Rare photograph manipulations before Photoshop: 1855-1950.

Two-Headed Man: Unknown, American ca. 1855 Daguerreotype

It is quite curious for us to look back at an age of visual practice which did not have the tools that we take as an assured presence now. From anonymous daguerreotypers (about 1855) to Oscar Rejlander (very often credited with one of the earliest articulations of manipulated photographs – 1857), the century that was to follow saw the imaginations and skills of myriad ‘trick photographers’ come to the fore. The George Eastman House and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have in their collection some of the early ‘imagineering’ that occurred much before the Knoll brothers changed the image making world in the latter half of the twentieth century. Take a look.

Cloud Study: Gustave Le Gray 1856-1857 Albumen silver print from glass negatives.

Aberdeen Portraits No. 1: 1857 by George Washington Wilson. Albumen print from glass negative.

Fading Away: Henry Peach Robinson 1858 Albumen silver print from glass negatives.

Man Juggling His Own Head: De Torbéchet, Allain & C. ca. 1880 by Saint Thomas D’Aquin. Albumen silver print.

A dog shows his wounds in this print dated 1885.

Unknown. Late 1880s.

A mummy comes to life in this cabinet card, dated 1885.

From the late 1800s, a manipulated photo of a ‘decapitated man’.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model: 1892 by Maurice Guibert. Gelatin silver print.

A dream of Christmas: Dated 1897 by Strohmeyer & Wyman.

Ghost image. Unknown. 1905.

The Vision: (Orpheus Scene) 1907 by F. Holland Day. Platinum print.

A card enthusiast enjoys a game with his canine partner, in this photo from a postcard dated 1909.

Unknown, German School. 1910s. Gelatin silver print.

A trio dressed in Mardi Gras costumes in this image from 1911. (Den Bosch, The Netherlands).

Colorado Springs, Colorado: William Henry Jackson ca. 1913. Collage of gelatin silver prints with applied media.

Room with Eye: 1930 by Maurice Tabard and Roger Parry Gelatin, silver print

Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders: Unknown, American ca. 1930. Gelatin silver print.

Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building: Unknown, American 1930 Gelatin. silver print.

Hearst Over The People: 1939 by Barbara Morgan.

Dream No. 1: ‘Electrical Appliances for the Home’ by Grete Stern ca. 1950. Gelatin silver print.

Related Posts

Share this! :)

Leave a Reply

17 Comments on "Rare photograph manipulations before Photoshop: 1855-1950."

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Akshaya Verma

Traditional history and revisionist history. I’m confused on what each one is. I understand that revisionist history is when a scholar or a professor gives there view point and opinion on a historical event (or so I believe) but what is traditional history? Is that the bias history that one learns during childhood saying that George Washington is the greatest president of all time and things like that?


Good to see this stuff. thanks for sharing man


super time capsule..thanks


all this has been reduced to filters, actions and clicks now – not the same, and I dont mean that in a good way!

Artist in Exile

Somewhere there was always a need to represent more that what we see with the naked eye. Fantasy has always been at the forefront of the the creative act.


The idea was always to escape reality….

Marvin B

must visit these NY museums.


I’m a student of media and visual cultures, and this was a good look at some archival material. Will email you for some help.


I am quite an archival buff, and its great to see these. Some of them are quite bizarre…

Dinna Aiseh

lot of hard labour i am sure to get these right. PS is too much of a short cut now.


Two headed man,,lol. can laugh it off now,,,


one can see modernism in 1950…

adebe samson

i wonder how early trick fotogrphy was in the rest of d world.


More of attempts to shock and create fantasy scapes, as well as humor. not much has changed.

Probal C

The headless man and the juggler gets the grand prize!


i cud not help but grin at the attempts at shocking viewers. luv the trick photograohy for dummies cover. :)


This is quite a treasure. Not all of them are manipulations per se, as few of them appear to be costumed/posed.