Rock legend, animal activist, astrophysicist and founder of the London Stereoscopic Company in the 21st century, Dr Brian May, came to Royal Holloway on October 29, 2019 to talk about his new book, together with fellow co-authors, photographic historians Denis Pellerin and Paula Fleming.
Dr Brian May, Paula Fleming and Denis Pellerin
The musician gave the 3D talk in Royal Holloway’s Picture Gallery to accompany the launch of the second and now complete edition of the book, Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell.
Diableries were clay models depicting the after-life in Hell (Hell being very much like Second Empire Paris).
Made from 1860 to the mid-1890s, these tableaux photographed for the stereoscope prior to being destroyed are replete with demons, skeletons and pretty women engaged in various activities in an Underworld that is not very different from the one at the surface. Diableries can be religious, satirical, or political, but they are mostly weird and funny.
Whether they are tributes to dead artists, virulent attacks against the regime of Emperor Napoleon III, or just plain social satires, they leave no-one indifferent, especially when the stories behind them are revealed.
Brian May’s introduction to stereoscopy was as a child finding 3-D cards in his breakfast cereal.
In the 1950s Weetabix gave away free coloured stereo cards in their packets, along with an opportunity to send off one-and-sixpence for the stereoscope required to view them.
Brian, discovering that he could free-view them without the viewer too, was entranced, and quickly figured out how to make his own stereo views, and was hooked for life.
Scouring Portobello Road market for stereoscopic items some years later, Brian discovered the intriguing Diableries cards, which stirred a special passion, which was to lead to the Diableries book 40 years later.
While studying Astronomy at Imperial College, Brian became a regular viewer at Christie’s photographic auctions, at the time a rich source of long forgotten stereo views from the 1850s onwards which were turning up in people’s attics.
In 2008, Brian realised his dream of recreating The London Stereoscopic Company, its aim to bring the magic of true stereoscopy to the modern world. In order to share Victorian 3-D, Brian designed his own OWL stereoscope, which is now produced in large quantities.
The OWL has become a new standard around the world in stereoscopic viewing.
Then in 2011 Brian met a redoubtable French scholar, Denis Pellerin. Their two passions connected immediately, and Denis became Brian’s curator, conservator, researcher, and co-author.