Golden Age - 2/2

 The 3D photos of this series comes from the digital archives of the Library of Congress and from the Public Library of New York.

These are two important collections of hight quality pictures, both in substance and in form, which are now in the public domain. Yet few people know them, because of the scarcity of 3D media in the public. Robert N. Dennis, for example, is relatively unknown while the quality and quantity of his work should have included him among the great names of photography. My first goal was therefore a modest contribution to publicize this unknown field of photography and art.

Pictures damaged because of time had to be retouched to make 3D vision more comfortable. A long selection among the tens of thousands pictures has been necessary in order to keep only the representative pictures of a very special time.

Stereoscopic photography has been the subject of a succession of periods, from a strong popular appeal to periods of disinterest or even almost disappearance. These periods vary according to country, sources, viewpoints, etc. However, no clear reason can explain these fluctuations. Several assumptions were made: the combination of technical factors with the economic environment, the dynamism of a person or a company meeting favorable political winds, the public's enthusiasm aroused by the novelty before the weariness and transfer to another trendy invention...

With this selection of photos, I would like to propose a different explanation, deeper, more comprehensive and sensitive, touching on the essential nature of man. That's why it can't be properly explained just with words, but we can feel it quite precisely with an immersion in the representative images of this time. To get an idea of those times, I used the funds of the Library of the American Congress, large enough to be representative of the production of stereoscopic pictures in the United States. By making a simple diagram of the number of stereoscopic documents (photos and albums) depending decades, periods appear then very clearly :



Why so many stereoscopic pictures were produced in the United States between 1860 and 1870 and then between 1900 and 1910, and more importantly, why this production then stopped suddenly? These periods are far from insignificant in the United States history and more specifically in the American psychology history. 

The middle of the 19th century in America was the time of the gold rush and the influx of European immigrants, fleeing poverty and oppression for a country rocked by stories of great freedom and self made millionaires. It was the time when the fortunes of America and every American was promised by the conquest of the West, where the idea of "of Manifest Destiny" gave the USA a sacred duty to bring civilization in the wilderness by the sacred genocide of American Indians. Of course, such technical and ideological progress would not occured without producing a good war, and it did not miss ; between 1861 and 1865, the Civil War was notable on several points, including by the use of new technical and industrial means to kill much more efficiently, which earned it the title of the first modern war. This war was the grand finale of this fabulous advance of civilization. It is the foundation of the United States and in some ways, the current world. In 1865, at the end of the war, the Ku Klux Klan was created. The very human instincts of conquest, power and ethnocentrism was at its peak. The production of stereoscopic pictures too.

Then, in 1869, completion of the first transcontinental railroad finally connected the two coasts. This will facilitate the conquest of the last territories and the massacre of the last recalcitrants to civilization. The decades that followed were marked by several crises, the country became industrialized and no longer needed bold cowboys but wise workmen in factories; the American weakened, the production of stereoscopic pictures too. 

Later, a similar ideology had solicited the lowest instincts of Americans. They no longer had to see the scenery of the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains and all savages who live there (There were 11.5 million Indians in the 15th century, in 1890, the 250,000 survivors were herded and visible alive at fairs in a restored habitat). At the turn of the century, the americans can see the pyramids of Keops, the cherry blossoms of Japan, the colorful streets of Palestine, and all savage peoples who live there…

In the United States such as in the European colonial empires, it is not the time for internal conquest and civil war anymore, but for the for external conquests and imperial wars.

This will be the subject of another series.


- For reasons of visual comfort and downloading speed, this series was divided in two -

- Click here to access the first part -


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