Brian May and Prof Roger Taylor BBC Radio Scotland The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon Show – with Grant Stott
BBC Radio Scotland
15 August 2018
GRANT STOTT: Well there’s another level of excitement here in the Blue Tent at Harriet’s as our next guests have taken to the stage I’m extremely excited to be introducing a very special guest to the show today. Dr Brian May is a man of many talents with musician and astrophysicist being just two of his occupations. Today he is joining us from the show as a photographic historian with Professor Roger Taylor who’s releasing his new book “George Washington Wilson – artist and photographer” and that’s today documenting some of 19th century Scottish photographer pioneer George Washington Wilson’s captivating Victorian photographs. Please welcome Professor Roger Taylor and Dr Brian May.
Welcome to the show both of you . Let’s start – let’s start with yourself Roger. What’s so special about the photographs that are in this book, in particular.
PROF ROGER TAYLOR: Well, … … photographs of Scotland, in particular Scottish landscape. In particular what is magical about them is they’re in 3-D. There you can see them in the third dimension and in the back of the book there is a viewer and you can look at these photographs and go back to these various spots where the photographs were taken in the 1850s.
GRANT: And you can see, you know, it’s a real fascinating insight into how life [not only] in Scotland was. Brian, how did you first learn of the, this man, George Washington Wilson. What’s the process like, documenting his work?
BRIAN MAY: Well I came into this as a collector many many years ago of stereo photographs in general and I got attracted to the very beginnings of the art in the 1850s around 150 years ago and I met Roger at an exhibition at one of the London museums and we kind of collectively bemoaned the fact that there was this wonderful exhibition of photography over 150 years and there were no stereo photographs at all. So we became friends and Roger became my mentor over the years and he still is and he kind of converted me from a kind of geeky collector into someone who actually gets into the the depths of what photography actually is saying. So that’s it, but these stereo cards, I mean, you need to see the book [perhaps] – stereo cards are about this size. It’s radio isn’t it? It’s not good, A few inches across and about three inches high and what they do is you have two pictures on this card and it looks just like two flat pictures, but if you put it in the stereoscope – and this is my stereoscope which you get in the book, in the back of the book, your eyes perform that magical function of combining the two images and you get this 3-D perception and it’s magic. It still is magic 150 years later.
GRANT: You see I’m of the generation that remembers going to shops in High Street and looking at the Viewmaster. And looking through like that the same process… …
BRIAN: Exactly and Avatar yeah in your local cinema is the same.
GRANT: Well we’ve grown up now this generation that we have. 3-Ds not necessarily a new thing. It’s all around us. We have the virtual reality headsets we attach cellphones but Roger it was so groundbreaking of the time.
GRANT: How difficult a process was it?
ROGER: Oh well photography itself wasn’t straightforward. I mean in the 1850s, one of the things you had to make was the negative. You couldn’t buy them. You had to make them on a sheet of glass. You had to coat sheets of glass with a special solution called collodion and to do that you had to pour it on in the dark tent and it gave off fumes of [ether?] So it was not a very pleasant process and you were in this tent and you then sensitised that plate and had to expose it and process all within about five minutes.
. (please check back as this covers a lot of what was said in the Edinburgh talk.)