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Recreating Cartes de Visite

December 5, 2011

As a traveling photographer striving to keep alive the historic and handmade photographic processes, I have been really drawn to the Cartes de Visite. In the 19th Century, these photographic calling cards were wildly popular. They were traded as social calling cards and given as gifts and momentos. A short history: http://photographymuseum.org/histsw.htm

Original Carte de Visite

Now, in our modern age, when to even PRINT a photograph is rare… the argument seems to be: Why spend the energy and money printing and image when you can just post it on Facebook or Flickr or Email it around to friends? To me this is a small tragedy. There is something so special about the actual physicality of the photograph– To hold it in your hands or hang it on a wall or save it in an album is just so different than quickly clicking through endless images on a computer screen. So, I have endeavored to recreate the Carte de Visite in my own style.
One aspect of the Cartes de Visite that I really enjoy is the decorative detail. Usually the photo studio would have had a special imprint with the name of the studio and photographer. Often there would be decorative framing around the image, which would be printed in a variety of ways, usually a small tintype or albumen print were used. In my version of the Carte, I had a plate made and letterpressed the frame. Then I designed a stamp with the Tin Gypsy imprint. I printed each image individually using the salted paper process (c. 1833), which is a contact printing process using the sun as the light source for developing the image.

My Carte de Visite: Seattle

My Carte de Visite: Astoria

My Carte de Visite: Bellingham

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2011 7:16 pm

    I love these, such a lovely idea! ❤

  2. December 5, 2011 8:12 pm

    Thanks for keeping these wonderful traditions alive!

  3. Rose permalink
    December 6, 2011 4:16 am

    Wonderful!

  4. January 9, 2012 10:06 am

    Beautiful work Meghann, I’m glad i’m not the only one out there who loves something that isn’t a digital camera!

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