Carte de Visite
Emily Lane - February 11, 2019
In post-goldrush Australia, pocket-sized portraits known as cartes de visite, were taken and collected like crazy.
Invented in 1854 by French photographer André Disdéri, cartes de visite were small photographic prints mounted on cards measuring just 10 by 6 centimetres. They became wildly popular in the late 1850s and their popularity spread to countries around the world. Printed in multiple from a single glass plate negative, cartes were affordable, portable and designed to be collectable, becoming a lucrative industry for photographers and studios worldwide. For the first time, people were able to collect and exchange portraits with relatives and friends, with cartes finding a handy home in the recipient’s family album. They enabled people from various walks of life to acquire many portraits for a matter of shillings.
But no craze lasts forever, and the enthusiasm for cartes de visite faded in the 1880s around the time George Eastman’s Kodak camera was introduced.
The National Portrait Gallery (an Artifax client) in the Australian Capital Territory has a burgeoning collection of Cartes de Visite, and they are currently celebrating their collection with a special exhibition called ‘Carte-o-mania!’
The pictured carte de visite is featured in the National Portrait Gallery’s Carte-o-mania! It shows Lady Anne Maria Barkly and was photographed by Batchelder & O’Neill in Melbourne in 1863. Lady Barkly (1838-1932) was a British Botanist who collected and drew plant specimens while accompanying her husband Sir Henry Barkly on his governing duties around the Empire.