Seizure-inducing but awesome 1930s France

Fair warning: this entry is not for the faint of eyeball.

A few months ago, photography enthusiast and Redditor AlexisfromParis found a wooden box in a thrift store in Paris’ 15th arrondissement. The box contained approximately 50 glass plates of side-by-side stereographic pictures of France in the 1930s, and it came with a period stereograph viewer.

Anaglyph of France in the 1930sAlexis took the box home and scanned the side-by-side stereograms. He converted them into anaglyphs, superimposed red and cyan images which when viewed through 3D glasses integrate into one image with the illusion of dimensional depth. Then, for those of us not equipped with 3D glasses, he combined the two slightly offset black-and-white images into an animated GIF that flickers like crazy, but if you can get past that does convey some of the depth you’d see looking through the stereograph viewer without having to use any external equipment.

Animated version of stereographic picture

I love the stillness of the posed people against the hyperactive background. My favorite animation along those lines is this one:

Paris balcony, 1930s

It’s as if Whistler’s Mother were sitting in a club while strobe lights illuminated the background.

Just one more and then I’ll link you to the rest. Here is a man either dancing with or bowing before a lion:

Lion!

Here is Alexis’ gallery of anaglyphs. Here are the raw 3D side-by-sides. Here is the gallery of animations.

The animation technique Alexis used is known as wiggle stereoscopy, for obvious reasons, and is a fun toy if you’re not prone to seizures or motion sickness. The New York Public Library has a nifty tool for people to create animated GIFs from the library’s massive collection of 40,000 stereographic pictures: the Stereogranimator.

The Library of Congress has almost 9,000 stereographs from the Civil War available online. They don’t have a wiggle stereoscopy tool to make them dance, but they’re still fascinating to browse, and you can always put them together yourself in any photo editing software that creates animated GIFs (GIMP is free, although not what I would call intuitive).

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5 Comments »

Comment by Julie
2012-04-19 03:05:33

Hah! I suffer from oscillopsia, so I am faint of eye-ball. However, the entire story is a wow!

Comment by livius drusus
2012-04-19 15:17:56

Does that mean you saw the pictures flicker even more than they do on their own, or does your eyeballs’ oscillations negate the animations’?

 
 
Comment by Blake
2012-04-19 06:16:21

HIDEOUS

 
Comment by James the Third
2012-04-19 22:28:16

Actually, both my wife and I found that to be a nifty way of presenting the stereo image… In my case, at least, a youth lived in the 60′s and 70′s may contribute to my easy acceptance of the flickering!

 
Comment by Damian Walker
2012-04-28 11:52:56

One of my eyes is lazy and has extremely poor vision, so the effect of stereoscopic images have always been lost on me. This is the first time I’ve seen them as they were intended! Thanks for the tip with the GIMP, I’ll doubtless be doing it quite often from now on.

 
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