Michael Francis Blake is credited as the first African American to open a photography studio in Charleston, South Carolina.
Blake was born in 1850 in Needham, Massachusetts. He spent his formative years as a scientist on the United States Coast Survey and Darien Exploring Expedition from 1866 to 1874. After such a great experience, Blake began experimenting with technology. He studied telephone technology, heating systems, and eventually photography.
Blake bought his first camera in 1884, and soon after that, he began to take a wide range of stop-action images of trains, pigeons, horses, and other subjects. Blake spent the next three decades taking thousands of photographs in this vein, and he was primarily concerned with the technical and scientific challenges of photography, rather than any artistic elements. He died in 1934.