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Carte de visite

with a portrait of an unknown young woman

The photograph was taken by B. Morris of 14 High Street, Rugby.

Cartes de visite are small photographic portraits mounted on a piece of card, usually about 4.5 x 2.5 inches (11.4 x 6.3cm) in size. They were invented by Parisian photographer Andre Adolphe Eugene Disdéri in 1854.

Before 1854, most professional photographers used processes that produced only single copies of photographs and made it very difficult to reproduce them. Disdéri, noticing that there might be a market for a way to produce a large number of prints cheaply, set about finding a way to make this possible. He developed a special type of camera which allowed the photographer to take up to 8 images on a single plate. This was not only much cheaper than earlier processes but also made it possible to create several copies from a single negative. When printed, the images would be cut apart and then glued to carboard before being sold for appealing prices.

Cartes de visite were introduced to England in 1857, but their popularity soared in 1860 when portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children were published.

The carte de visite made photographic portraits accessible to the middle classes for the first time, and people began collecting portraits of their friends, family and celebrities, sometimes mounting them in albums.

The popularity of cartes de visite peaked in the 1860s, but they remained popular until the early 20th century.

Benjamin Morris was a photographer in Rugby during the 1890s. His studio on the High Street was taken over by photographer George Dean in 1896.

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