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In the Studio: Finding history and mystery in found Carte-de-visite.

History is embedded within carte-de-visite and cabinet cards. Be it the embossed label of the photography studio, a hand written name or date, the size, to the image itself, it is constantly providing you clues to unearth a story, history, and/or mystery .

This is the case with the carte-de-visite I have used in my Cabinet Card Series. Not familiar with the image of the person, I was lead to the name of the photography studio, Disderi at the bottom left hand corner. Using the Getty website as a resource, I was able to learn more about Disderi, the French inventor of the carte-de-visite- a smaller precurser to the cabinet card.

André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, former merchant, actor, and daguerreotypist, patented his invention, the carte-de-visite (visiting card) photograph, in 1854. At nine-by-six centimeters, cartes were primarily portraits, about the size of a conventional calling card. Disdéri established his photographic practice with the manufacture of these tiny photographs. The carte-de-visite was popular until the late 1860s, when it was replaced by the larger cabinet card format.

Carte-de-viste, from Melanin and Me installation, 2016-2019.

Found Carte-de-viste and mixed media. Jessica Wimbley.


With a studio in Paris in 1862, I could place this carte-de-visite around this period, due to the studio Paris location stated on the back of the portrait. I am not sure of cursive writing in pencil that is also on the back of the card, but figure it could be a name. I then searched the Disderi Collection on the Getty website, hoping to find an image similar to mine to help me identify the figure.

Details, back of Carte-de-visite


And I sure did- props to the Getty for making this super quick and simple by the way! It also helps that the carte-de-visite was produced by the photographer who invented the format- a score for my personal archive.

Monsieur Thiers, about 1862 Part of Galerie des Contemporains. [Vol. 2]André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri (French, 1819 - 1889); Dollingen


The person in this photo is Adolphe Thiers, French statesman, journalist, and historian, a founder and the first president (1871–73) of the Third Republic and second elected French president. So this carte-de-visite is a portrait of an early French president in the late 19th century, taken by the French photographer who invented the format.

While some answers have been discovered about the photographer, portrait sitter, location, and time, there is still some glaring questions I have regarding the full back of the my carte-de-visite: Why is the word "Negro" stamped on it? When was this done? How does language speak to travel of the object? Who was this done by? This is part of the history of the object that I find compelling, and an interesting starting point to make interventions with the carte-de visite. In my mixed media intervention, I use additive process of graphite on the surface of the photo and mounting, as well as subtractive process by etching imagery directly into the photo. In response to the Negro stamp, I incorporated my leitmotif of a melanin ghost into to photo to speak to the relationship of race and identity .


Lft. Back of Carte-de-viste, from Melanin and Me installation, 2016-2019. Found Carte-de-viste and mixed media. Jessica Wimbley .Center, image of melanin ghost. Melanin determines hair, eye, and skin color in humans. Rt. Detail, Carte-de-viste, from Melanin and Me installation, 2016-2019. Jessica Wimbley

In the animation of my mixed media carte-de-visite, I bring the the Negro Stamp to the front of the image, revealing a temporal and dimensional elements to the history of the object and picture plane. The physical and digital hand are emphasized through movement, referencing early film production.

While I do not have an answer for the purpose of the Negro stamp on this carte-de-visite, it serves as a powerful example of the latent history within the object, and how that history can serve as inspiration and lead to more conceptual and esthetic ideas. By animating my mixed media collage work via digital collage, I am further pushing the process of collage across media, following a discursive history of photography, film, video, and digital media.




































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