Images of the Month Gallery
September 2000

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.

Click on the images below to see a larger version and accompanying text.
And click HERE to revisit previous Images of the Month Galleries.

School of Medicine, Canal Street
Masonic Hall, St. Charles Avenue
Claiborne Green
Trinity Church, Jackson Avenue
St. Charles Hotel
Sugar Shed levee
Canal Street
Canal Street
Moresque Building
Claiborne Market
Lake House, Lake End

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iw 9/1/2000