Supreme Court in Session

German-born pioneer of photography, Dr. Erich Salomon was one of only two known persons to have photographed a session of the U.S. Supreme Court. Salomon, the father of ‘candid photographs’ had an eye for photo opportunities–a hollowed out book on mathematics enabled him to take pictures of gambling rooms in Monte Carlo; a floral arrangement at a Washington banquet gave him a close-up of Herbert Hoover; a hole in his bowler or fedora enabled him to take photos inside Berlin courtrooms. He was daring too; he used a window washer’s ladder to spy an international conference in the Hague, while for the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, he simply walked into the signing room and took the vacant seat of the Polish delegate as well as several photos. For the Supreme Court, he faked a broken arm and a sling over it concealed his camera well.

The photo appeared in 1932 Fortune magazine. The Supreme Court at the time was made up of four conservatives (McReynolds, Butler, van Devanter, Sutherland), three liberals (Brandeis, Stone, Cardozo) and two moderates (Chief Justice Hughes, Roberts). Five years later, another concealed picture of the Supreme Court (this time in its new chambers) was taken. It was by “an enterprising amateur, a young woman who concealed her small camera in her handbag, cutting a hole through which the lens peeped, resembling an ornament. She practiced shooting from the hip, without using the camera’s finder which was inside the purse”.


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