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Photo credit: Centenary olive tree, by Carlos Relvas, 1873.
Stereoscopic albumen print. Casa dos Patudos - Museu de Alpiarça Collection

Denis Pellerin: The not-so-veiled charms of stereo photography

Nude photographs in general and stereoscopic daguerreotypes in particular are very popular among collectors. These images, usually beautifully made and very nicely tinted, are greatly enhanced by the sensation of depth the stereoscope provides. The viewers could imagine themselves very close to those voluptuous ladies and so great was the illusion that it only stopped short of actually being able to touch them. But who among those who enjoy those images knows the real story behind this artistic — and occasionally pornographic — production? Most exclusively made in France in the 1850s and 1860s these daguerreotypes may have cost the buyers a small fortune but they certainly cost the majority of the photographers who took them and the models who sat for them their freedom and more often than not their reputation.
Photo historian Denis Pellerin reveals some of the sad tales behind the mirror-like surfaces of these outstanding daguerreotypes. Much more than mere flesh, the persons who undressed in front of the camera were young women who were dreaming of a better life and did not always realise there was a huge price to pay for the easy money they were earning by flaunting their veil-less charms.

Denis Pellerin is a photo-historian with a passion for stereo photography. He has been researching and learning about the history of stereo photography for over 30 years and has written several articles and books on the subject, both in French and in English.

During his thirtieth year as a secondary school teacher, Denis had the good fortune to meet and work with Dr. Brian May before being hired by the latter as the curator of his extensive photographic collection.

Brian May and Denis Pellerin have now co-authored three books together (Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell, 2013, The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery, 2014, Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster, 2016) and are currently working on a couple more publications while being also deeply involved in the various activities of The London Stereoscopic Company, re-created by Brian May in 2008.

Since September 2015 Pellerin has been the director of the said company whose original motto, “No home without a stereoscope”, is more than ever valid.

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