Collodion negatives of a French soldier

A collection of three 13x18cm collodion glass plate negatives. The large size and the use of the wet plate collodion process makes it a rare acquisition. The images show an unknown French soldier, photographed in a studio. His kepi shows the number four, which means that he was part of the 4th Infantry Regiment. The regiment’s origin dates back to 1494 and it fought on various battlefields during the First World War[1]. The soldier carries a Chassepot rifle which was used by the French army between 1866 and 1874[2] and the belt is a model 1845[3].

The overcoat is harder to date. It’s possible that the soldier was part of the Garde Mobile, a guard of civilian soldiers. They wore combinations of different uniforms. It’s very likely that the photo was made around the Franco-Prussian War of 1870[3].

Collodion negatives of a French soldier

The second photo shows that the soldier’s facial expression is different in both photos. The photo was apparently not taken with a stereo camera, but with a normal camera. The two captures that made up the stereo pair were taken at short intervals during which the camera’s position was shifted or the photographer used two cameras in two positions, but both shutters were not operated simultaneously. These were common methods of taking stereo photos before stereo cameras became popular.

Collodion  negatives of a French soldier
Collodion  negatives of a French soldier

There is also a third possibility. Maybe these photos were not intended as stereo photos, but simply as two captures on one glass plate. An anaglyph can help to understand the photographer’s intentions and shows that the images have stereo depth effect, so these images were meant to be stereo photos.


  1. 4e régiment d’infanterie – via:
  2. Chassepot – via:
  3. Uniform analyse by Maarten Otte, author of The Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 – Touring the Sedan campaign, 2020
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