Carte de Visite

In my quest to learn more about different photography techniques through the ages, I ended up among something that was popular in the decades around 1900 and called Carte de Visite (business card in French), in Swedish: business card portraits. These were small portrait photographs patented by photographer André Adolphe Disdéri (1819–1889) in Paris in 1854. Before that, methods that only resulted in one image were used, unless the development failed, there were admittedly more expensive methods where it was possible to create multiple copies and images in larger format, but now it was possible to make eight copies at once. The disadvantage of the method was that it took some time to develop the images so the customer had to come back and pick them up.

The camera Disdéri used had four lenses. The card was usually produced according to the egg white method (albumin paper) which was the dominant method of producing photographic copies until the 1890s. On a glass negative in the format 18×24 cm, eight images were released each of 6×9 cm. A thin photograph was mounted on a thicker cardboard. The dimensions of the photograph were 54×89 mm and were mounted on a cardboard card that was 64×100 mm.

Carte de visite became popular in May 1859 when (according to an unsubstantiated but often repeated anecdote) the photographer Disdéri had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time when Napoleon III interrupted his march to pose for a photograph in Disdéris studio. The photographs were made in size as a business card and were exchanged between friends and visitors. Pictures of celebrities were sold by photographers and paper dealers and turned into collectibles that filled the private photo albums. Since the photographs could be produced in large numbers, they became relatively cheap to buy. In the UK, for example, 300-400 images a year were sold in the 1860s. Fashion came to Sweden around 1860. In Europe, pictures of royalty were popular but also pictures from remote places such as the British colonies. The first photo albums that were produced were made so that people could collect their photos in them.

In the United States, Carte de Visite became popular during the Civil War when soldiers, relatives and friends were able to send pictures to each other, it was also inside to collect pictures of celebrities such as Abraham Lincoln. Pictures were printed to call for missing soldiers, they were used to explain the war and slavery, when the war ended, it could happen that bider was used to call for criminals as well. A company in Washington, USA, produced 3600 carte de visite every day during that period.

Edmonia Lewis was a well-known African-American sculptor working in Italy in the 1870s but moved back to the United States after some time. There she became one of the first to market herself with carte de visite.

Cabinet cards were slightly larger images that came in the early 1870s. They were also usually produced by album impressions but larger, mounted on cardboard discs of size 110x170mm. These were popular until the early 20th century when Kodak introduced the Brownie camera and amateur photography became a mass movement.

:Encyclopaedia Britannica[WWW 2020-04-03] Carte de Visite
Harding, C. (2013) How to spot a carte de visite (late 1850s–c.1910) Science and Media Museum
Heiferman, M (2009) Kodak Girl. Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Isenburg, M. R. [WWW 2020-04-04] Carte de visite. Luminous-Lint
Volpe A. L. (2013) The Cartes de Visite Craze. New York Times Http
s://sv.wikip[WWW 2020-04-03]
/Carte_de_vi[WWW 2020-04-03]siteWikipedia

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