Meet The Victorian Version Of The GIF — Now In GIF Form

Published May 31, 2016
Updated February 26, 2018

Before moving images existed, photographers used a technique called stereoscopic pairs to add movement to an otherwise static photo.

If you’ve seen photos taken before the year 1900, you may notice that some are displayed in identical pairs. It’s not the work of a wasteful photographer, but a specific kind of photo known as stereoscopic pairs. These images are kind of like the proto-GIF: If you alternated opening and closing your left and right eye, you would see the images “move” in one fluid scene.

Today, stereoscopic pairs can become actual GIFs, which takes some of the pressure off our eyes and provides us with the sensation of walking into the past:

Great Sphinx
Nuptual Ceremony
Central Park Skating
Mischief Brewing
Meet The Victorian Version Of The GIF — Now In GIF Form
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You can see more stereoscopic GIFs or create your own with the Stereogranimator. All images come courtesy of New York Public Library’s digital collection.


Next, learn why Victorians didn't smile in photos.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several published book covers in her career as a graphic artist.