André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, born on March 28, 1819 in Paris, was a significant portrait photographer of the 19th century and the inventor of the "carte-de-visite".
After studying painting from 1831-37, Disdéri was a member of a theater troupe for three years. Afterwards, he began to be interested in photographic techniques and opened his first photography studio in Brest.
In 1853, André Disdéri developed a (multiple-optic) camera that was equipped with six to eight symetrically arranged lenses and which produced just as many miniature portraits (cartes-de-visite) in a 6X9 cm format upon illumination of the plate. One year later, he applied for a patent for his invention and opened a large photo studio in Paris, which he however had to abandon after only two years because of financial difficulties.
The year 1859 was a turning point in André Disdéri’s life: all of a sudden, his portraits in calling-card format became popular when Napoleon III had his picture taken in Disdéri’s studio. André Disdéri’s calling-card pictures were now in demand in noble houses throughout Europe, and soon they became considered chic among the broader population as well, where the small portraits were given as gifts or displayed in homes.
In short order, Disdéri became a wealthy man. He started more studios (for example in St. Cloud and later in London) and made portraits of countless celebrities. Disdérie planned to publish these portraits under the title Galerie des contemporains (Gallery of Contemporaries). However, luck was no longer on Disdéri’s side – through speculation, he lost his entire fortune.
Blind, deaf and a poor man, André Disdéri died on October 4, 1889 in Paris. The carte-de-visite remained fashionable up to the beginning of the 20th century and served in addition a purely practical function: they were used, for example, by the police for easier identification of criminal offenders.
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