Brian May's collection of 3D stereoscopic photography to go on display at Tate Britain

The former Queen guitarist  has lent his collection of stereoscopic pictures to Tate Modern

The Victorian craze for 3D stereoscopic photography is to be the subject of a major gallery exhibition for the first time - thanks to former Queen guitarist Brian May.

The veteran rock star has lent his extensive personal collection of stereoscopic pictures - which use two photographs to conjure a 3D image - to Tate Britain for a new exhibition opening next month.

May, 67, who has been collecting the images for more than 40 years, told The Independent he was delighted that the Tate was highlighting a photographic technique that had been “neglected by art historians for 150 years”.

The exhibition, A Poor Man’s Picture Gallery: Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography, is focusing on photographs that recreate artworks in Tate’s collection, such as Henry Wallis’ Chatterton, and the card players in Hearts are Trumps by 19th Century painter Sir John Everett Millais.

Carol Jacobi, curator at Tate, said: “These photographs were a real craze in the 1850s and 1860s, all over the world, not just in Britain. This is the first major British gallery to focus on this form of photography.” 

The two photographs in stereoscopic pictures - which are taken from a slightly different angle - are displayed side by side. When seen through a special viewer they give the illusion of three dimensions. Chatterton-Robinson, Michael Burr, The Death of Chatterton c. 1861.Photograph, hand coloured albumen prints on stereo card

In the 1850s, they became hugely popular with the public and could be bought for a few shillings or even rented. Photographers including Michael Burr and Thomas Richard Williams were particular associated with the form.

“Stereoscopic photographs were so ubiquitous at the time and were seen as pretty disposable,” Dr Jacobi said. “They are now quite difficult to track down. That’s why we collaborated with Brian May, he has built a collection over 40 years.”

There are 26 sets of stereoscopic photographs in the exhibition. Some will be hung on the wall for the exhibition and there will be 12 examples to be seen through a viewer.

May said his love of stereoscopic photography started from collecting 3D cards that came free in packets of Weetabix breakfast cereal.

“I sent away for the viewer which made the cards spring to life in stereoscopic splendour. When I saw that this magic could be achieved, I couldn’t see the point of limiting photography to two dimensions,” he said.

He continued to collect throughout his music career and touring with Queen, contacting photo dealers around the world. He  has built up a collection of tens of thousands of pieces stereoscopic material, though those from the mid-19th century are the rarest.

Dr Jacobi said: “In the 19th century, photograph versions of paintings had enormous audiences. Though most have been lost, these ones have never been displayed with the actual paintings.”

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'