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Fascinating Five-Fold Portraits from the Late 19th Century

Back in the early days of photography, photographers sought all sorts of gimmicks and novel ways to take photos in order to entice potential customers into having their portraits taken. Among the tricks they came up with involved making four copies of the sitter in just one photograph.

Called many things but mostly known as the multigraph, the technique involves clever use of mirrors and the strategic placement of the subject (or subjects) to create the illusion of five likenesses in a single photograph. Kind of puts into perspective another interesting technique from the 1860s called portrait doubles, don’t you think? Why settle with a twin when you can get four siblings in a snap?

According to German blogger Heinz-Werner Lawo, multigraphs or five-fold portraits emerged around 1893, with the photos sometimes used for postcards and advertisements aside from gracing family albums. Below are some five-fold photos featured in his blog dedicated to this late 19th century technique. If you look closely, some of the photos actually show the two mirrors that make the illusion possible, and if you’ve ever been in a mirror house, you have already seen its full effect.

What do you think of this early photographic technique? Something you’d like to try doing, perhaps? Share your insights with us and leave a comment below!

written by plasticpopsicle

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