Tintypes, stereoscopes and porn

I started out, innocently enough, looking for images from the Crimean war, and falling through a set of internet rabbit holes, found myself looking at a website devoted to early erotic daguerreotype and ambrotype stereographs.

Stereographs are of course made from a pair of slightly offset images, that viewed from the correct distance through a viewer give an impression of a 3D image.

Popularised by David Brewster among others, stereographs were very popular in the early days of photography, and obviously they were popular for more than viewing pictures of Queen Victoria being graciously pleased.

The erotic images are perhaps a little less explicit than those you can find on the internet today, the models are plumper, pubic hair is rather more evident, but basically not a lot has changed in the 150 or so years since these images were made. And interestingly quite a few of the surviving images have been expensively hand tinted suggesting that there was a market willing to pay and pay well for such material.

I’m reminded of the diarist Frances Kilvert’s comment on a visit to London which included an attempt to buy  some religious photographs from a shop in Burlington Arcade and that the proprietor of the gallery was reputed to  sell obscene French photographs, suggesting that such material was available to those with the money to pay for it and the business was profitable enough to cover the running costs of a shop in an upscale location …

[27/07/2016]

Coincidentally, I happened across this article on early French erotic postcards a few days ago – worth a read if you’re interested in the seamy side of Victorian life …

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About dgm

IT professional, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical and medieval historian ...
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