DISDÉRI, Andre Adolphe Eugene

b. 1819; d. 1889 or 1890

A French photographer, he was famous for developing the technique of making very small (101mm x 63mm) portraits, which came to be known as Carte-de-visite photographs. He patented this on 27 November 1854.

In May 1859 he had an extraordinarily lucky break, when Napoleon stopped his troops outside his studio and went in to have his photograph taken. Disdéri became instantly famous, and people flocked to his studio, making him a very rich man.

The process was so cheap that carte-de-visites became enormously popular, largely replacing the daguerreotype. Enterprising photographers began to take photographs of famous personalities, and copies were avidly collected by the people.

Disdéri is also credited with the invention of the twin-lens reflex camera.

At the height of his fame he was said to be one of the richest photographers in Europe. Sadly, however, his photographic sense was not matched by his business one, for he ended his career as a beach photographer in Monaco, dying virtually penniless.

© Robert Leggat, 1999.