126 years ago today, the ground-breaking film director and screenwriter Friedrich Christian Anton “Fritz” Lang was born in Vienna. In the 1920s, Lang made film history with silent movies like “Nibelungen” (1924) and “Metropolis” (1926). His film “M” (1931) is considered a precursor to the film noir genre. In his famous and much-quoted masterpiece “Metropolis” he drew the dark future vision of a world in which the proletariat was serving the machines in an impersonal world city. Fritz Lang emigrated to the USA in 1933 and together with Bertolt Brecht directed the movie “Hangmen Also Die” (1942), directed against the Nazi regime in Germany. In 1963 he was awarded the German Film Award and in 1966 the Federal Cross of Merit. Land died in 1976.
150 years ago today, influential Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was born in Moscow. He taught at the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture from 1922 until 1933 (when it was closed by the Nazis). He then moved to France, where he spent the rest of his life. He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.
130 years ago today, Mihaly Biro, arguably the most important internationally known Hungarian poster designer, was born. Biro is widely considered to be the founder of the illustrated political poster and his creations between the wars spread far beyond the borders of his home country.
Today in History: First Polaroid Camera unveiled in 1948
68 years ago today, the first consumer-friendly, commercial instant camera was introduced to the American market. Polaroid’s model 95 Land Camera was developed by Edwin Land. The American scientist got his idea while vacationing in Mexico in 1944 when he introduced his daughter Jennifer to the basic principles of photography. Inspired by his daughter’s question why the images taken with the camera could not be seen immediately, Land spent his remaining vacation working on a preliminary design and concept for an instant camera. In November 1947, the businessman presented his new invention at the annual meeting of the “American Optical Society.” Although dismissed by most of his peers as a gimmick, the first Polaroid camera hit the market only one year later. By 1956, Polaroid had sold one million instant cameras. Today, that number has grown to over 165 million.
Today in History: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec born in 1864
The French poster artist and painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born 152 years ago today. Although he created only 32 posters, Lautrec was one of the greatest forces in the development of the modern poster. Drawn to the Bohemian district in Paris known as Montmarte for its theaters, artists, and writers, Lautrec’s work captured the eccentricities of Parisian nightlife.
Today in History: First Issue of LIFE published in 1936
80 years ago today, on November 23, 1936. the first issue of the weekly pictorial magazine LIFE was published. LIFE had actually existed as a general interest and humor publication prior to 1936 when it was bought by Time founder Henry Luce, solely for acquiring the rights to the magazine’s name. With the shift of ownership came a shift of emphasis on photojournalism.
LIFE allowed its audience to “look” at a photographic display of the world. Its picture-heavy content captured the personal and the public. Its popularity started to suffer when television became the main means of communication in the late 1960s. LIFE was published weekly until 1972 and resumed as a monthly between 1978 and 2002.