If you’re in Los Angeles anytime soon, make your way over to the Autry National Center to see Skydreamers, a truly wonderful exhibition of photographs from the collection of Stephen White that documents the history of flight. I put together a History of Flight slide show with some of the images from the show for msnbc.com; here’s a short preview.
As in this 1871 photo of a balloon ascending over Ferndale, CA, some of the earliest attempts to conquer space were in free floating hot-air balloons. Next came heavier than air machines and, ultimately, rocket ships that can elude gravity and soar into space. Lucky for us photographers and artists were often on hand to document and imagine these journeys.
In his now classic aviation book, Birdflight as the basis for aviation, published in 1889, Otto Lilienthal outlined his theories on flying based on his study of bird wing structure and the aerodynamics of bird flight. He built and famously experimented with a series of 18 bird-inspired gliders and served as an inspiration for Wright Brothers, who studied his gliding techniques.
Stunt pilot Art Smith became well known for aerobatic flying and for using flares to do skywriting at night, a talent he exhibited on the closing night of San Francisco’s Pan Pacific International Exposition in 1915. Smith later went on to work for the US post office as one the first air mail pilots.
Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh stands in front of his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, shortly after completing the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May, 1927. The plane is now in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
In 1934, the Griffith Park Observatory was getting ready to open in Los Angeles. This photograph shows the artist, Roger Haywood, sculpting a section of an exact replica of the moon, reduced to 38 feet.
I’ll post more photos from the Skydreamers exhibition tomorrow, but if you want to start planning a trip to Los Angeles to see the full show, you have until September 4, 2011 to see it at the Autry National Center.