New Life for Old Cartes de Visites

I am trying to spend some of my vacation time catching up on the blogs I read, partially in the hopes that this will inspire me to post more often here. I subscribe to Anthology Magazine (the print version and their blog) and if you haven’t heard of this great publication, I suggest you check out their website at the very least. Lots of inspirational articles about design, art, and craft-related topics.

Their post today about the creative company Treatzone—a couple that creates cards, artwork, notebooks, and other handmade paper goods, struck me as particularly interesting.

The focus of this article is their modern adaption of cartes de visites by overpainting the backgrounds with colorful, bold, geometric patterns.

A selection of Treatzone's altered portraits

My personal favorite


My first reaction as a conservator was to shake my head in dismay at these dramatically altered photographic portraits from the mid to late 19th centrury. But then I thought, actually, this is a great reuse for the hundreds of thousands of these objects that otherwise would be overlooked by many of us as old-fashioned and unwanted. They turn up in about every antique shop, flea market, and junk store I have ever visited.

Cartes de visites photographs, which translates to “visiting cards”, are small albumen prints mounted on cards measuring 2-1/2 by 4 inches. They were patented in Paris, France by photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854 and were wildly popular and made for decades in countries around the world. For the first time, relatives and friends could exchange standard-sized and inexpensive portraits, both in person and through the mail.

Be sure to check out Anthology magazine’s Issue No. 3 and Treatzone for more information and an opportunity to add these to your own collection.