewritten history to suit their own purposes.
    It is a fact that parallel development of ideas continually takes place and it would be no surprise if some one were to unearth a completely unknown Kapper who saw no merit in creating publicity and just got on with his photography.

    This dwelling in the past does little to promote Kap today and what seems a little disappointing is that if those early pioneers were to return today they would find we were still using kit they were developing.
    Most kites would be recognisable to them and they would quickly grasp the concept of the SLR. The fact we have more modern material such as ripstop or carbon means little, those folk would have already been thinking of how to create stronger and lighter structures, others have given us the materials to do this.
    Kap has developed into no more than a frivolous pastime, if you were to list reliable methods of taking aerial photographs kites would not figure.
    It would be good to see a bit more innovation here rather than waste time going over old ground. Hopefully Simon will soon have some news on his latest development.
  • I disagree, Bruce. While it may be irrelevant to know who was "first", there may be a lot of insight to yet be gleaned from the inventors, pioneers, and "old masters" of any field. Since they were smart enough and daring enough to try something that was completely new (or at least unknown to them), they may have tried other related things which might give us ideas on how to improve KAPping today.

    Maybe some early KAPper tried something other than a pendulum or Picavet for suspending their camera, and it didn't work for them, but perhaps reading about it gives someone today a new thought - a fresh perspective on what MIGHT work. Maybe another early KAPper had to deal with the limitations of the heavy cameras and weaker fabrics, and so he thought of structural improvements to the kite, ideas or working models that have been somehow forgotten or discarded, which we could still put to use on our fancy ripstop kites to make them more stable or extend the range of wind they could be used in.

    Reading history, as unreliable as it might be, is kind of like extending our KAP group backwards in time to include more people and more ideas into our dialogue - people who don't automatically think "pendulum or Picavet" for their camera rig, people who don't automatically think "Rok or Dopero or Delta" for their kite - and who therefore might have surprising insights.

    Not only are these fascinating people with great KAP stories, worth reading about just for the drama we can only see dimly through time, but their insights might help us move forward.
  • Christian this is awesome! Thank you so much for illuminating this fundamentally important paragraph summarizing KAPWA's investigation!

    So it seems that while Archibald might have been thinking about KAP, Arthur Batut actually did it all. Archibald seems to have then set out on a path to manipulate the dates so it "looked" as if he was first, that makes sense given the confusion in the literatures.

    Does anyone know if there was ever an online copy of the full KAPWA investigation?
  • Has anyone seen many references to Colonel Aim
  • Kelly you have emphasised the point I was attempting to make, who was first is to me irrelevant, "daring, smart" for sure. Research into equipment and technique, great, buts that is not happening here.
    The thread tile is: Who invented KAP? & Who took the first KAP photo, as Simon H has mentioned elsewhere this has been discussed here before, extensively.
  • edited October 2008
    Bruce too;

    Thanks for your thoughts on KAP history!

    To answer the question of why I am "going over old ground" has a lot of relevant answers, and Kelly really did a fantastic job of covering them. I just wanted to echo her comments that there is still a lot to be learned from the history of KAP and early KAPers. This is not just learning from a technical perspective, but learning from inspiration. These people lived in the golden era of kites and with only the most rudimentary equipment produced images, and equipment, that are stunning from both a historical and artistic perspective.

    Additionally putting together a solid summary here will help other threads from wandering off track as people can be referred to this thread.

    I also feel strongly that it is our obligation to make sure that we do not loose the collective cultural (and technical) memory that these KAPers left for us. And as you pointed out that there might be an unknown KAPer who succeeded first (or just early). And to uncover these images and knowledge that are lost to history is fascinating.

    A good example of the potential of lost cultural memory is the investigative work by KAPWA in 1985. Christian pointed out the summary of it in the difficult to find (in the US) book Labruguiere (thanks for the link Peter!), and the original material is not easily found. Yet this information reflects a large effort by KAPWA members to clarify, and properly credit, the originators of KAP. Older KAPers might have read the original newsletter, but at some point, that knowledge is lost if it is not put out in a more publicly accessible medium like we have today.

    Bruce too you also mention Simon H saying this (KAP history) has been discussed extensively, and this is a point that I am sure many of the KAPers from the 80's echo. But this underscores my interest in this thread as Simon clarified that comment with:

    "Sorry Joe, partly that thread, but also discussions back in the late 80's with KAPpers when I started out, through KAPWA and Andrea Casalboni and discussions with KAPpers way more knowledgable than me".
    This information has been discussed, but it it not well documented. That is what I am working at doing here.

    When you think about it, every new innovation we see in KAP today is tomorrows history. And todays innovations build upon the needs of yesterday. Such is the path of history, it is fundamental to our growing into tomorrow.

    As for promoting KAP today, knowing the history of KAP is a great way to share your enthusiasm of KAP with the public when they ask what you are doing. People are fascinated to find out what was accomplished with so little over 100 years ago.

    In summary - some of this history is old ground for some, but for new KAPers this can be a handy reference for them to understand, correctly, where KAP comes from. This is especially true as KAP becomes more widely accepted in science applications where there is a strong need for accurate references.

    The beauty of forums such as this is you do not need to click on a link to read a subject you are not interested in, so it would be great if you could help me keep this thread focused as I requested in the first posting and if you have comments or thoughts that are not related to expanding this thread please send them to me directly through my profile link.... or heck :-) start up a new thread called "why I do not care Who invented KAP? & Who took the first KAP photo"! :-)


    R. Joe
  • Christian (or anyone),

    Do you know if the KAPWA research included checking the story that Eddy reported seeing in the 1886 or 1887 Pall Mall Gazette?

    R. Joe
  • edited January 2011
    KAPWA members have achieved many historical research work. For example, they have provided invaluable information on kap in Russia. Some people, like Jose WALLOIS are continuing historical investigations. Only Michel DUSARIEZ from Brussels, the founding president of KAPWA could say what has been done on which topics, and provide such information.
    I highly recommennd to read the LABRUGUIERE book. Thanks Peter to make it available. To know more on LABRUGUIERE book and BATUT's booklet, read my comments:
    Please click on each pic.

    Now, I would like to emphasize the inheritance of Artur BATUT.
    Kap wasn't his major concern. He had the idea, he made it. As soon as he succeeded, he explained it for anyone to do the same. He took no patent as many others would have done at that time. He just wanted to share his knowledge and his experiments. In fact he was more known for other scientific application of photography.
    From France, seventy years later with Georges RIVALS, then from Europe and from all over the world with KAPWA members, later with Wolfgang BIECK, Cris BENTON, Brooks LEFFLER and many others, nowadays with all of us, the same attitude and values have survived. This is to try, to experiment, to improve; this is to spread ideas, techniques, experience; this is to share, to discuss, to inform; this is to help, to advise, to teach.
    In addition to have been a forerunner, Arthur BATUT have shown the way and given a kaper attitude. Technique has evolved, Arthur BATUT's methodology and attitude still remains.
    I feel proud of BATUT's inheritance. He definitively have my recognition.

    For R Joe: About Colonel Aim
  • Thanks for the leads Christian. I am now in contact with Michel DUSARIEZ and he has informed me that he will be getting me something soon.

    Would you happen to have an e-mail for Jose WALLOIS? I was unsuccessful in finding one.

    Thank you for the link to your review pages!

    I have also been in contact with the staff at Blue Hill (http://www.bluehill.org) and they are pretty sure they saw the photograph of E.D. Archibald's that Eddy mentions in the Monthly Weather Review. Blue Hill is also getting back into KAP and they mentioned they might be heading up to Harvard soon where a lot of the early Blue Hill material is archived. The researchers there are interested in tying in the history of KAP and they said they would keep their eye out for relevant documents.


    R. Joe
  • All this is fine.
    Drop me an email throuh contact in becot.info and I will give you Jose's address.
  • First KAP Cinematographer: Federico Fellini?

    The Fellinni Foundation in Rimini may have some important original prints of KAP from the San Francisco earthquake. Fellini himself was a KAP cinematographer though no one seems to look into this.

    Fellini's "Eight and a Half" was partially filmed from an RAF surplus Cody manlifter at Ostia Lido roughly the fall of 1962 although the film was commercially released in 1963.

    Fellini rigged the kite with two cameras and if you have the ability to view the individual frames, you will note a slight difference in aspect as Fellini judiciously interwove the frames shot from the two cameras.

    When my pal, Dolores Donlon, asked him why he was putting her in the Cody manlifter with two heavy cameras, he told her it was for balance. Dolores starred in a 1956 Hollywood froth picture "Flight to Hong Kong" and was renowned in the mid-to-late 1950s as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

    In "Amarcord, " a decade later, in January 1973, Fellini attempted to use another Cody manlifter for filming a portion of the peacock in the snow sequence but the plastic covering to keep snow off the two camera lenses actually formed a vacuum and shot the snow flakes into the cameras. He mentioned this to me when I was on the set of "Amarcord" 's REX ULTISSIMA. For his wonderful take off on city symphony documentaries, Fellini's Roma, he was hampered throughout filming by rain. No kites. But he showed me how he would have shot the ancient Roman forum had he been able to fly.

    The RAF photographers in WW2 and earlier had used two cameras on Cody Manlifters whenever possible.

    Fellini also mentioned that Luis Bunuel attempted to film the Vatican from a Cody Manlifter but the winds were inadequate and Bunuel used a balloon instead. See "L'Age d'Or." (1930).

    Fellini also noted two unsuccessful attempts to use kites for film in Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia" sports documentary on the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Balloons were sent aloft for the opening sequence aerial shots of the Berlin Olympics stadium. She was unable to utilize either kites or balloons for her rowing sequences.

    Has anyone tried to contact the Fellini Foundation in Rimini Italy for access to Fellini's aerial photograph collections? Fellini was exceptionally thorough in his research, and never gave up on a subject. He had original prints of the San Francisco earthquake. The bulk of his aerial photography collection stemmed from his sale of cariacatures to American military officers during the Italian occupation. If no cash was available, he'd trade cartoons for aerial photographs of clouds. He pulled out photographs from the air of every type of cloud formation and chuckled when he mentioned that the black specks on the ground in the Libyan desert were Patton's tank corps routing Rommel's.

    Fellini also knew of how the WW1 Ansaldo bomber and reconnaisance aircraft was fit with cameras for spying. Bunuel tried to obtain one from the Rome police for "L'Age D'or" but the vibration of the aircraft made motion pictures of any clarity an impossiblity.

    My introduction to Fellini ( I was a student at Centro Interuniversitario per Studi Classici in Rome, a Stanford Overseas Campus) came from my knowledge of the source of the polyglot epigraph to T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland" and if you peruse a copy from your local library, you will note it is the one quote that does not appear in the notes printed at the end of the poem with all the citations of works contained in the body of the poem.

    "Nam quidem ego ipse cum oculis meis vidi Sibullam in ampulla pendere....." is a quotation from the Satyricon of Petronius, from the largest extant fragment of the Satyricon of Petronius, "Cena Trimalchionis." Fellini enjoyed my tracing of the quote into the beginning of the seventh chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald's GREAT GATSBY.

    Fellini was really really thorough.

    Hope this is of help.
  • My congratulations on an excellent and dare I say scholarly piece of research.

    However, I feel that in concentrating on the early uses of KAP in the Italian cinema, you have somewhat overlooked other experiments in different parts of the world.
    I think in particular of the first attempts to shoot the title sequence for that great classic 'Gone with the Wind'
    It is not well known but the first cameraman to tackle this challenging sequence was lost during a particularly sudden storm while suspended from a crude harness beneath a very large Tripero kite.
    Much later , in 1955 in fact, D. Henry Cornelius attempted the impossible feat of shooting the entire movie of Christopher Isherwoods 'I am a Camera' from an airborne 35mm Mitchell camera. Badly miscalculating the excessive weight of this camera resulted in a complete disaster, and it was some considerable time before finance could be raised for the reshoot.
    In 1961, Sidney Lumet shot 'Vue du Pont' choosing this title after seeing some splendid KAP footage shot by his favourite cameraman Michael Kelber.
    The list is unfortunately endless, a truly fascinating subject and a rewarding one for the serious student.

    Keep it up.
  • I have not found these article anywhere else so if you happen to be interested in history I found a link to the original articles on Arthur Batuts KAP work in La Nature:

    La Nature - La Photographie aerienne par cerf-volant - No. 795 - August 25, 1888 - Page 206
    This first mention is only one paragraph long


    La Nature - La Photographie En Cerf-Volant Arthur Batut - No 825 - March 25 1889, Page 257
    Two pages long. It has the famous (to us :-) photos of Batut's kite with camera attached and the photo of Batut's house at Labruguiere

  • Very interesting. Thanks for the links. This was before the airplanes were invented.
  • edited January 2011
    For a few years I planned to have a web page as an homage to Arthur Batut who IMO is the greatest kap historic man. Reading his book dated 1890 is really stunning. So now this page is done.

    By writing a page on history it is a good practice and it is essential to be sure that the informations are accurate and are true facts. So this page is not a collection of datas found here and there in the kite litterature or on web pages and copied again and again. Of course it is issued of historical documents and authenticity of informations have been checked as well as their historical correctness.

    In addition to this it is cleared that any assessment of kite aerial photography before 1888 has no historical evidence. Furthermore some dates such as 1882 as read in some places was simply impossible due to the technical possibilities both in photographic and in kite fields.

    For everybody to be aware of, there is a link to the historical investigation I have done about kite aerial photography invention. I had the help of Michel Dusariez and Serge Negre for clearing some points. I also have been so lucky to have the assistance of Nigel Shaw for the English version of my text. His excellent translation is much over my usual language capacities. I feel so grateful for his assistance.
    Within this document there are the copies of historical papers of this topic. The ones which are genuily in French are given in English translation so all readers can have the full information.

    I hope this will help those interested in the kap history and it will give to all the historical sources for writting their own papers based on authentic datas and their own check of historic accuracy.
  • Christian,

    Thank you very much for writing and circulating the two documents linked in your post.

    Warm regards,
  • I have been researching early KAP in the UK. This has mainly revolved around Cody and of course Douglas Archibald's book, The Story of the Earth's Atmosphere, which was published in 1897. I've provided some links to pages from the book. My main point of interest was not to establish who was first to take or produce a kap photograph but to try to trace what must be the earliest aerial photograph taken in the UK.

    To that end I have done so and I am currently corresponding with the PR person at Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth. An illustration in Archibald's book on page 175 clearly shows an aerial photograph of the Hall taken by Fletcher Baden Baden-Powell, brother of the Scouting movement founder, Robert Baden Powell. Fletcher BB Powell later became President of the Aero Club

    The archivist at the Middleton Hall Trust informs me that they do have the photograph, as to whether it is a copy or an original I've yet to establish. The date of this photograph is roughly from the late 1890's.

    Currently I am negotiating to replicate this photo. I will post further details once I have them.
    Page 174 Archibald's Book
    Page 175 Archibald's Book shows photo
    Page 176 Archibald's Book
    Page 177 Archibald's Book
    Modern aerial of Middleton Hall

    Cheers, Peter.
  • Interesting, I'm often around the area of Middleton Hall, but not KAP related. It may be worth a modern picture or two.
  • Thank you Christian for the excellent findings. My I recommend that the Wikipedia KAP article be updated as well?

    Thank you! --Hussam
  • Some time ago, I have tried to contact Middleton Hall Trust but I got no answer. I sent them the copy of page 175 and asked them if they had some information on the circumstances and the date of this aerial picture.
    Until now, I guess this photograph is the first known kite aerial picture in UK and may-be the first one published. Probably there are others from Baden F S Baden-Powell. If what Clive Hart wrote page 122 in "Kite, an historical survey " is correct "Unlike so many other kite experiments , Baden-Powell's were always well documented." then there should be documents on his kite aerial work. But why Clive Hart has not mentionned Baden -Powell as kite photographer? He must have known at least the Middleton photograph as he mentionned Archibald's claim of page 174.
    I will not be surprised that Baden-Powell designed an explosion shutter release.
    What have always surprised me is that Archibald have not published one of his photograph but one from somebody else. Furthermore this Middleton picture is not really well framed on the hall which is partly cut. Does that mean that in 1897 he didn't disposed of a better one?
    One observation from the elevation stated: According to the dimensions on the ground the diagonal of the square image is about 630 feet. At 400 feet elevation it gives a diagonal angle of view of 76
  • Christian, I am currently putting together an application for a permit to fly above the legal limit from the CAA. As with all these procedures I need the necessary ground permission before I can apply. I am awaiting a reply from the Trust. To be safe I'll be asking for a 600' ceiling which should give me a 400' camera height.

    I have also asked if I can see the photographs they have in the library. Any progress in my work I'll gladly share with you all here but until I get definitive answers I would ask for restraint.

    The Hall itself was nearly demolished some while back to make way for gravel & sand pits that are common to the area. A Trust was formed in 1980 to save the hall and much of the salvage and reconstruction has been done by volunteers.

    I'll keep you all posted on my progress here.

  • Thanks Peter.

    I will not follow up Middleton Hall Trust and will leave it in your hands.
    As you have seen I have tried to list on the page "Homage to Arthur Batut" all known kite aerial pictures which have been reported or published until 1900. So for this Baden-Powell's photograph my interest is first to complete with the date.

    Until now I have been unable to find the Pall Mall Gazette papers about Archibald which Eddy and Emile Wenz are referring to. Eddy was writing on December 5, 1898 and said "In a copy of the Pall Mall gazette sent to me in 1896 or 1897 from London..." Wenz was writing on November 20, 1901 and said "Le Pall Mall Gazette (Londres) a d
  • edited January 2011
    Christian I have just emailed you the article from the Pall Mall Gazette. I have on-line access to the British Library 19th century newspaper collection via my local library which I can access from home. The date was Wednesday, July 11, 1888.

    The full text of Archibald's book is available here

    As others have said thanks very much for sharing your research.

  • edited January 2011
    Christian, I'm not sure until I actually see the said photo if it is a copy or an original. Like you said the picture in Archibald's book has been cut but that could be due to the print sizing for the book.

    Martin, that's a brilliant link to the book, the one I had was through Google and would not show up all the pages, or at least when I tried.

    What started all this for me was some research for a talk I did on KAP for the Peak District Mines Historical Society annual AGM, now 2 years ago. Because of work pressure I nearly had to opt out of the talk and at one stage had asked Martin (Meerstone) to stand in for me but he too had a heavy work load. Anyway during one of my many trips to Coventry for engine testing I decided to present myself at the Hall and it all started from there last summer.

    Now not wishing to mix threads, but, I had an idea which I thought would be brilliant for perhaps some of the UK kappers that were near to Tamworth and any of those further afield who wished to travel. Once a rapport was set up with the Trust it was my intention that when Ramiro's banner arrived in the UK that we would ask for it to be displayed there at the Hall as part of the UK project. This would not inhibit individuals being allowed to do their own thing as well. Anyway we shall see. There would be much to organise. Let's see what happens.

  • edited January 2011
    Peter, its always worth trying Internet Archive if Google Books is not giving you what you want. In this case there were numerous copies although not all had the illustrations. Google Books is better when searching for content within books but Internet Archive can work better when you are looking for full content and Google Books is only giving you a preview or snippet view.

    Nick, it looks like this is a print on demand service rather than a republished edition. It seems to be the way things are going.

    I like the idea of recreating the photograph. Might be able to get some media coverage for KAP. Although I suspect that we would all just be presented as rather eccentric :-)

  • @ Martin
    You may not have a workable address as I haven't got your message yet.
    You will find it here

    @ Peter
    I should have say that I have a description of Archibald's kite. If you or anybody else are interested, contact me through the link above.
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