Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cross your eyes and see the Civil War in 3D


FAIR OAKS, Va.
     One hundred and fifty years ago, our forefathers may have lacked electric lights, horseless carriages, or freed slaves, but by golly they had figured out 3D photography.
    That was one of the peripheral surprises from my research of Stoneman's Raid. 
    This double image was taken by James F. Gibson, who apprenticed under Mathew Brady. It shows Col. George Stoneman (right) seated next to Gen. Henry Naglee at Fair Oaks, Virginia, during the Peninsula campaign in 1862. 
    These almost-identical frames were snapped simultanously by side-by-side cameras, mimicking the way we see with our two eyes. If you happen to have a old-fashioned stereoscope, you can easily view it in 3D. 
     If you don't ... well, most of us have a crude stereoscope built in. Hold the image at eye level and arm's length. Cross your eyes so that your left eye is looking at the right image, and vice versa. Wait for it. Soon, the 3D image should come into focus between the two frames.
    It may help to use a larger image than I can show on this blog. Click here.
    Careful! Mama said that if you cross your eyes, your face could freeze like that. 
    And as you sit there disobeying Mama and crossing your eyes, never forget you're facing a tiny camera just above your screen. Somebody may be watching you. In fact, somebody may be watching you from 150 years in the future. 
     Give 2165 a cross-eyed wink!

UPDATE July 20, 2016: I finally figured out how to animate this image so that you don't have to cross your eyes: 
To see lots more 3D images of the Civil War, click here. Another portrait of Gen. Stoneman is posted here.

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