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Histrionics: The Dick Daguerrotype

Histrionics: the scientific study of history and its effects.

William Ames Aultman was an early pioneer in the field of photography. Unlike most of his contemporaries, including William Daguerre, Aultman was not as interested in the technology behind photography as much as where he could take it. The early 1840s saw Aultman on a number of adventures throughout his home state of Maine and into Canada, capturing pictures of wildlife, panoramic vistas from high mountains. “My ideal is to capture scenes which the average man is not privileged to see.” he said in 1843.

By 1844, after serval public exhibitions of his photography and a difficult battle with influenza, Aultman began looking towards the smaller world. This new direction of photography was met with mixed results, including several blurred shots of insects.

In 1845, William Ames Aultman shocked the world when he became the first person in history to take a photograph of his penis. In his journal the experiment was referred to as the “Still Life at Chimney Rock”. In public, when asked what he was working on, Aultman would coyly say “John Thomas is coming to sit for a portrait.”

After weeks of experimenting with camera angles, Aultman took the first photograph of a male penis on June 23, 1845. Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation, the flash from the camera set fire to the room. Ultimately leading to his death on July 10th. Not before he had developed the photograph and sent it, without warning, to several prominent figures whom he thought would appreciate it.

In a letter to the widow Aultman in August of 1845, newspaperman Horace Greeley became the first recorded person to use the phrase “unsolicited penis photograph.” Greeley went on to say, by way of comfort to the woman who just lost her still relatively young and vital husband, that, “It wasn’t half bad though.”

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