My stereophotography and stereoview collection are two sides of the same coin for me and have a common origin story. Travel back with me to May 2014 — London. A chance encounter on a canal boat. A question asked. An answer given. My life… transformed.
Back in 1838 the concept of binocular vision had not yet been explored or written about anywhere. It was a scientist in his mid 30s who not only described the phenomenon later called stereopsis but also constructed a device to view two flat images in 3D which he called a stereoscope. This is especially remarkable as photography was not invented until one year later. Charles Wheatstone’s observations were based only on drawings. Most of these drawings are based on horizontal mirroring which is why we call them mirror stereos today. Read Wheatstone’s original source here.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts because we are going to embark on a trip to the Underworld! This is a series of “Modern Diableries” inspired by the original French Tissue stereo cards.
While most of the time the original Diableries were intended to be scary, my approach and interpretation on such Devilments is mostly cheerful and entertaining.
Sometimes you will get a glimpse of the individual history of your treasure and know where it was stored, wether it was looked after or long forgotten, if the owner was well situated or not, etc. For me, these stories are invaluable. As a passionate restorer, I especially appreciate viewers that have remained untouched since their last use. I carefully remove the dust of decades to reveal the original beauty of a stereoscope. Being the first one to do so feels almost like getting in touch with those who bought it a century ago. I want to take you to one of those journeys.
What kind of entertainment would you have as a Soviet kid growing up in the 1980s? A couple of dolls, clothes; metallic constructor sets, the vinyl recordings of children’s stories; some cassettes with popular Russian songs, and a bunch of filmstrips. These things were in almost everyone’s possession – at least, that’s how I remember my friend’s toys. However, I had something very special – a set of stereo cards, along with a simple stereoscope that looked like binoculars.
Not long after the Brewster viewer first appeared and the interest in stereoscopy grew the market for viewers grew likewise and many designs of stereoscopes appeared including some very fine British viewers. Read about box sliding viewers, book viewers, viewers with cabinets and many more.
It’s probably safe to assume that most people were introduced to 3D images via View-Master. Introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the handheld 3D viewer was a very popular format that sold literally billions of products from the 1940s right on through the 2000s. Here you’ll find a brief history of View-Master, some images from my collection and key content categories that may be of interest to those looking to start or grow their collections.
The Brewster stereoscope was without doubt the singular most popular design of stereoscope from 1851 until the 1930’s when new formats took over and during this time its basic design changed very little. Though, there soon was a broad variety of improvements and elaborate decorations.
The Verascope and the Taxiphote are two halves of an unbelievable stereo development effort that went on for 40 years essentially without any changes. The Taxiphote was exported to and patented in many countries. All this serves as an example of how attractive stereoscopy was at that time, and also confirms the quality of the Taxiphotes as a technical device. We can only guess at the prestige of having a Taxiphote at that time.
I understand it’s 2021 and I’m talking about shooting on film. From an educational standpoint though, the limitations it imposes forces you to learn the basics of exposure, composition and how to be more intentional with your artistic choices. Spending an hour or two mounting slides is definitely an exercise in humility as you reflect on all the things you wish you did right. As you get familiar with it, there’s a rhythm that develops with the tactile experience and it’s pretty relaxing.