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How to view the pictures
A brief history of the Stereograph
Holmes: in his own words
Health & safety when viewing


How to View the Pictures

By careful optimization Looking-Glass has uniquely developed a means of allowing you to see the best possible 3D effect of early stereograph examples straight from your computer screen, without the need of a stereo viewer. If you can see the effect of modern computer generated stereograms then you should easily achive results with these pictures. The following instructions are based on a 19" flat screen monitor at a resolution of 1024 X 768. (However some people have now reported that they can even see the effect on 15" 1600x1200 resolution laptops) But you may need to adjust your viewing distance if you are using a smaller monitor and / or different resolutions

Look at the picture below, preferably in a dim lit room with your eyes about 30-40cm from the screen (this distance would be average for normal sighted people). Make sure your eyes are absolutely level with the picture, it won't work if you are looking down or up at the image. Now relax your eyes and imagine you are looking at something a few metres "behind" the image (screen). The two photo images will slowly look like three. Focus on the third "phantom" image you see in the centre and slowly this will come into focus... and into 3D. If it still seems unfocused, either pull back from the screen or lean futher in and let your eyes re-adjust. Once you've got it... it gets easier each time!

Enjoy the
gallery, but please don't strain your eyes and read our notes on health and safety.


the girl at the microscope



A Brief History of the Stereograph

In 1838 photography was still in its infancy, a magical marvel of the age, which quickly captured the world's imagination like nothing before. But even such "magic" was soon to be enhanced beyond a flat image on paper into a 3 dimensional wonderland by Professor Wheatstone's "Stereoscope". It was also during this period that Daguerre had created a photographic process in Paris, which helped to popularize the "stereograph" and by 1860 a table-top stereo viewer was an essential part of the household itinerary - like television is today.
Stereo pictures where taken using a special camera with two lenses mounted side by side. The end result would recreate the depth of imagery or three dimensional vision (which we achieve naturally by having two eyes). On taking the picture the image or scene would be exposed on two frames of film inside the camera - the view through the left lense exposed on one frame... and the view from the right lense exposed on the other. When developed and mounted onto card the stereograph would be ready to view. This would be by means of a "stereoscope" - either an enclosed desktop version or handheld device. The scope has a pair of lenses at one end and a slot to insert the stereograph at the other. By looking through the lenses, the two photographic images are merged together creating the three dimensional view.
Stereograph viewing remained popular up until the early 1920's, particularly in America, where today most remaining historical stereo photo collections now reside, usually in museums and private collections. Daguerreotype stereographs, as they are known, present the finest quality prints of incredible detail.
Popular mass-market stereographs were of the Holmes format, which also offered affordable ways to view using patented handheld devices such as the Holmes viewer and the Perfectoscope.
During that golden age of stereography dual lens cameras where common, and so besides the thousands of published photos available, family life in 3d became a novel form of archiving.... much like the handycam video camera is today. The amazing, and perhaps melancholic effect of those early three dimensional images of life 150 years ago presents a powerful and unique perspective for the historian.
3d photography continued into the1950's and was then redefined by the introduction of Viewmaster, a popular slide disc viewer. This is still in production today but by the late '60's stereo pictures in this form became more of a novelty for younger viewers, as Viewmaster produced 3d picture sets of popular children's films and TV programs.
Today there are still pockets of enthusiasts around the world who continue to photograph and process the original Holmes type stereo pictures. Cameras, viewers and 3d processing are still available, albeit an expensive pursuit.

Read Oliver Wendell Holmes' own words from 1859 on the Stereograph and Stereoscope


A note on health and safety when viewing

Do not strain your eyes. Don't spend more than a couple of minutes trying to see the 3d effect. Be aware of radiation and electromagnetism emmited from CRT monitors. TFT monitors may not pose the same high levels of health risk as CRT's. Read the Looking-Glass disclaimer / terms and conditions



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