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Lang's inability to photograph live animals in motion may have been frustrating, and sometimes frightening, but it didn't hinder his main purpose, which was to gather images of specimens for eventual study and display. That required close, detailed views for the taxidermist to reference, and the zoologist to examine. Lang was content enough to document the wildlife post-mortem, where he could get sharp images and 'compose' his subjects in a way that made them most useful back at the museum. Many of these 'compositions' entailed propping up the animals, which sometimes made them look as if they were still alive.

The photographs are still extremely useful to zoologists, who use them to compare markings and other physical traits among similar species.

The Verascope camera was much more versatile. Created by the French designer and manufacturer Jules Richard in the 1890's, the camera had a magazine attached to the back that could hold up to 12 plates. The Verascope also had a unique center-mounted reflex lens for accurate focusing. Many of Lang's stereographic images were for the ethnographic part of the expedition, encompassing scenes of the various tribes, their local village life and customs, and the objects and architecture he encountered along the way. The combination of the reflex focusing lens and the multi-plate magazine on the Verascope allowed Lang to capture in relatively quick succession images from such fast-paced events as the village chief Okondo performing a ceremonial dance.

Lang often made the most of the three-dimensional effect of the stereo camera by strategically placing foreground elements within his compositions, thereby maximizing the extra-dimensional effect. This allowed additional contouring of shapes and objects that would later assist researchers in gleaning additional information not evident in a two-dimensional view. Occasionally, Lang would photograph in stereo some of the more spectacular specimens, including a red buffalo, which also aided in their study.

The recording of the thousands of specimens of flora, fauna and ethnographic material (including drawings and watercolors by James Chapin form the core of the visual evidence brought back from the expedition. Much of that evidence was instrumental in recreating realistic dioramas for the Akeley African Hall inaugurated at the museum in 1936. The photographs are still useful today to biologists and conservation specialists worldwide. With the Internet's ability to provide easy access to these images by researchers around the world, educators, historians, and social scientists may well join the biologists and anthropologists who already rely on them.

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More Expedition Readings

(click images for larger view)

AMNH # 221805, Cervicapra


AMNH # s249d
AMNH # s241d

Okondo dancing

AMNH # s151

Red buffalo