André Ruiter Stereoscopy

Stereo photography and the French army

August 29, 2021
Stereo photography and the French army - B&W photographer and collector of antique photographica
This 9,5 x 14 cm gelatin silver print is showing two soldiers of the French army in a photo developing workshop. There's a stereoscope on the table.

The soldiers are part of La Section Photographique de l'Armée. This photography unit of the French army was established during the First World War in 1915. The SPA consisted of five different units. The soldiers in the photo are part of the technicians who were responsible for developing the negatives that were taken by the photographers at the front. At the end of 1917, the technical unit consisted of 58 people and was led by Lieutenant Marcel Jougla. He was a member of the Jougla family that produced photographic negatives and papers. Interesting detail is that these Jougla products were also used by the SPA.

This photo is probabely taken somewhere between 1915 and 1919 and shows various objects used in the photography darkroom. In the background, four prints with images of ruins hang on a rack to dry above a stove. A projector is visible on the right side.

On the table are a Brewster-style stereoscope and a camera which looks like a Gaumont Spido. There are no records showing which brands of cameras the SPA used, so I think this photo is historically very interesting. It's not possible to trace the supplier of the stereoscope, as almost every stereoscope manufacturer produced these models.

Stereo photography in the French army
Gaumont Spido camera and Brewster-style stereoscope

The SPA's preserved archive contains glass negatives in the sizes 6 x 13, 9 x 12 and 13 x 18cm. The 6 x 13cm negatives contain stereo photos and panoramic photos. The stereoscope in the photo is probably for this size.

The SPA made about 20,000 stereo photos during the First World War. The stereoviews were mainly used for exhibitions to inform the French public about the course of the war.