making it big, making it better – again

CDV portrait of three ladies by Ashworth of London, Ontario. c 1860

Toronto. Cartes des Visite or CDVs came along in the early 1850s with wet-plate technology and stayed popular for about 15 years. The actual photograph, on albumen paper, curled into a tight cylinder making a stiff backing necessary. Cards of 2.5 x 4 inches were usually used with the taker’s advertisement on the back. CDVs became popular to take portraits of celebrities. As a result, multi-copy cameras were invented making the process more efficient.

Shown here with enhanced sharpness and contrast is a typical CDV portrait of not one but three young ladies taken by London, Ontario photographer, Ashworth, in his studio near the London post office.

Over a decade after the CDV became popular, the tiny card had run its course and saturation set in. Portraits were revived by studios offering a much larger Cabinet card of about 4.25 x 6.5 inches in size with an albumen or other kind of print glued to this firm backing.

I found detailed information on CDVs, Cabinet cards and other 18th century photographs in the 1976 book, “Collector’s Guide to Nineteenth Century Photographs” by William Welling. My copy is the letter size soft cover version. Many other products emulated this concept of increasing size to improve the device from cameras, to smartphones.

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