This month we feature 11 stereographs taken by William H. Leeson, ca. 1865-1869. The Leeson stereographs form
part of a collection of 43 stereoscopic views of New Orleans -- the oldest photographs in
the Louisiana Division's collections -- most taken by two local photographers, S.T. Blessing and W.H. Leeson.
A stereograph is an early form of photography, produced from the 1850s into the twentieth century, until the
advent of motion pictures eclipsed its popularity. A double photograph was
mounted on card stock so that, side by side, the two photographs, each taken from a slightly different perspective,
appeared as a three-dimensional image when seen through a stereographic viewer. Stereoscopic views of the world were
the rage in the
late nineteenth century, produced by the thousands by commercial photographers for the edification and pleasure of
the eager public.
Little is known about W.H. Leeson, the photographer featured in this Gallery. He arrived in New Orleans after the Civil
War and, until 1874, operated from studios on Poydras and Canal Streets and also from a wagon which allowed him to
photograph areas both outside and inside the city. Leeson also later worked as an engraver and a publisher of sheet
music. An advertisement in the April 3, 1870 Daily Picayune sang his praises:
GO TO LEESON'S -- Photographs which can scarcely be surpassed in point
of artistic execution, beauty and durability, are taken at Leeson's favorably known photographic rooms, No. 129 Canal
Street. A look into his camera obscura will produce the most delightful pictures, such of which it may truly be said, a
thing of beauty is a joy forever.' Mr. Leeson gives particular attention to porcelain pictures, which he executes in a style
by which he is invariably bound to give perfect satisfaction. In order to have a picture, which will be true to life, with all
the finish of art, take the advice and go to Leeson's.
Leeson worked in New Orleans at the same time as another photographer, Theodore Lilienthal, who photographed
many of the same subjects as Leeson. In 1867, Lilienthal was commissioned by the City of New Orleans to take a series
of photographs of the city to be exhibited at the Paris Exposition and then presented to Emperor Napoleon III.
Lilienthal's marvelous photographs of post Civil War New Orleans, recently rediscovered in the Napoleon Museum in
Switzerland, were exhibited in the Fall of 2000 at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Lost New Orleans:
Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal for the Emperor Napoleon III." The exhibit, organized by the Southeastern
Architectural Archive of Tulane University was on view at NOMA and the
Newcomb Art Gallery from September 7 to November 19. For a taste of images similar to Lilienthal's, enjoy this month's Gallery.