Photo of the week for 3/8/2010

Photographer Samuel W. Kuhnert

Photographer Samuel W. Kuhnert

S. W. Kuhnert takes a portrait photograph of a U.S. Army Private First Class on October 16, 1943 at his Harrisburg studio at 1011 N. 3rd Street. Kuhnert was best known for his aerial photography. Never finishing high school, he attempted to build several airplanes as well as aerial cameras. He took the first aerial photographs of Harrisburg, 40 shots on glass plates, in 1920 in a World War I surplus "Jenny" biplane: "When I was 35 I was walking out on the wings of biplanes to make in-flight repairs. In those planes, you held the camera out of an open cockpit. I wore goggles and a fur-lined helmet. Dog straps held me in and I had to balance myself and the camera. It was rough work. It was chilly behind the prop in the summer and bitter in the winter."

Kuhnert also took accident, funeral and crime photos. One such photo was of his apprentice Harry Ganster who was with his girlfriend picking flowers at Lamb's Gap, Perry County in 1924 when the two were killed with a single rifle shot. Though the crime was never solved, Ganster had received warnings to stay out of Perry County after one of his photographs of a bootlegger's distillery was published in the Harrisburg Telegraph and credited to his name.

In the same November 7, 1977 article in The Patriot, Kuhnert said: "I always try to make the photos as if I were doing them for myself. It's your work that you leave behind you. I've given away more pictures than I've sold and I'll take more than money with me when I die." A substantial collection of his papers (and photographs) are located at the Pennsylvania State Archives: Photo ID: O05234-5.

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