Kodak created the first handheld camera in 1889, and it wasn’t long before Edgar Degas had one in his hands.
He was looking for a way to freeze the fluid action of dancers into stationary poses. In 1895 he took a series of photographs that he used for reference.
Those old Kodaks didn’t have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze real dancers in motion. A model had to hold still for a relatively long period under the artist’s direction.
But the photos gave Mr. Degas what he needed. His paintings portray dancers adjusting their shoulder straps in gestures that appear spontaneous, though they are really painstakingly posed.
[Note: To make these pairings I’ve inverted the values in Photoshop and combined them with details of Degas’ paintings. If you go to this Princeton website, you can see what the original negatives look like. The appearance of full color is an aberration.]
The photo negatives appear on this website.
Thanks to the blog reader who told me about this.