19th Century Street Photographer Used Spy Camera To Take Incredible Photos

by Elana

Take a step back in time to the 1890's with Carl Størmer, a hobby enthusiast and student who lived from 1872 to 1957. Strolling through Oslo, Norway in the 1890's, Størmer was not like other people from his era. Photography had not even been around much longer than before Carl was born, to begin with, so his interests were certainly one of a kind. It was nothing nefarious, of course, but to hide a spy camera in your clothes and take photos of people in the streets in the 1890's was definitely not the sort of thing people did back then. What really makes Størmer's photos mesmerizing though is that they are vastly different from the photos of the 19th century we are accustomed to seeing. Strict, somber poses were the norm back then while Størmer's photos captured people in their natural state, unaware they were even being photographed.

And even then, Størmer was an all-around fascinating individual! He was a mathematician and physicist and he was well known for his work in number theory as well as for studying the Aurora Borealis.

In 1893 when Størmer was studying mathematics at the Royal Frederick University (today is known as University of Oslo,) he acquired his C.P. Stirn Concealed Vest Spy Camera. In 1942, he explained his process to Hallvard Journal:

It was a round flat canister hidden under the vest with the lens sticking out through a buttonhole. Under my clothes I had a string down through a hole in my trouser pocket, and when I pulled the string the camera took a photo.

I strolled down Carl Johan, found me a victim, greeted, got a gentle smile and pulled. Six images at a time and then I went home to switch [the] plate.

For the time he ventured in this project, Carl Størmer took over 500 photographs.

1. Genuine Smiles

We don't get to see a lot of smile from the 19th century, so this is a real treat.

2. Just a stroll!

Such simple times.

3. Intriguing

The scenery, the faces, all of the features of his photos are fascinating.

4. Seeing the 19th century in motion

It's pretty cool.

5. They dressed so cool

It's crazy that we see things like this man's appearance in movies and cartoons without realizing fully how normal it once was. You will see many men dressed just like this throughout the photo series.

6. Big smiles

And sunshine skies!

7. Epic chops

Everything about this guy is pretty epic.

8. Here kitty, kitty!

I am surprised by how many people carried their kitties around with them in the 1890's.

9. Fancy in white

Don't forget your parasol.

10. Just another day

Walking the streets in the 1890's.

11. The children were adorable

Look at their little coats!

12. Is this a mother with her daughter?

Or a teacher with her pupil? It's a super cool photograph either way.

13. Unexpected Smiles

We often presume people were so stiff in the 19th century, seeing them casually smile is so pleasant.

14. Kittens!

Just hanging outside with your cat!

15. Peaceful

The photos are so calming to look at.

16. They tipped their hats

What a gentleman thing to do!

17. But this hat-cane combo is the best

Especially with the bow tie.

18. Humanity has always been fascinated with the skies.

19. So many smiles!

It just seems like this must have been a very lovely day.

20. Strolling along

With a buggy in the background.

21. Oh, hello officer

The police officers back then looked pretty darn cool, too.

22. Looking ahead

23. Just another day.

24. A man, a boy, and a dog

The perfect way to enjoy the park.

25. Just another day.

A simple day.

26. They see me strollin'

They hatin'.

27. And a good day to you, too, sir.

28. As a matter of fact...

Doesn't this guy look so dapper? I think he looks dapper.

29. Just a man and his boy and his dog.

And a very lovely day in the park.

30. Rollin' down the street

Looking epic and elegant at the same time.

31. Variety

People, humans, have always come in a variety.

32. Awesome

The clothing? Literally awesome.

33. Smile under the umbrella

No one knows you're smiling, wink-wink.

34. Just another fine day for hat tipping.

Like proper gentlemen do.

35. Just a woman and her cane.

Enjoying a lovely stroll.

36. He seems like a good dad.

Enjoying his day at the park, unaware that some random dude is secretly photographing his little family...

37. Parasol in the sun.

It was completely necessary, don't you know?

38. Officer!

Police officers seemed so much friendlier in the 19th century.

39. "I'm on a boat!"

It's almost like young adults have always enjoyed some leisure time?

40. Cat lovers!

Domesticated cats have been more than mousers for a long time. They were clearly beloved family members in the 19th century, too.

41. "What's that man doing behind us?"

They seem suspicious of the secret photographer.

42. A lovely day for a boat.

Just enjoy the breeze and the calm of the water.

43. Blast from the past.

These women are enjoying a day on the town, dressed in their best it certainly seems.

44. A lovely day.

Chatting, smiling, enjoying life.

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