1890s Candid Street Photography Taken With a Spy Cam

Using a thin, round, six frame, glass plate, "spy camera", a nineteen year old Carl Størmer (1874 – 1957) captured candid images on the main streets of Oslo, Norway. These atypical images are a rare glimpse into everyday life at a time when most photos taken were of well prepared, composed and stoic subjects. If you're interested in the three part documentary video, be sure to turn on "subtitles / closed captions" and switch to "auto translate" English.

Størmer began the odd practice of hiding his camera under his vest, with the lens poking out of a buttonhole, and triggered by a cord leading down to his pocket for the same reason most young men do unorthodox things... a girl. After falling for an unacquainted woman, at Oslo University, Størmer found himself too shy to approach her. But that didn't stop him from wanting to capture a photo of her. And a candid street photographer was born.

Størmer continued shooting with this method, taking approximately 500 images between 1893 to 1897. Focusing primarily on the prominent, and famous people in his community, effectively making Størmer one of the first known paparazzi. You can find some of Størmer's images below, along with parts two and three of the documentary.

For more of Størmer's images jump on over to Imgur.

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3 Comments

Spy Black's picture

Very cool.

"After falling for an unacquainted woman, at Oslo University, Størmer found himself too shy to approach her. But that didn't stop him from wanting to capture a photo of her. And a candid street photographer was born."

It also made him the first nerd stalker...

Gabrielle Colton's picture

So cool and timeless, I love the circle frames it made.

Kenn Tam's picture

It kind of reminds me of those Kodak disc cameras from the early 80s.