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The American Museum of Photography: Masterworks of Photography

The American Museum of Photography: Masterworks of Photography

Edward Anthony (U.S., 1819-1888): “Broadway on a Rainy Day,” from Anthony’s Instantaneous Views

Stereoscopic albumen photograph on card, approx. 3.5 x 7 inches overall, 1860


Until the first “instantaneous” images (those made in a fraction of a second), photographs of cities showed the streets seemingly devoid of traffic, almost eerily empty. Anthony’s Instantaneous series combined the stunning 3-D illusion of stereoscopic photography with the novelty of stop-motion in a technical tour-de-force–the virtual reality of its day.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, influential editor of The Atlantic, lavished praise on Anthony’s early instantaneous pictures of Broadway–of which this variation was the most daring: “These Crowds caught in the very attitudes which lasted but for the space of a heart’s beat are really wonderful.”

Anthony sent his Broadway views to Europe and was rewarded with glowing reviews. The Journal of the Birmingham (England) Photographic Society enthused,

The noble street is represented thronged with carriages and foot passengers. All is life and motion. The trotting omnibus horses are caught with two feet off the ground, boys are running–men walking, riding, driving, carrying weights–ladies sweeping the dirty pavement with their long dresses, or trailing up their crinoline and displaying their pretty ankles as they trip over the crossings exactly as they do in Europe. We learn more from this Stereoscopic glimpse of Broadway than from a whole library of books of travels. In particular, the picture taken in the rain has a charming atmospheric effect;–the eye is carried along a mile of noble houses and shops, each more hazy than its neighbor, until you lose everything in the infinity of misty distance.

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