1897 Book of Magic Shows the Wonders of Victorian Trick Photography

Even during the infancy of photography, people were shooting wonderful and unbelievable images

trick photography

trick photography

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, including Trick Photography is not a small book. Clocking in at 580 pages, this tome from 1897 is a compilation of tricks and trickery from the Victorain age, compiled and edited by Albert A. Hopkins. While most of its hefty length is devoted to the stage craft that made illusionists and magicians so popular, the last few hundred pages are something equally interesting: early trick photography.

Using early cameras, and basic, home-built shooting rigs, these photographers were able to take some incredible trick images. While in the days of Photoshop (or even modern darkrooms) many of these processes seem basic or easy, at the dawn of the 20th Century, they would have seemed incredible. These techniques include using forced perspective for giant or tiny subjects, various methods of "spirit photography", photographing split images of the same person, pinhole cameras, security cameras and more. There's even a section devoted to "chronophotography" which became the beginnings of the moving image.

It's an incredible look back at just what ingenuous photographers were capable of, even when saddled by what we would consider incredibly crude technology.