Three children and a stereoscope

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A small carte-de-visite from c. 1870 showing three little children with a Brewster-type stereoscope on the table. The photo has a size of 6 x 9 cm and is pasted on 6.5 x 10.5 cm cardboard with round corners. The back shows the name Sanitas Mont-Dore Succursale Clermont Ferrand, and refers to the photo studio in Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of France. The card also shows the text Rapporter ce No. pour avoir le même portrait (mention this number to have the same portrait). The studio apparently kept a good archive of their negatives to process repeat orders, although the number is not filled in on this card.

The stereoscope on the table has most likely no relation to the children in the photo, but is a so-called “prop”. A prop is an object or piece of scenery used in a photograph to enhance the composition, convey a certain mood, theme, or setting, or to support the person being portrayed. Photographers used props to add depth to their portraits, tell a story, or indicate the social status, profession, or interests of their subjects. Props such as books, musical instruments, or tools were common. They helped to create visual interest and variety in photographs and were essential in setting the scene for a photograph, especially in a studio.