Jules Richard (1848-1930)
Born in 1848, Jules Richard would use skills, learned and refined in the business of precision instrument making, to create the most popular line of Stereo cameras, viewers and accessories of the early 20th century. His father, Felix, died in 1876 leaving the family business in poor condition. Jules Richard took over, and in 1880 patented a highly successful recording barometer. The firm expanded its line of scientific instruments, and by the 1890s Richard was enjoying considerable success. Along the way, he acquired an interest in stereo photography.
Seeing an opportunity, in 1893 he patented an new stereo camera - the Verascope. Up to this time, cameras were bulky and cumbersome to operate. Along with the new camera, Richard developed his 45x107 millimeter format, allowing more compact cameras and reduced weight. A talented marketer and innovator, Richard hit on the right combination at the right time. One could argue his impact on stereo photography was every bit as great as George Eastman's impact on flat photography. Not only did the 45x107 format become the most popular stereo standard of its day, but Richard followed up with viewers, printing equipment and all the accessories necessary to enjoy the stereo hobby. No one else took such a thorough approach.
There has been very little published in English about the personal life of Jules Richard. Apparently, he was not overly concerned with his public perception, allowing the image of the company to take the lead. Although a form of his company still survives, Richard himself had no children, and the company's connection to photography ended with the demise of the post WWII stereo fad. One thing we do know, Jules Richard loved his ladies. I am told he was married to a prostitute, and thanks to the surviving record, we know he enjoyed photographing nudes.
In the post Victorian era, European morals can hardly be described as loose. Yet, Richard spent considerable time and effort photographing naked women, and not just for personal consumption. In spite of their potentially scandalous nature, Richard sold copies of his nudes. No doubt many a viewer and slides were sold to "sporting gentlemen" thanks to these images. In today's world, one might argue it was strictly a business venture, designed to encourage comment and sell more product. It would appear, however, his interests were legitimate and the resulting commercial opportunity was merely a bonus.
Jules Richard was by no means the only photographer of naked women. He employed at least one photographer who also shot nudes, and of course there were any number of commercial and amateur photographers of the era who created collections as well. Richard's images are generally recognizable by location, and the examples linked below are divided accordingly.
Today, as a direct link to the man who contributed so much to generations of stereo photographers and collectors, Richard nudes are among the most sought after of 45x107 format images. For a long time I resisted buying any Richard nudes, but a friend pointed out not having any represented a genuine gap in my collection. The Autochrome portrait of Jules Richard illustrating this article does not belong to me. Although I have never seen one for sale, apparently there was a photographer who on occasion shot Autochromes at L'Atrium.