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History of Photography in Brighton

History of Photography in Brighton

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In1838, the English scientist and inventor Sir Charles Wheatstone(1802-1875) had described the phenomena of binocular vision anddesigned apparatus which fused two separate drawings into a singlethree dimensional image. To describe this viewing instrument,Wheatstone coined the term "Stereoscope" (from the Greekwords 'stereos' meaning "solid" and 'skopein' meaning"to look at") With the advent of photography, Wheatstone'sreflecting stereoscope, which utilised mirrors, could be usedto view a pair of almost identical photographs and give the illusionof depth.

Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), a Scottish physicist, designeda stereoscope that employed two lenses which mimicked binocularvision. Jules Duboscq (1817-1886) a Parisian optician constructedan improved stereoscope based on Brewster's design, which mergedtwo photographs of the same subject to form a three-dimensionalpicture.

At the Great Exhibition of 1851, Queen Victoria was particularlyimpressed by Duboscq's stereoscope and the accompanying stereoscopicphotographs. Queen Victoria's interest in the stereoscopesignalled the start of a popular demand for stereoscope viewersand stereoscopic photographs. In 1856, Brewster reported overhalf a million of his stereoscopes had been sold.

A few stereoscopic talbotypes had been made for Wheatstone soonafter the introduction of photography in 1839. In the early 1850s,however, most of the early stereoscopic photographs were daguerreotypes.Duboscq had displayed a set of his own stereoscopic daguerreotypesat the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1853, Antoine Claudetpatented a folding stereoscope which could view stereo daguerreotypes.

A couple of years after the Great Exhibition of 1851 stereoscopicphotography arrived in Brighton. In 1853, Thomas Rowley,Optician to the Sussex and Brighton Eye Infirmary, was advertisinghis "superior selection of stereoscopes with Daguerreotypeplates, Collodion and Photographic Pictures" which couldbe hired from his premises at 12 St James Street. In November1853, Robert Farmer of the Daguerreotype Rooms, 59 NorthStreet was offering to provide a "stereoscopic Portrait,with Stereoscope, 10s 6d, complete." Lewis Dixey,Optician and Dealer in Photographic Apparatus, announced in 1854that he could supply "Stereoscopes & Stereoscopic subjectsin Calotype, Daguerreotype & Collodion or Glass." GeorgeRuff of 45 Queens Road, Brighton specialised in stereoscopicportraits in colour.

Stereo Cards

The reflective surface of a silvered copper plate was not idealfor stereoscopic effects and the process did not lend itself tothe manufacture of large quantities of stereo pictures. With theadvent of the collodion glass negative and photographic printson albumenized paper in the mid 1850s, the mass production ofstereo cards became possible.

The London Stereoscopic Company, founded in 1854 by GeorgeSwan Nottage, was a firm that specialized in the mass productionof stereoscopic photographs. Nottage's company responded to theenormous demand for stereoscopes and stereo cards. By 1856, TheLondon Stereoscopic Company had sold over 500,000 stereoscopesand had 10,000 titles in its trade list of stereo cards. Two yearslater, in 1858, The London Stereoscopic Company claimed to have100,000 stereo cards in stock [ George Swan Nottage (1823-1885)had connections with Brighton. He owned property in the town andwas a regular visitor to Brighton. At the time of the 1861 CensusGeorge Swan Nottage was residing at 15 Marine Parade, Brightonand when he died in April 1885, he had just returned from an Easterholiday at the seaside town.]

In 1857, The Brighton Stereoscopic Company based at 121St James Street, near the Old Steine was selling stereoscopesfrom half a crown (2s 6d/121/2 p) and stereoscopic views wereon sale at a shilling (1s/10 p) each.

The fashion for collecting and viewing stereoscopic photographsreached its peak in the early 1860s. In 1862 alone, The LondonStereoscopic Company had sold a milliion stereoscopic views.

A wide variety of stereoscopic images could be purchased - viewsof faraway places, (Japan, The Andes) scenes of everyday life,anecdotal pictures, humorous tableaux scenes, 'still life' arrangementsand pictures of life in town and country.In 1858, Samuel Fry,a photographic artist based at 79 Kings Road, Brighton,even produceda "Stereograph of the Moon"

Some of the stereoscopic views sold in Brighton were of purelylocal interest.

In March 1863, William Cornish junior of 109 Kings Road,Brighton was advertising a set of six stereoscopic photographsof a decorated railway shed. The 531 ft. long railway shed wasused to house 7,000 school children who had gathered for a mealto celebrate the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales and PrincessAlexandra of Denmark. Stereoscopic views of the decorated railwayshed could be purchased singly for one shilling (10 pence) orthe customer could buy a complete set for 6 shillings

William Mason junior, the son of W.H.Mason, printsellerand proprietor of the Repository of Arts in Brighton's Kings Road,photographed scenes featuring local craftspeople, such as basketmakers,and issued them as stereographic cards.

Stereocardof a Brighton Basketmaker by W H Mason junior (c1862)

More typically, the Brighton artist Edward Fox, who specialisedin landscape photography, advertised "local views as stereoscopicslides." Familiar landmarks in Brighton, such as the RoyalChain Pier and the Royal Pavilion became popular subjects forstereo cards.Some of Edward Fox junior's stereoscopic slides featuredparticularly dramatic scenes. Fox's titles included " TheChain Pier During a Gale " and " Chain Pier by Moonlight".

Stereocard of the ChainPier, Brighton c1870

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