Alexis Pierre Ignace Gaudin (November 28, 1816 – April 8, 1894) was born in a family of a cognac merchant in Saintes, in southwest France. Alexis was one of the most influential figures in the world of stereo-photography in the 1850-ies.
In 1843 with some help from his brother Marc-Antoine, he established his first business in Paris taking daguerreotype portraits, manufacturing plates and other daguerreotype accessories. In 1844 he took part in the French industrial exhibition in Paris. The firm was initially located at Montmartre, 76 to which an additional location at Vieille-de-Temple, 78 was added in 1845 when Alexis took over the business of J.-B. Pillioud. A branch in Marseille (rue de Paradis, 21) also existed for short time at the end of 1840-ies. In 1846 the firm moved to a new location, rue de la Perle, 7 (the building will change its address to rue de la Perle, 9 around 1852). It will remain there for more than 25 years (although managed by Charles Gaudin in the later period). By 1848 Alexis’ plate business grew to the point where it was decided to use a steam engine in the manufacturing process. The business was said to be so successful that it was able to export daguerreotype plates to England even though there was a duty of 25% on such imports there.
Alexis Gaudin became interested in stereoscopes very soon after Jules Duboscq demonstrated one to the public at the end of 1850. According to some accounts, it was a stereoscope made by Alexis Gaudin that was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
In November of 1851 Alexis acquired a magazine called La Lumiere which became one the most important photography publications in France for the next 16 years (La Lumiere stopped printing in 1867).
Already in June 1852 the firm of Alexis Gaudin was one of the first in Paris to sell stereoscopes. In 1854 the company opened a branch in London at 67, Newgate street in the City.
1855 was an eventful year for the business of the Gaudins. In January Alexis and his brother Charles decided to create a new company together which would carry the name “Alexis Gaudin et frère” (“Alexis Gaudin and brother”). The same year the firm received an honorable mention at the Paris International Exhibition. In June the firm moves its London branch to 26, Skinner street (at the end of 1859 the London address will change again to 5, Sermon Lane). And in August of that year the fire destroyed most of Alexis’ store in Paris. This incident did not affect the thriving business however and the new shop opened at the same address in January 1857.
Starting in 1856 the company would often be referred to as “Alexis Gaudin et frères” (“Alexis Gauding and brothers”), which might be an indication that another brother of Alexis and Charles joined in the business. Such use of the name was not very consistent though as the old name was used simultaneously.
“Alexis Gaudin et frère” was one of the largest establishments specializing in the publishing and distribution of stereoscopic photography. The company sold views by major French and foreign photographers (e.g. Alexandre Bertrand, Jules Couppier, Claude-Marie Ferrier and others). It is likely that Alexis also hired photographers to make some series in order to publish them. The firm also published books related to stereoscopic and photographic art.
In June of 1858 the company published and distributed in Paris and London a portrait of Napoleon III, who was photographed for the stereoscope by photographers Mayer and Pierson.
Also in 1858 the Gaudins published a series of views of Rome and in mid-1859 those of Russia. Towards the end of 1859 they published views of China and in mid-1860 those of Syria.
In the beginning of November 1860, in anticipation of the expiration of the 6-year term for which their business was established (which was to fall on the 1st of January, 1861) Alexis and Charles decided to close their business together and parted ways. Charles founded his own photographic company and Alexis continued on his own at the old address. In September 1864 Alexis sold his business to Charles (including the magazine La Lumiere and the store at rue de la Perle, 9).
Alexis died in Paris on the 8th of April, 1894.