Paper Photography: American Scene

By 1860, inexpensive paper photographs were being produced in volume for a mass public who sought portraits of celebrities, public events and scenic views.

During the 1860s and 1870s, photography was a witness to most aspects of American culture. The camera captured the rapid advances of the age: engineering achievements, the birth of the modern railroad, the documentation of college life, astronomy and medicine.

The photographer also experimented with the photographic process itself and experimented with manipulations to produce spirit photography and trick photography.

The exhibition also features 3-D stereographic images and cartes-de-visite. While these relatively small images have received little attention as works of art, they were some of the most popular and widely circulated of the period. The parlor stereoviewer was, in essence, the television of its day—a means of bringing virtual images of the larger world into the living room.

Joseph P. Babbitt, b. 1830
Kansas City Bridge: Lowering First Section of Curb, No. 1, August 7, 1867, 1867
2005.27.255

Jeremiah Gurney, 1812-1886
Walt Whitman, ca. 1868
2005.27.199

Prescott & Gage, act. 1860s
Woman with Opera Glasses, ca. 1861
2005.27.263

Unknown,
Interior, Niagara Suspension Bridge, ca. 1860
2005.27.239

Unknown,
Pennsylvania Railroad Engine, 1868
2005.37.47

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