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J.W. Sandison snapped life with ‘Cirkut’ camera

Bellingham photographer J.W. Sanison made this picture of a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition Nov. 5, 1921, with a motorized "Cirkut" camera.
Bellingham photographer J.W. Sanison made this picture of a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition Nov. 5, 1921, with a motorized "Cirkut" camera. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHATCOM MUSEUM OF HISTORY & ART

On Nov. 5, 1921, Bellingham photographer James W. Sandison used a motorized "Cirkut" camera — one that rotated as it snapped pictures — to capture this now-classic image of kids at a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. They posed by the Liberty Theater, where the Parkade now stands.

In 1904, Sandison left a bubonic plague epidemic in Honolulu and moved to Bellingham, where he opened a portrait and commercial studio on West Holly Street. He died in 1962, leaving a legacy that includes some 6,000 negatives in the collection at Whatcom Museum of History & Art.

"He just kept working and working," said Jeff Jewell, photo historian at the museum. "He died in his studio."

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