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Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri (1819–1889)
Main portal of the Palais de L’Industrie
France, Paris, 1855
Stereodaguerreotype, 8,5 x 17 cm

The Daguerreotype was invented during the heyday of the industrial revolution, in a time full of social and economic changes. Photographers depicted the expansion of cities, the new iron constructs designed by engineers, the buildings of the world- and industrial expos and the newly built houses and shops on silver plates.

Today Daguerreotype outdoor location shots are rare and highly sought after pieces on the art market. If the quality is good, they sell for incredible amounts of money. Often the photographer and location are unknown, as the cities have changed a lot since then, it usually takes instigative talent to find out where it was made.

In the present case it is simpler. The stereo daguerreotype shows the main entrance of the Palais de L’Industrie in Paris. The palace was an exhibition hall, built for the world expo in 1855. The gigantic building stood between the Seine and the Champs Elysées. The design was collaboration between architect Jean-Marie Victor Viel and the engineers Alexis Barrault and Georges Bridel. The image depicts a monumental gateway at the centre of the 260-meter long main façade of the building, decorated by sculptures by Élias Robert and Georges Diebolt. In 1897 the Palais de L’Industrie was torn down to make way for the Grand Palais of the world expo of 1900. The stereo by Disdéri is hence an important architectonic historical document.

Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri was born in Paris in 1819. He studied painting, which in those days, was a quite common educational path for photographers and then worked as actor in a theatre troupe. In 1847 he founded his first own photo studio in Brest. In 1855 he was commissioned to photograph all exhibited objects on display at the world expo in the Palais de L’Industrie. The stereo daguerreotypes that resulted from this commission captured the exhibition halls from inside and outside. The success he experienced during the world expo was however short lived. In 1856 he had to declare bankruptcy and sell his studio. A few years later, he managed to celebrate another success, when his Carte de Visite Process, patented in 1854, started to take off. In spite of his various talents and successes, Disdéri died blind, death and poor in Paris.

Anna Zimm, © WestLicht

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