The stereoscope is voyeuristic by nature and was quickly used to view nudity. The three-dimensional illusion was often enhanced by delicate hand tinting that delighted the amateurs of the genre. Soon a booming industry appeared that specialized in the making of “academies” and more graphic images for the stereoscope. Most of the production of the pictures (mostly daguerreotypes), which were deemed “indecent,” took place in France from the early 1850s onwards.
When censorship was reestablished by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852, photographers who failed to copyright their work and those who dealt in reprehensible prints or plates were fined and/or sent to prison. After a few years of being simply told off, then fined, many of the male and female models who sat for these images were also incarcerated. If men usually bore their fate with equanimity and sometimes pride, it was more difficult for women who lost everything, were ostracized, and soon had no other alternative than to revert to prostitution.
In this talk, photo historian Denis Pellerin takes us on a tour of this underworld of photography and tells the sad stories of some of those “dirty-footed Venuses” who paid a very high price for showing their charms.
Note: The pictures are presented as “fancyglyphs” (three versions of the same image in one slide: red/cyan anaglyph, parallel viewing, cross eye viewing).
Pellerin is a photo historian with a passion for stereo photography. He has been researching and learning about the history of stereo photography for nearly 40 years and has written several articles and books on the subject, both in French and in English.
Presented on December 12, 2020.