A typed label on the verso of this official photograph describes in detail the mission over Hamburg on the night of January 30, 1943, that it depicts. The target of the mission was a U-boat construction center at the shipbuilding yards in Hamburg, and two Lancaster planes-one bearing the camera used to make this photograph-dropped two major bombs and "tens of thousands of incendiaries" in thirty minutes. In the photograph, like many in its genre, the camera registered the spectacle of air power in wartime as an abstract pattern of bright white lines and squiggles over an otherwise darkened city. The speed of technologically sophisticated cameras allowed them to capture events for later analysis by such agencies as the British Air Ministry but often created compositions that seem inadvertently beautiful.
Inscription: Typewritten caption label adhered to print, verso C: "BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH.NO.C.33.71(WB). //Air Ministry Photograph. // (Crown Copyright Reserved). // R.A.F. RAID ON HAMBURG. // When the R.A.F. visited Hamburg for the 94th time on Saturday night January 30th. 1943, the heavy // bombers had to fly through very stormy weather before finally reaching their target the ship- // building yards greatest U-boat construction centre in // the Reich. In half-an-hour 8,000Ib and 4,000Ib // bombs were dropped and tens of thousands of incendiaries. // PICTURE SHOWS: [underlined] -A vivid impression of the scene over Hamburg as it appeared to the crew of a Lancaster. // Another Lancaster can be seen silhouetted against a background of fire and flak which form a weird // pattern against the sky."; stamped in ink, verso, TC: "NIGHT BOMBING PATTERNS"; stamped in ink, verso CL: "305"; stamped in ink, verso CR: "SEP 1943"; stamped in ink, verso CR: "13515"; stamped in ink, verso BR, in box: "LONDON [underlined] // [?] NUMBER …………. // FILE - PAY WHEN USED"
Sotheby's New York (October 6, 1999 sale)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 43," May 9, 2006–August 28, 2006.