Triggered by childhood cereal box giveaways, May has held a lifelong passion for 3D photos and the 67-year-old rock star’s now 100,000-strong collection of stereoscopes is one of the biggest in the world. The exhibition at London’s Tate Britain gallery, matching up the 3D photo recreations with the original Victorian paintings, is a dream come true for the guitar wizard.
“It’s only recently that I realised how intimately they were connected,” May told AFP. “The stereoscopic side was always regarded as not quite artistic or as valid as the painting side but in this exhibition, you can make up your own mind.”
Just as two eyes produce three-dimensional vision, two pictures taken eye-width apart, when laid side by side and seen through a viewer, produce a 3D image. At the Tate gallery, visitors can see the re-creation, then look up and see the original painting.
“When people look at the paintings, they go, ‘Oh, beautiful’. When they look through the stereoscope they go ‘Oh, wow!’,” said May. “This stuff, the very earliest, is full of the excitement of the newness of the medium. “I’m really thrilled. I hope people get a kick out of seeing this stuff.”
British musician Brian May poses with an owl viewer in front of John Everett Millais painting ‘Hearts are Trumps’ at the Tate Britain in London. (Photo: AFP/Ben Stansall)
The exhibition coincides with a heavyweight book of these Victorian images, called “The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery”, which May co-authored with French expert Denis Pellerin, a stereo photography historian. It unravels in detail the links between the two very different – but at the time competing – art forms.
“Stereoscopy was the poor relation of photography, just as photography was the poor relation of art in the beginning,” Pellerin told AFP. “The whole point of this exhibition is to show people that stereoscopy is an art.”