Some philosophers viewed photography an object similar to the sun that revealed the images projected by objects. When the photos became three-dimensional, the camera had accomplished that of the sun, and spatial perception was born in photos. Oliver Wendell Holmes was infatuated with the stereoscope, and he claimed that viewing a picture in stereo was cheating the senses and creating a virtual reality. According to Holmes, many people thought they were looking at miniature figures when looking through the stereoscope, as stereo vision was not understood like it is today (Holmes 74).

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Holmes further notes that to see in three dimensions, one must have both eyes open. He then passionately describes how the mind feels around objects to give depth perception (Holmes 76). Holmes is obviously in awe of the stereoscope, and he notes that in pictures, one can only see what the artist wants one to see. However, in a picture, there are details that emerge that even the photographer does not know. Holmes proposed a stereographic library, which would be the equivalent of our virtual reality today, although not as complex as Holmes would have thought (Holmes 81).

John Plunkett also wrote of the stereoscope and stereographs. The discussion of depth perception included how the stereograph solved some mystery behind the relationship between perception, vison, and touch. Some believed we only had spatial perception by touching objects and educating ourselves on shapes. The stereograph revealed some insight into the fact that the brain does most of the figuring by using binocular vision. Still, some believed that infants saw inverted images until touching objects for the first time (Plunkett 391). They believed that the brain then knew to invert images to correct them. The debate continued, and the stereoscope did not completely solve the mysteries of vision.

  • Holmes, Oliver Wendell. (1859). “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph.”
  • Plunkett, John. “‘Feeling Seeing’: Touch, Vision and the Stereoscope.” History of Photography, vol. 37, no. 4, 2013, pp. 41-50 doi: 10.1080/03087298.2013.785718