Exploring the 1850s Photographic Inventions and the Birth of a New Genre

Zahid Parvez
3 min readApr 2, 2023

Disdéri’s photographic cards

André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri (1819–1889) was a self-taught photographic artist located in France. Disdéri is most renowned for his ground breaking creation of the ‘carte de visite’, a modestly sized photograph mounted on a card which transformed the photography industry.

In the 1850s, Disdéri embarked on his career as a portrait photographer in Paris, swiftly gaining recognition as a skilled and inventive artist. His studio gained popularity among the affluent and well-known, resulting in high demand for his portraits. Nevertheless, the most significant contribution Disdéri made to the photography field was his invention of the carte de visite, a photography format akin to the modern poloriad.

Box with cartes de visite of members of the Regout family, Kleon3 2019

The carte de visite marked a significant shift away from conventional portrait photography, which typically involved large glass plates. Disdéri’s innovation made photography more accessible and affordable, quickly gaining popularity among the broader public. The concept behind the carte de visite was straightforward yet effective. Disdéri employed a unique camera capable of capturing multiple exposures on a single glass plate, which he then divided into individual photographs. These photos were mounted on cards, facilitating easy storage in photo albums or mailing as a means of personal correspondence.

The success of Disdéri’s carte de visite inspired numerous copycats, and the format soon became the global standard for portrait photography. The carte de visite found extensive use for both personal and commercial applications, serving as an essential tool for politicians, celebrities, and military leaders to cultivate their image and disseminate their message. Disdéri’s invention left a lasting impact on the world of photography, shaping perceptions of portraiture and personal communication.

First Areal photograph

Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820–1910), better known as Nadar, was a French photographer, caricaturist, and writer born in Paris. Although Nadar had many accomplishments, he is most celebrated for capturing the first-ever aerial photograph in 1858.

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Zahid Parvez

I am an analyst with a passion for data, software, and integration. In my free time, I also like to dabble in design, photography, and philosophy.