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Jesús de Echebarria. A Stereoscopic Chronicle of the Early 20th Century

In 1852, John Benjamin Dancer patented the binocular stereoscopic camera. The device tried to mimic human vision by taking two images of a single motif thanks to two lenses placed at a distance similar to that of human eyes. The observer perceived a three-dimensional image when viewed through a stereoscope, like the one invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1838.

In the early 20th century, Jesús de Echebarria (b. 1882, Bilbao−d. 1962, Bilbao) purchased several models of this kind of camera and he photographed not only the lively boulevards of London, Paris, Bilbao, or San Sebastian, but also religious events, work and leisure scenes, landscapes, nudes, and portraits. He captured the bucolic air of the rural areas and chronicled the bustle of a society in full industrial and political development, delving into the modern metropolis and its markets and plazas, mines and shipyards, and reflecting not just the moment but the entire atmosphere. Echebarria’s stereoscopic views show a curious mixture of rural and urban, of the traditional primary sector and the powerful industry that was growing on the banks of the Nervión-Ibaizabal river.

With his stereoscopic camera, the illustrious bilbaíno captured many private and public themes on over 2,000 glass plates. This gallery presents a small selection that encapsulates his harmonious and elegant portrait of the new society, its new leisure activities, and the prominent role of women in the new economy.

Jesús de Echebarria’s photographs constitute a very personal wonder cabinet of a recent past, an intimate and true account of events, of the time he lived in, and his entire universe.

Jesús de Echebarria
Bilbao: Fitting Workshop at Euskalduna Shipyard, June 1916
Anaglyph stereoscopic photograph printed on
back-lit polyester
Private collection

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