THE DEVELOPMENT OF STEREO VIEWS
The Development of the Stereograph
STEREOVIEWS OF FLORIDA
The popularity of stereographs coincided with the increasing settlement of Florida. While early stereoviews mostly featured the developing tourist meccas of Jacksonville and St. Augustine, improved transportation routes later facilitated the production of images of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Palm Beach, Miami and the Everglades.
Following late nineteenth-century journalists’ and writers’ descriptions of Florida as a verdant paradise, stereoview photographers focused their cameras on the natural beauty of the sub-tropical environment.
Stereoviews frequently carried captions such as “Florida, the land of Flowers and Tropical Scenery,” reflecting the Northern visitor’s enchantment with Florida’s landscape.
Although stereoviews depicting the tropical scenery of Key West were available as early as the 1870s, the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 attracted large numbers of photographers who contributed to the publication of thousands of views. While documenting the events of the war, photographers also took the opportunity to present unique aspects of island life, including views of the capture and sale of sharks, sea turtles and sponges.
STEREOGRAPHS OF THE CARIBBEAN
Stereographs of the Caribbean region, like those of Florida, often focused on tropical flora and the cultivation of agricultural products like sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, bananas and cacao. The demand for the picturesque led to the production of many images of gentle landscapes, plazas and street scenes, while the desire for drama inspired stereoviews that depicted the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes.
PICTORIAL STYLE OF STEREOGRAPHS
In order to produce views with broad appeal, stereograph photographers generally followed a common vision and pictorial style, leading to widespread similarity of subject matter and technique. Stereoview manufacturers had great success in selling views suitable for genteel entertaining in Victorian parlors, leading to the vast production of sentimental and picturesque scenes.
Photographers specialized in depicting panoramic landscapes, bucolic agricultural vistas, and natural wonders, as well as people working in fields and relaxing at home. Images of civil unrest or poverty in the United States were largely avoided. However, patriotic images of American troops at war, the effects of natural disasters or impoverished peoples of non-industrialized countries were acceptable themes.
Stereoview photographers shared many techniques with the aim of accentuating the illusion of three dimensions. Images were structured to emphasize depth by featuring bold foregrounds and slanting lines which reached into the background. Figures were often included within landscapes to indicate scale and to impart to the viewer an experience of standing in a particular location.
Tinted stereoviews, often hand colored by painters whose own market was being eclipsed by photography, enjoyed some popularity in the early years of stereoview production. This costly practice fell into decline on the heels of the 1873 economic depression and was only partially revived in the 1890s, with mixed levels of workmanship.