Cartes de Visite: The Original Social Media

The Cartes de Visite craze in the second half of the nineteenth century was recognised, even at the time, as a social phenomenon.  

Join Peter Jordan-Turner as he reveals how problematic early photographic technologies were swept aside by a method of production and usage that welcomed all but the very poorest into the studios that sprang up in every town and city in Britain. 

Cooks and countesses, railway porters and aldermen could all see themselves as never before, almost instantly, and their likenesses were shared with their social circle, or sent to family and sweethearts to cement relationships in an age that saw greater mobility around the country and the Empire. 

This new sharing of photographic portraits established a habit that has grown stronger as each new technology placed photography closer to the people who ultimately use it, and is the true ancestor of Instagram and every other photo sharing platform.’ 

Peter Jordan-Turner is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Derby and the University of Gloucestershire, and is a Trustee for the W.W.Winter Heritage Trust. 

He is also pursuing a doctorate in the history of nineteenth century commercial photography, and is author of ‘From Darkroom into light: Photographic archives and community cohesion’ to be presented at the 5th CAA Conference in Greece in April 2024.