David Richardson is on a mission to restore 500 stereoscopic images taken during the Civil War.
In my in-DDDepth interview with David you’ll learn about who took these historic 3D photos, early 3D cameras, you’ll see some of the most incredible 3D images (original and restored), the first photojournalism image ever taken, his participation in the Annenberg Space for Photography Digital Darkroom show and how you can own David Richardson’s brilliant restorations in black & white, sepia, color or anaglph!
JS: How did you discover the Civil War 3D photos?
DR: Like many people of my generation I grew up with View Masters… I honestly thought that was the start of 3D and knew nothing of what came before. When I was 16 and had my first paycheck I found an antique store that was selling a classic wooden Holmes style viewer from the 1900’s along with about 50-70 cards.
I picked up the viewer put in the first card and pointed it to the light (like you need to do with a view master). The shop owner showed me how to stand with my back to the light and I was immediately hooked! I could not believe what I was looking at. Most of the images were from the 1890’s – 1910, but I had never seen any 3D that old. He told me that there were ones from the Civil War, which I was completely blown away.
I have at least three ancestors that fought in the war and was living within five miles of one of the battlefields (that two of my ancestors fought in, Kennesaw National Battlefield outside Atlanta). The price for most of the cards I was looking at was $1-2, but the price of the Civil War ones was $20-30. I bought the viewer and all of the $1-2 cards he had. I couldn’t afford the Civil War ones. Over the years I continued to collect period stereo cards until now I have about 300 ranging from 1870-1920. I have a great set from WWI, but every time I went to buy Civil War ones the price would go up just a little more and always out of reach. When I did see one I could afford the quality and fading was so strong that you could barely enjoy the image.
JS: When did you decide to restore these historic 3D images?
DR: I searched for Civil War photographs, not looking for 3D images, just looking for something to play with. I found several great images of varying size and quality along with a few hand tinted images that others had done. After looking for a few weeks I stumbled upon the Library of Congress collection of Civil War photographs. I didn’t know where to start, so I put Custer into the search engine and came up with this image:
A light bulb immediately went off, not only did the Library of Congress have all of their negatives available online, but they had stereo images! Finally, all of the images that I had wanted since I was 16 could be found online for free! Each image is approximately 100Mb per side and is the equivalent of working with about a 40 Megapixel camera.
I downloaded both sides of the Custer image (left/right) and restored it in black & white, sepia and color:
I downloaded every stereo image in the LOC collection (about 2200) and later all the ones from the National Archives (about 800). Now, I search for the images with the best potential and the most historical significance. My goal is to restore 500 images in black & white, sepia, color and anaglyph.
JS: What gear do you use?
DR: … Along with coming up with my own process I improved my tools, acquired a drawing tablet (Wacom Bamboo with a stylus w/ a mouse), the latest version of Photoshop and standard tablet image colors to use for most restorations.
IN PART 2: Learn the incredible story behind the man who photographed the Civil War in 3D, the 3D camera & techniques he used and historic 3D images that will blow you away!
More 3D pictures @ The Brain Factory Facebook Group
This piece was lightly edited for clarity.