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."
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.