Photo Collection Tenement House  


Cartes de visite

Portable, practical and affordable, the carte de visite was a small photographic print reproduced from a glass plate and designed in the tradition of a visiting card. 

A visiting card was delivered to a house as a means of introduction; this began as 18th-century etiquette for the wealthy classes, who only welcomed people into their homes after being formally ‘introduced’. 

In 1854, the French studio photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri adapted the visiting card fashion and started selling small photographs stuck onto card prints. Thanks to new technology and advances in chemistry, photographs became easier to produce and cheaper to develop. Customers only had to pose for a few seconds and they could purchase any number of images from just one sitting.

An example of this practice can be seen in the photograph on the left. It is of Miss Toward’s father, William.

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Cabinet Cards

The cabinet card was twice the size of the carte de visite. It was available from the 1860s and became a bestseller for family portraits. By the 1880s the chemicals and paper quality had improved enough to produce rich colour and an unparalleled clarity.

Cabinet cards were ideal for displaying in the household, either in albums or arranged in a frame.

An example of this can be seen in the photograph on the left. It is of Jane Toward, one of Miss Toward’s paternal aunts. 

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A single image printed on tin, the tintype was less expensive than the daguerreotype (printed on silver-plated copper) and the ambrotype (printed on glass). 

All of the above fell out of favour with the development of photographs like cartes de visite and cabinet cards, which were produced cheaply from a negative.

The tintype was invented in the USA in 1856 and became popular in Britain in the 1870s.

It was often used for holiday snaps as tin was durable, cheap and quick to prepare.

An example of a tintype can be seen in the photograph on the left. It is of Miss Toward’s mother and was taken in James Lowrie’s studio in Glasgow. 

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