A Short Break For Stereo Cards

In the midst of my ongoing photo mystery project… I’m still creating new work. I find great joy in learning about different photographic techniques from the past. I have recently learned a bit about stereoscopic images and decided to give it a go and try my hand at a stereo card.

For those of you who are curious, a stereoscopic image is actually two photographic images that have been taken from a little bit different angles, or position of the camera, that are then viewed as one 3D image through a a stereoscope viewer (like the one I have assembled below). They came in to popularity in the late 1800s.  As you can imagine, they are as cool as they sound.

Stereoscope Viewer

The most impressive of these images is the tissue stereo card, in my opinion. Basically the same process to create the image as before mentioned, except these particular images are on thin, translucent paper. They are hand tinted on the back side of image so that when held up to light you can see the image in color. Seriously, it is mind blowing! Maybe it doesn’t sound as impressive in 2016, but trust me if you see one of these in person I think you would be just as amazed as me in the true craftsmanship and artistry that the creators put in to these works of art. The hand tinting alone is mind blowing. Every little detail is thoughtful taken care of. Below is an image of tissue stereo card I bought off eBay:

Stereo Card 

I was truly amazed the first time I saw this person. I couldn’t believe the amount of time and precision it must have taken someone to make this image. So I decided to embark on the process of creating one of these tissue stereo cards to see just exactly what they are made of.

I have to start by stating, I’m definitely no expert. That being said, I’m definitely happy with the way my first attempt turned out. To begin, I decided to make the print from a digital negative as a cyanotype. I printed the cyanotype on rag vellum since it is so thin that is translucent when held up to the light. After doing a test with the water colors on the back side of the image, I decided to make two sets of identical prints because the water color bled through a bit so that it was visible to the eye even when not held up to the light. To remedy this I decided to use the second set of cyanotypes over the hand tinted set. It created a nice color-free image regularly and a colorful one when held to the light.  The image below is my tissue stereo card, the top image being without light behind and the bottom image with light behind it:

Top Image- Stereo Card without Light/ Bottom Image- Stereo Card with Light 

My take away from this process was that is definitely as time consuming as I imagined it would be. The true artists who made these images were very talented craftsmen that had an artistry and attention to detail that I hope to develop with time. The tissue stereo card will continue to be one of my favorite pieces of photo history.


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