Thursday, July 30, 2015

19th Century Wallets


Four Lens Disdéri Camera
Four Lens Disdéri Camera
In the professional portrait industry, an 8 up wallet unit is a 7x10 inch sheet of photographic paper containing 8 identical portraits. These are intended to be cut apart and shared with friends and family members. During the later half of the 20th century, wallet prints became one of the most popular items in school portrait and family portrait packages. All eight wallet prints were exposed from a single negative simultaneously using an array of eight lenses between the negative and the photo sensitive paper.

Clara Silvois, Andre Disdéri. 1862. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Clara Silvois, Andre Disdéri. 1862. Metropolitan Museum of Art
While multi-lens printers were a late 20th century creation, multi-lens cameras date to the earliest days of photography. In 1854, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri patented a system for creating
cartes de visite , which translates into English as visiting cards. These were 2.5x3.5 cards, the same size as modern wallets, which were intended to be shared with family and friends. Within a few years the calling cards became extremely popular and turned Disdéri into the most famous photographer in Paris for a time. 

The Back of the Disdéri Camera
The Back of the Disdéri Camera
The Disdéri patent called for mounting eight Petzval portrait lenses in an array on the front of the camera, but his actual implementation used four lenses.  There was a separate slide on the back of the camera for each lens which allowed the photographer to capture four images in a single exposure or make four separate exposures for each card. To create eight cards, the photographer would expose the first four, then slide the film into position to expose the remaining four.

The cartes de visit photos remained popular until the early 20th century when George Eastman introduced the Brownie camera and everyone started taking their own photos.

You might also like: