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Posts Tagged ‘stereoscope’

The first decades of photography were a period of continual innovation. One of the more curious inventions to come from that time was the stereograph or stereoview. Invented in the 1840s and first presented to the public in 1851, the stereograph was the first time three dimensional perception was created using two dimensional images. Stereographs gained widespread popularity in the United States beginning in 1859 with invention of an improved viewer, or stereoscope, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and remained popular through the early 20th century. A stereograph is composed of two photographs taken with two cameras an eye’s width distant from each other and presented side by side, one to each eye, thus simulating binocular vision. As Keith Davis describes in his The Origins of American Photography, 1839-1885, “the result is a compelling, if slightly curious, sense of visual depth in which objects appear as flat cut-outs occupying discrete planes in space”. This new way of seeing distant places and people was very appealing in a time when travel was difficult and photography the main medium for learning about the world. By the 1870s, tens of thousands of stereographs were offered for sale by various photographic firms in the United States. The visual interest of the medium is such that it is still used by some fine artists and there is even a recently developed smartphone app using the same principles.

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