These trick mirror photos were once thought to be the future of portraiture

These photographs, collected by Connecticut College art history and anthropology professor Christopher B. Steiner, were created using a photo-multigraph or "trick mirror" technique.

Invented by James B. Shaw in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the early 1890s, a photo-multigraph is created by placing the sitter between two mirrors which are angled to produce four reflections of the subject.

By exposing a person's face from every angle, the photo-multigraph was touted as a system which would enable "us to see ourselves as others see us."

16 PHOTOS
'Trick' portraits
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'Trick' portraits
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
(Photo via Collection of Christopher B. Steiner)
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By the 1920s the photo-multigraph was a common novelty attraction at seaside, arcade, and boardwalk photo studios throughout America and Europe. As one author noted in 1931: "People on holiday will readily part with a dollar and a half or two dollars for a half dozen of these unusual five-in-one portraits."

The practice had all but vanished by the 1950s. What is left are thousands of multi-photographs commissioned by portrait-sitters long gone whose images continue to serve as objects of reflection.

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