A Letter From The Publisher, Sep. 20, 1954

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The picture below was taken at night from a plane flying over an East Detroit avenue lined with neonlatticed used-car lots. For the same shot in color (and seven pages of "The U.S. After Dark"), see this week's color spread—the first such aerial color pictures ever taken.

When TIME'S Art Director Mike Phillips first planned the layout, the experts said it could not be done. But Phillips remembered one photographer who might be willing to give it a try: George Hunter of Ottawa, who does a lot of aerial photography in Canada, and who has taken on such TIME as signments as the recent color pictures of the Colorado River (TIME, Aug. 23). Hunter was interested but dubious. Said he: "I don't think it's possible, but let me think about it."

There were two major items to think about: a fast film and a fast camera lens. As far as the former was concerned, Hunter felt that sensitive Aero Ektachrome film, developed during World War II to take color pictures of camouflaged installations, would work if it had special darkroom handling.

Then began the search for a lens. The search ended when Eastman happened to mention that they had ground a special 8-in. ∫ /1.5 lens during the war for use in bomb-damage photography. The work had been done for the National Research Council of Canada, and as far as they knew the camera and its unique lens were still in Ottawa. Hunter found that the camera was indeed in Ottawa, and he was given permission to use it.

The first tests were made last February. Hunter came down to New York, rented a Piper Pacer at the Teterboro airport and took off to shoot Manhattan after sunset. "The pictures were so poor," he says, "that I was ready to give up. Just to prove that the job could not be done, I made second tests three days later. Atmospheric conditions were better and the pictures turned out well." Two weeks later Hunter left on his aerial tour of U.S. cities to take the pictures that appear in this week's issue of TIME.

Cordially yours,