Stereographic images were published by most of the major combatant nations involved in the First World War – the exception being Russia. These photographic images were printed in a variety of ways: directly on photographic paper, photographic paper glued to cardboard, directly on glass, or reproduced as lithographs on paper. In several instances the same images were published in multiple formats and sizes, often with image cropping involved. Publishers also purchased images from each other, thus creating a tangled mess for the researcher. These notes – along with the Image Lists and Image Library on this site – are intended to provide information concerning the publishers involved, what they published (and when), and establish where the original images came from.
The professional stereo cameras of the day were tripod affairs with the images recorded on glass plates. This arrangement precluded obtaining action shots except from a great distance as anyone standing out in the open near the front was soon dead. Many of the countries involved also restricted photography or limited it for propaganda purposes. As a result, most Great War stereoscopic images are taken: in rear areas away from the fighting, during training exercises, deliberately staged, in trenches or other locations below the firing line, or after the fighting had moved on. A great many of the published views are post-war, particularly in those sectors where photographers were not allowed during the war. The French Minister of War created a special Army Photographic Section to record the atrocities of the war (used later when determining reparations from Germany) and gain the propaganda advantage. Not surprisingly, France produced the richest, most varied collection of stereographs of any of the warring nations.
Orders forbidding the possession by ordinary soldiers of cameras in the war zone were routinely ignored, particularly by the officer class. Small hand-held cameras with glass plate negatives did not produce images of professional quality, but they were easy for an individual to smuggle in and use. Some of these images are actually taken on the battlefield, while others concern aspects of the war not covered by the professionals. A few of these private images made their way into the sets of the major publishers, but most are still held by the descendants of those involved. We have obtained a number of these private sets and researched them where possible.
These research notes are arranged by the warring nations which published them. NOTE: We are in the process of enhancing this web site. These links will take you to the older version of the Research Notes. Please use your browser’s BACK key to return here and not the buttons on these older pages. Also be aware that some of the links on the older pages are broken, and any stereview lists are likely obsolete.