Brian May is famous for being the legendary guitarist and songwriter with rock group Queen. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Brian is fanatical about stereo photography. He talked to us about his passion for this medium and shared some photographs from his new book "Queen in 3-D", an intimate journey of stereoscopic photographs taken by Brian and his friends capturing some rare, behind-the-scenes moments of recording sessions and tours with the legendary rock band.
Hey Brian! Tell us a bit about 3D or stereo photography and how you first discovered this?
How did I discover 3-D photography? I was 12 years old. 1959. I took our kitchen table outside in the back garden and on it I set up my Woolworths two and sixpenny camera (a ‘VP twin’ that ran on 127 film, making contact prints not much bigger than 35mm) facing back into the kitchen. The back door was still open and my Dad was standing on a ladder, whitewashing the ceiling. I asked him to keep still for me and took one exposure with the camera resting on the table. Then I moved the camera about 3 inches to the right, wound on the film, and took another exposure. I was convinced this was going to give me two pictures that I could mount on a piece of cardboard to make a stereo card like the ones I’d been collecting from Weetabix packets.
My Dad did everything himself, including developing and printing black and white photographs. He taught me how to do it. We made the prints, I stuck them on a piece of card, on which I wrote the ‘trademark’ “SEETHROO Ltd” and I put the card in the Weetabix stereo viewer (which I’d received through the post after sending off a packet top and one and sixpence). WOW! It worked! There was my Dad in astounding realism, captured forever in 3-D. You can see the result in my book (Queen in 3-D). It still works. I then got my Dad to take 3-D pictures of me using the same ‘sequential’ technique, and, again in the new book, you can see the very first 3-D images of a very young rock star! It was thrilling to me then, and it still is now. I’m so excited to be able to share this stuff with the world - along with a whole history of 3-D moments captured throughout Queen’s career.
You own of the largest stereo photo collections in the world and run the London Stereoscopic Company. What made you become so interested in this form of photography?
It’s just always been magic to me. I never get tired of it. It takes a few moments longer to capture a scene, or a friend, of one of my kids in 3-D rather than ‘flat’. But the results are so rewarding. There’s a vast difference between looking at a normal ‘snap’ of your wedding as a flat picture in an album, and viewing the same scene in a stereoscope – and feeling you could walk right back in there and speak to the guests. It’s truly magic. We’ve all seen amazing 3-D films like Avatar in 3-D in the cinema. Well, you can capture your own precious moments in the same breathtaking realism, just with a smartphone and a London Stereoscopic Company VR kit! The OWL converts your phone into a stereoscope and you’ll be able to see the scene you just captured in seconds.
What’s the most unusual item you have in your collection?
Probably the most precious is a stereoscopic daguerreotype of Princess Vicky – Queen Victoria’s daughter on her 16th birthday. It’s unique, was handed down in the family of the Prussian prince she married. Their son became notorious as Kaiser Bill… the man who declared war on England - the First World War. It’s a stunningly beautiful portrait. As real and compelling as the day it was made.
You've recently been shooting with the Holga Stereo Pinhole camera, how did you find it?
I like it. It’s quite similar to some of the 19th- and 20th-century cameras I’ve used in the past. There is something very emotive about using roll film instead of digital, as your army of Lomographers have discovered – but with the added dimension of stereo. It’s dynamite. There are no focus problems of course – since there are no lenses, just pinholes. And, though you have to use quite long exposures, you're liable to end up with something precious when you ask your subject to sit still for a few seconds!
What do you think are the next advancements that could appear in the photography world?
I’m loving the new craze for Virtual Reality but I think we need something to supersede the current generation of hardware devices to view it. Nobody likes sitting with a claustrophobic viewer for long periods, getting sweaty and often nauseous too. We need something less restrictive. My OWL VR kit overcomes some of these problems since it doesn’t isolate you from your surroundings – a little less immersive but a lot more friendly and functions without eyestrain. But in the end, I think VR will metamorphose into something else – and my OWL will continue on, as a state-of-the-art 21st-century stereoscope. In the meantime, I’m hoping that not just Queen followers will get a kick out of my new book "Queen in 3-D" it will give you some very intimate inside views of me and my little Rock outfit over the past 50 years or so. 3-D Rocks!
Queen in 3-D by Brian May is published by The London Stereoscopic Company and features unseen and intimate photographs over a 50 year period. Out now in the UK and to be released in the US in August.
For more information about the book, visit the book's website. Follow Brian May on Twitter and follow The London Stereoscopic Company on Twitter and Facebook. And last but not the least, follow Queen on Facebook!