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Marvels of the Stereoscope: What is Seen and What is Not Seen
Michael Burr, c. 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the 1860s, photographer Michael Burr produced this hand-colored photograph called “Marvels of the Stereoscope: What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” The image, actually two frames with one slightly off-set, were manufactured as stereographs in their own right. The cards served to show the amazing depth of field which could be achieved by the simple stereoscope.
Stereoscopic images were all the rage in the second half of the Nineteenth Century and were the third most popular format for albumen photographs, behind cartes de visite and cabinet cards. A display of stereoscopic Daguerreotypes by Duboscq at the Great Exhibition caught the eye of Queen Victoria who was so amazed by the illusion of three dimensionality that she became a fan of the art form. Her Majesty’s admiration only caused the production of stereoscopic images to increase.
Burr’s image not only satirizes stereoscopic photography, but also celebrates it and refers to a quote from Hamlet, “Seems madam? Nay, it IS!”