Press: Brian May and Prof Roger Taylor – Scotland book launch and talks


Brian May: My quest to raise profile of Scottish innovator in 3D photography
16 August 2018 by Phil Miller

WITH his flamboyant bouffant, lofty frame and fretboard sorcery, Brian May has endured as one of the world’s most distinguished guitarists. But while Queen’s electric brand of arena-thrilling hits has stirred the souls of millions, the passions of the former PhD Astronomy student have turned out to be a little more niche. Famously, he has been an unlikely champion of badgers and previously railed against the attempted cull of hedgehogs on Uist.

Brian May in Edinburgh by Herald, Scotland
Image: Herald Scotland

But (Dr) Brian May’s current obsession germinates from a childhood devotion to collectable 3D cards handed out free in the 1950s inside boxes of Weetabix. Now the Hall of Fame rock star is shining the spotlight on an almost forgotten photographic innovator who brought images of the Scottish landscape to life.

George Washington Wilson, based in Aberdeen, was appointed Photographer to the Queen in 1873 and is considered one of the greatest ‘lensmen’ of his generation. Records of about his skill producing 3D images have now largely faded from history, but Wilson (1823 to 1893) is a personal hero to Brian May, who now owns one of the largest collections in the world of Victorian stereo photographs.

Brian May spoke to The Herald as he appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival discussing a ‘labour of love’ book about George Washington Wilson, by Prof Roger Taylor (who coincidentally shares the same name as the Queen drummer), for which May provided the introduction.

“This is one of the reasons we got into this, is to try and put [George Washington Wilson] back in his place, where he should be,” he said. And May told an audience in the Main Theatre of the festival, at a sold out event, that his zeal for stereoscopic pictures sparked a curiosity to have a go himself, taking unique images of his family and bandmates. One particularly intimate picture of Freddie Mercury, he finds particularly moving.

He said: “My favourite is one I had no knowledge of, which I did not remember, was one of Freddie backstage putting on make up. It’s very intimate and very personal, it’s one the paparazzi would never get because he’d be so conscious of them. But I was always there. It’s something so precious to me, it’s not only candid and personal, but it is 3-D as well, so it feels like you could walk into it and touch Freddie. To be honest, my team nursed me through it, because some of it was quite difficult for me, it can be a little bit too personal.”

The latest George Washington Wilson book, published by May’s London Stereoscopic Company (LSC) firm, follows a previous major work by Prof Taylor from1981 which fell out of print.

Speaking yesterday, Professor Taylor said: “One of the reasons Wilson fell out of favour was because he was so prolific, he was everywhere and people couldn’t make any sense of it. “But his real contribution to me is his 3D work, his stereoscopic work.” He added: “I really hope this book will help put him back up there, because he really was important. He was dismissed because he was commercial, but that reach and popularity and entrepreneurialism is something we celebrate.”

George Washington Wilson, by Prof Roger Taylor, was published on 15 August

Spotlight to be shone on North-East as Queen’s Brian May visits Aberdeen
16 August 2018 by Kirsten Robertson

Brian May to visit Aberdeen
Brian May speaks during an interview with Associated Press in Tokyo [AP]

A new public engagement programme that will showcase the best of the north-east’s creative talent will be launched at Aberdeen University today.

The View Visual Arts and Culture Programme will be based at the George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture, in the university’s school of language, literature, music and visual culture. The launch ties in with Queen legend Brian May’s visit to the campus to launch a new book dedicated to Aberdeen-born photographer George Washington Wilson.

Mr Wilson, who lived from 1823 to 1893, rose to prominence after documenting the construction of Balmoral Castle and working with Queen Victoria.

Amy Bryzgel, who has been a director of the centre since 2016, is thrilled at the fact more people will find out about the historical figure.

She said: “Washington Wilson was a pioneer in photography at a time when this technology was quite new, and Aberdeen has quite often been at the forefront of innovation, but often that history gets lost or forgotten.“I hope that Brian May’s passion for Washington Wilson’s work will inspire others to take a closer look at the archive, which is available online, and even inspire future activity related to the photographer’s work.”