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Stereo photograph

Also known as stereoscopic photos, these images appeared on glass and paper in the early days, and later as slides on transparent film.

Stereo images are two almost identical photos mounted next to each other, but taken from a slightly different position to create a kind of 3D effect. It’s best to view stereo photos through a ‘stereo viewer’ or stereoscope – a device with two lenses that looks like a bit like a pair of binoculars. Maybe you still have some at home somewhere?

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Holmes cards

The oldest stereo images were painted stereo cards, which were produced as early as 1840. The classic size of the earliest cards was 8.9 x 17.8 cm, and they were also known as Holmes cards – after Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American physician who invented the stereo viewer.


Did you know …

… stereo photos were also sold on round discs from 1939? Six pairs of small, almost identical photos were mounted opposite each other on the cardboard disc and placed in a stereoscope (such as the well-known View-Master), so you saw two images next to each other which produced a 3D effect. Stereo discs were used as an alternative to postcards, often with tourist attractions on the pairs of photos.


Want to learn more about stereo photos and stereoscopes? Have a look here:

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