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.

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