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Topic: Carte de visite - Portraits for the people

Is part of topic Striking Poses (Te Papa Exhibition - 12 March 2003 - 01 November 2003)

The carte de visite (calling-card photo) was the first type of photograph produced on paper. It brought studio portrait photos within the reach a much wider range of people. Its name came from the cards visitors left when making social calls to people’s homes.

Collecting cartes de visite became a craze between the 1860s and 1880s. Multiple copies could be produced, so they were relatively cheap, and they were easy to mail ‘home’ to family and friends in other countries.

The carte also made possible the first ‘celebrity’ photography, with a growing demand for images of popular and notable figures. Curiosity among European settlers about New Zealand’s ‘other’ culture created a lucrative market for images of Maori, too.

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