THE PRESS AND JOURNAL
Brian May pens introduction to edition of north-east photos
17 August 2018 by Neil Drysdale
He’s the rock star from Queen who has been involved in such massive hits as Bohemian Rhapsody, Under Pressure and We are the Champions.
But Brian May was in Aberdeen yesterday championing a different kind of magic in the world of George Washington Wilson, the pioneering north-east photographer who delighted another Queen – Victoria – throughout the 19th century.
He has written the introduction to a lavishly-illustrated biography of the man written by Roger Taylor – not the Queen drummer, but an expert on Victorian photography.
And he has also designed a special 3-D viewer, known as the Lite OWL, which offers readers the opportunity to enjoy the pictures in all their multifaceted glory.
Mr [Dr] May, 71, who owns one of the world’s largest collections of the stereo photographs which he began collecting in Weetabix boxes in the 1950s was in his element at Aberdeen University last night.
Amidst his busy musical career, he has always been one of life’s renaissance men.
He has an asteroid named after him and a PhD in astrophysics, while he campaigns as an animal rights activist and has worked with NASA.
As he told the Press and Journal: “I’ve always wanted to embrace different challenges in life. As a youngster, I suppose I resented being put in a box.”
He described the production of the new book on Mr Wilson – who lived from 1823 to 1893 – as a “labour of love” and revealed it was a project that dated all the way back to the 1980s.
He added: “I have known Roger for over 30 years, during which time he has been my greatest supporter and mentor in my own journey in photographic history.
“I recall, as a youngster, seeing these pictures in a cereal box – the first one was of two hippopotamuses – and sending off my 1/6d and my box tops to get the 3-D equipment.
”It was one of those moments which has changed my life and I am very glad it happened.
“When we first met, I was already an avid collector of stereo images, and I have been fascinated by all things 3-D since childhood.
“This book has been many, many years in the making, but I am confident it will have been worth every minute and that the stars have aligned to enable its creation.
“With the aid of the OWL stereoscope, GWW’s excellent images can at last be enjoyed in exactly the same way that hundreds of thousands of Victorians thrilled to his work in the 1860s.”
Mr [Prof] Taylor explained why he had been captivated by the task of chronicling his subject’s life.
He said: “It started out like a silk thread, where the more you pulled it, the more information you discovered about George Washington Wilson and his remarkable achievements.
“He came from a croft and became an entrepreneur. He was born in Alvah and mixed with royalty. He truly was a pioneer and it’s good his name is becoming better known in his homeland.
“My feeling is that he was the man who brought Scotland to the English, in a visual sense. Before him, there were drawings and portraits, not photographs. But he changed all that.”
Mr May also recalled performing in the city, while the band’s profile heightened, back in 1975 at the Capitol.
And, last night, following their talk at the university, he and Mr Taylor visited some of the places featured in the new book.
It wasn’t quite a Night at the Opera. But these two tenacious individuals are clearly Radio Ga Ga about promoting the virtues of stereo.
The book has been published by Mr May’s London Stereoscopic Company. It is priced £30. Further information about Brian May’s London Stereoscopic Company can be found at www.londonstereo.com.