Brianmay.com takes no responsibility for content of external sites
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
21 Oct 09**
READ INTERVIEW ON BBC WEBSITE HERE
If you relax your eyes and look "through" this image - you may be able to see it in 3D (but stop if it feels uncomfortable)
guitarist Brian May is best known for his work with Queen and his
PhD in astrophysics.
While he was touring the world with Queen, May was collecting thousands of stereoscopic photographs and the viewers that bring them to life.
It was in this way that he discovered the work of Thomas Richard Williams, who in the 1850s created a series of 59 stereo cards depicting life in a small English village - Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire.
May has teamed up with photographic historian Elena Vidal to produce a book of Williams's stereoscopic 3D images, A Village Lost and Found.
Here May discusses the roots of his love of stereo photography, his dislike of the paparazzi, and what he thinks about the future of 3D cinema.
So this all began with a packet of Weetabix?
There was always something in cereal packets in the old days, puzzles and stuff. Anyway, these little 3D views came along and you could send off for a viewer for two and sixpence and a couple of packet tops. So I did, and it was magic to me that these little pairs of flat-looking pictures suddenly turned into something completely real. It was a window onto a world that I'd never seen before.
When did you first come across postcards by TR Williams?
It must have been the late 60s. I was going to Christie's near my college, but I couldn't afford anything because I was a destitute student.
Very early on in my life I learned to "free-view", so I could see stereo without the viewer, which is a handy skill to have.
Is that like those Magic Eye pictures from a few years ago?
Yes, I used to set my eyes in that position and flick through all the cards in the boxes in Christie's - and one of these things would suddenly leap out; because of course when you're in the free-viewing mode, you see everything in stereo immediately.
So you collected these all the time you were with Queen?
Yes, all those years on tour I was able to interact with photo dealers all around the world. Normally, I would invite them to the gig, and they would be quite surprised, because that wasn't their world.
Then I'd say, 'okay, what have you got for me?', and they'd get out a couple of boxes of these little stereo cards and that would be my treat for the night, my reward for playing the gig!
So all this was going on behind the rock star lifestyle...
I began collecting everything stereoscopic. It's a large subject, I have literally tens of thousands of them, but obviously a very small number of those are by TR Williams. But the whole period of the early 1850s up to about 1858 is absolutely magic from the point of view of stereo.
What's your favourite image from the book? I like the one of the village school mistress...
Me too, it's one of the first ones I saw. There are so many levels to this series, that's why it's been an endless fascination to me. There is the picture that you first see, then you see its wonderful stereo composition and you feel like you can walk in. Then you turn the thing over and very often there's a verse on the back, which gives everything yet another dimension.
Any other favourites?
I love Little Polly Gone Fast Asleep [see top image] - it's the only one of the series taken indoors. If you go to these little thatched cottages you realise how difficult that would have been because the windows are so tiny.
And Tummus Standing For His Picture - the verse on the back speaks about how intimidating he finds the camera - almost as if it was a gun pointed towards him.
I really identified with that. Even though I love photography that's how I feel when some paparazzi points their camera in my face. I feel threatened and intimidated.
Do you ever get used to the paparazzi?
You think you get used to it and then you get caught in a moment when you're harassed and someone is suddenly sticking something in your face and capturing something that can be used against you. You can find a story in the paper that paints you as something completely different from what you are.
In the age of mobile phones, do you get snapped by people when you're out and about?
Yes. The whole world is a paparazzo now - if I'm out in the high street all kinds of people will be trying to message on their mobile phones, but you know its directed towards you - because it flashes! And the next minute it'll be on the internet.
Back to 3D photography, it's going through a real golden age at the moment.
I do enjoy seeing 3D films. I'm glad there's this great renaissance - with 3D television coming too. By pure coincidence we seem to have timed the book incredibly well.
Do you think 3D in film and TV is a bit of a gimmick?
Hard to say. If you look at the history of stereoscopy it's always arrived in a great flurry of excitement and then disappeared a few years later.
I certainly hope it will be around for a long time to come. Having been an evangelist for some 30 years and have people look at me weirdly, it's quite strange to have it all around now. You feel almost redundant.
A Village Lost and Found, by Brian May and Elena Vidal, is published this week by Frances Lincoln.
Find out more on BBC Radio 4's Open Country on Saturday 31 October at 0607 BST, repeated on Thursday 5 November at 1500 BST.
And news agency report fast going around the world!!
LONDON: As a founding member of the rock band Queen, Brian May has played guitar on some of the most memorable music tracks of modern times, he's played legendary shows at some of the world's greatest venues. This event, however, is taking place inside a barn in the Oxfordshire village of Hinton Waldrist.
Brian May, Co-Author, A Village Lost and Found said, "This isn't one of the biggest gigs I've ever played, but I have to say it's one of the more exciting ones."
The reason is that this launch for his new book, 'A Village Lost and Found', marks the realization of a lifelong passion for 3D photography. It began with the discovery of what's called a stereoscopic card inside a box of Weetabix cereal when he was a child.
He said, "So you get your little steroscope, you put your card in and suddenly the magic happens. Instead of two flat images you get a single stereoscopic 3D image, which you seem to be able to walk into."
May eventually began collecting the cards, which led him to the work of the Victorian 3D pioneer Thomas Richard Williams. The series 'Scenes In Our Village', which May's new book focusses on, was always a particular favourite.
"Of course we've advanced technologically so much now. We've learned to cover the planet in concrete. We have communications, et cetera, et cetera, but as a species I think we may have lost some of the values that were current in the 1850s and TR Williams - very ahead of his time - had exactly this in mind. He thought something was being lost in the Industrial Revolution, in mechanisation and the depersonalisation of life. So this series to me has been very relevant to the 21st century."
The effect of these double images unfortunately cannot be fully appreciated through a computer or TV screen, but the president of London's Stereoscopic Society Bob Aldridge says Williams' series and May's book provide a unique window on a bypassed era.
May said, "Why is it significant today? Because we have a pace of life that is very frantic. If you look at the book you can go back to a calmer way of life and it's therapeutic. But it's also part of a very big 3D wave that's coming - people like James Cameron with his Avatar film, the IMAX 3D movies, the new Fuji camera which has just come out."
May insists the Victorian method is still the best way to experience 3D. However, but in order to introduce his favourite images to a new audience, the musician actually turned inventor.
"I looked for a stereoscope that could be used in the book, and really there wasn't one and nobody was really willing to play ball with me to make it for me, so I thought we'd make it ourselves," he added.
The invention is called The Owl, and he jokingly says he'd like to see one in every home - a play on the Victorian marketing motto: 'A Stereoscope In Every Home'. As Hollywood directors and electronics manufacturers take 3D into new dimensions, this lifelong enthusiast hopes some will be inspired to seek out a more detailed view on the history of the craft.
INFORMATION ABOUT T R WILLIAMS
A De Montfort University Professor has played an influential role in a new book on Victorian stereoscopy co-authored by the legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, by acting as mentor throughout the project.
Roger Taylor, Professor of Photographic History at DMU in Leicester and a close friend of May, played a significant part in the making of the book, A Village Lost and Found, which is co-authored by Elena Vidal and published on Thursday 22 October.
Stereoscopy – a photographic technique that creates the spatial illusion of depth – has been a lifelong passion for May. Having worked closely with Vidal, the book is a culmination of 30 years’ research that brings together the complete series, ‘Scenes in Our Village’ photographed by T. R. Williams during the 1850s, for the first time in living memory.
Professor Taylor said: “A Village Lost and Found is a significant contribution to our understanding of photographic history and the Victorian period. These three dimensional studies of rural village life are really evocative of the time and are so atmospheric and narrative that one can almost smell the new-mown hay and feel the warmth of the very sun that illuminated these scenes 150 years ago.
“For many years now Brian, Elena, and I have shared a passion for the optical magic that is stereoscopic photography and when they set out to write the book I encouraged them at every stage, offering professional advice and opinions along the way.“
Brian May’s fascination with 3-D images was first borne out of picture cards given away in Weetabix packets. Soon after he was making pairs of sketches that transformed into 3-D scenes when he relaxed his eyes and let the images float together. And it was on one of his many searches in antique shops and auctions that he discovered the work of Thomas Richard Williams, who created 59 stereo cards depicting life in a small English village.
Brian May said: “This is a picture book: an annotated book of photographs which tell a unique story – a story that has fascinated me for more than half a lifetime.”
The book also features May’s stereoscopic viewer he designed himself, which is necessary to bring the images to three-dimensional life. His text gives an account of T. R. Williams’ working practices, explains the phenomena of stereoscopic photography and the background to the historic photographic techniques.
Listen to Brian's interview with Malcolm Boyden HERE
"You feel like you can walk in and talk to these people captured in the 1850s. I've been very excited about this for a very long time."Queen guitarist Brian May is describing the stereoscopic images of Victorian TR Williams that were taken in the small Oxfordshire village of Hinton Waldrist.
The pioneering photographer deliberately kept the location of the village a secret, but May was determined to track it down when writing a new book on the subject
.With the book A Village Lost and Found, co-authored with Elena Vidal, May hopes to bring about a renaissance in the interest of TR Williams and his work, a man who he describes as "a rock star of his age."
He described the process to BBC Oxford's Malcolm Boyden: "They were taken with a single camera with two lenses, one above the other. You'd take a picture, then move the camera a few inches to one side and then take another picture. It's called sequential stereoscopy."
May has been fascinated by 3D picture cards since he was a child, collecting the freebies in cereal packets .This led to a passion for stereoscopic images, one that he has followed for more than 30 years - as well as his interest in astrophysics - alongside his career as the lead guitarist in one of the world's most influential rock bands.
More media to look out for soon.
Brian May and Elena Vidal have produced an Electronic Press Kit video to support the forthcoming book, where you can see it in the flesh and they talk us through the journey of getting to this point in Brian's pursuit of his interest in stereoscopic photography and his fascination with the work of photographer T R Williams from The 1850s.
Brian May and Elena Vidal will both be present for a book signing of "A Village Lost and Found" at Peter Jones department store on 5 November from 1 - 3pm.
May Book Signing
'A Village Lost and Found' brings together the work of T.R. Williams’s pastoral photographs from the 1850s, originally collected in his Our Village series. The photos give a unique perspective into the lives of villagers at the time.
What makes the book especially interesting is that it includes a focusing stereoscope, an instrument designed by May himself, which brings every picture into 3-D. Along with his co-author, photohistorian Elena Vidal, May also provides annotation and footnotes that explain the individual stories depicted in each photograph.
See also HERE
article in today's Daily Telelgraph - heralded by a picture of Brian
on the front page...
the Daily Telegraph article, by Nicholas Roe, which can
also be seen online:
Queen and countryside: the church in Hinton Waldrist, near Oxford, featured in 'Scenes in Our Village', a series of stereo-cards by TR Williams, recently reproduced by Brian May
Arriving at the Surrey home of a rock superstar is a little like stepping into a movie. First, the half-expected set of vast iron gates in a secluded lane and a conversation with an intercom. Then security cameras zoom in. Next gates finally swing back to reveal a long drive lined by tangles of rhododendron.
Then there’s my arrival at
the house itself (modestly lavish) and a comic interlude as I park
so near the shrubbery I get covered in muck climbing from the car.
But just as I’m cursing and brushing myself down someone calls
my name – and there, complete with trademark frizz of black hair
and an eye-scorching shirt, stands one of the greatest rock guitarists
in the world: Brian May of Queen. I can’t help it. As we shake
hands I think: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
May has rediscovered a village that was lost. No, really, he has. In the process he has followed a web of arcane clues into the heart of an academic mystery (Dan Brown eat your heart out). He may even have given new life to the peculiarly intimate if somewhat obscure Victorian passion for stereoscopic imagery – the art of creating 3D pictures by viewing dual images through special spectacles. "It’s a beautiful thing," May says, shaking his head in wonderment. "I’m thrilled. I get as big a thrill out of this as I do from music."
None of which sounds terribly rock star-ish, but then Brian May is not your average rocker. He studied physics and maths at Imperial College when younger, more recently completing a PhD in astrophysics and co-authoring a book on the history of the universe, no less, with friend Sir Patrick Moore. This is Renaissance Man with knobs on, but his latest project rather adds whistles and bells, too.
Together with art conservator Elena Vidal, he has co-authored A Village Lost And Found, a book telling the tale of 19th-century photographer TR Williams, who became the rock-star equivalent of his day through stereoscopy. May is a huge fan. "I have a lot of his pictures and it’s one of the things I visit the whole time," he says, hunching forward with barely-controlled eagerness. "There are only a small band of us around the world but when you get bitten you’re bitten for life."
He was 10 when he first realised that if you stared at repetitive wallpaper patterns long enough your eyes automatically readjusted to give a curious impression of depth, something many of us experience naturally but rarely turn into an obsession. May, on the other hand, discovered that the Victorians produced thousands of special dual-image cards based exactly on this principle. He became a fanatical collector, often luring dealers to Queen concerts in order to buy more and yet more weirdly wonderful stereoscopic images.
He swiftly specialised in TR Williams, who shot to fame in the 1850s by releasing a series of stereo-cards entitled Scenes In Our Village, which the fast-industrialising Victorian public positively gobbled up: gentle 3D shots of wells and walkers, reapers and thatched cottages. A vanishing style of village life was immortalised by Williams’s art, with just one flaw to the whole beautifully whimsical process: no one knew, then or now, which village was being recorded so assiduously.
No one, that is, until May and Vidal got their teeth into the subject. Their book not only reproduces for the first time all 59 of Williams’ largely forgotten images after huge research around the world (you get special specs with the book so the pictures positively leap out at you), it also solves the mystery of identity, revealing for the first time the name of the village so beautifully recorded. I can tell you: it’s Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire.
Pause for a moment to think about all this. Such a strange story. Such an oddly out-of-place passion. Frankly, you start off wondering why anyone would care and who might buy this pretty expensive book (see footnote for Telegraph reader offer). But try this on May and his honesty overwhelms you.
"I don’t know who’ll buy it," he admits. "When I first went to the publishers with this I could see secret smiles on their faces. But as time went on they became convinced that it would catch the public imagination – and that’s what I’ve hoped.’’ May had always felt tremendous empathy with what TR Williams did. ‘‘I wanted our century to be aware of this wonderful work of art that was nearly lost to the world,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s magical to me. Two flat pictures, but when you look at them in the right way you are in that place. You can walk inside."
Without much real evidence, May became convinced that the Williams series centred on one place in particular rather than just random sites around the country, and he spent years scouring southern England, trying to pin down the location of his personal Shangri-La.
Nothing doing. But then he had the brilliant idea of putting the most obvious TR Williams picture – a village church – online, offering the reward of a box of Queen CDs to anyone who could identify it. "Within 36 hours I had six answers, all the same," May says. "I couldn’t contain myself. I jumped in my car and drove there and – wow! There it was."
The real research work was only just beginning. May had correctly identified St Margaret of Antioch Church in Hinton Waldrist, 20 miles south-west of Oxford, as one of TR Williams’s key subjects, but what about the other 58 pictures in the series? Were they from the same village? Was it all, in fact, one discrete project?
Today, Hinton Waldrist has four streets, 160 houses, two farms, and a population of 333. Airey Neave, the politician notoriously murdered in 1979 by the Irish National Liberation Army, lived there and nowadays it is the home to much money and many executives from Oxford and London. Luckily, this shopless, publess haven of stone, tile and thatch also holds residents still rooted in the location itself, and one of these was John Moland, 66, born in the parish, and a church warden.
Sitting in St Margaret’s on a sunny day, Moland describes the call he got asking for help. It was Vidal who made that first discreet inquiry, only later revealing her famous co-author’s identity. "She said it was Brian May and I thought, ‘this is beyond me’," Moland recalls. "Brian’s been down five or six times since then but I’ve had a hundred emails from him. He’s very enthusiastic about this."
Moland brought in local historian Ken Houlton and they joined the hunt, poring over TR Williams’s pictures to see if they could identify the same scenes in the modern-day village. They used ancient maps and old photographs. They paced the ground. Houlton, in particular, turned gumshoe, slogging over fields and streams, looking at picture angles, studying records, matching rooftops.
In one case – picture 57, Early Morning, Drawing Water from the Well – he even used shadows cast by trees to identify the south-facing aspect of one cottage and from this discovered the existing home. Today it has an extension and is thoroughly modernised, but Houlton has examined the place stone by stone, matching it to Williams’s picture. And it is certainly the same one.
After two years and much cross-referencing with May and Vidal, during which a certain amount of Brian Maynia seized Hinton Waldrist during the star’s visits (loads of autographs signed; even, it’s whispered, a little local jealousy), the group has pinned down almost all of those original 59 images, providing evidence to prove this was indeed the sole inspiration for Williams’s studies. It was probably his home, in fact, certainly for a while. Williams’s firstborn son is buried in the churchyard and an aunt, Elizabeth Taylor, is commemorated on the church font.
It’s all gloriously idiosyncratic, of course, but that question again: who should care? "The reason I helped is because it’s absolutely fascinating and everyone loves a mystery," Houlton says. "And it pins you to the place you live."
But I think there’s more to the story than even this. Sitting in May’s secluded home listening to the story, you can lean one of two ways. The famous musician might be a nerd infected by the very worst trainspotter instincts, offering with his book something so obscure that "normal" people won’t give a damn. Who cares which village it was or whether the images themselves remain hidden in the libraries of a handful of geeky collectors?
Alternatively, May is a breath of fresh air. He is a man with enough nerve, insight, delicacy and well-directed wealth to see the subtle value of ancient skills and the sensitive messages they send to a modern era.
I made my own decision the moment he sat back and shook his head and said: "It’s something I want to share with people.
To me, it’s about lots of things. It’s about the village itself. It’s about the man, but it’s also about his vision of what the world was losing at that time. And that is very relevant to what we are seeing as our world gets covered in concrete.’’
May believes that we’re losing something very precious. ‘‘It’s amazing that he should be thinking of this in the 1850s – the last spinning-wheel in the village, the ploughing with horses. He is very aware that a whole way of life is about to be lost. He points his camera at things he loves. It is an idyll to me."
Oddly, visiting Hinton Waldrist nowadays is a heartening experience. Precisely because those Williams photographs are of one village you get a clear idea in this place of how society progresses – or at least how it can progress – and really it’s not bad. "Williams’s work was a social documentary, a thorough examination of this place, not just the characters themselves but how people worked there and lived,’’ says Vidal. ‘‘And really it hasn’t changed much at all."
She’s right. People are still living there happily. The village is different but still beautiful, the streets are still calm and life may be modern but it is not ruinously brutal, as many will claim elsewhere. So, if you like, May’s project turns out to be a testament to what we can do if we try. It’s rather wonderful that it took a dead Victorian and a living legend to make that clear to us.
A Village Lost And Found by Brian May and Elena Vidal (Frances Lincoln, £35) is available from Telegraph Books at the discounted price of £30 plus £1.25 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515
Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist, has published another book that will confound his rock fans: a collection of quaint 'Magic Eye' Victorian photographs.
Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist, has published another book, a collection of quaint 'Magic Eye' Victorian photographs
years ago May surprised many by coauthoring a book on astrophysics
with Sir Patrick Moore, called Bang! The Complete History of Universe.
Now May, who penned 22 Queen hits including Fat Bottomed Girls and
Who Wants to Live Forever?, has turned his polymath's gaze on another
unlikely subject – mid 19th century stereoscopic photography.
A Village Lost and Found documents May and Vidal's decade-long crusade to track down scores of dual-image cards produced by one mystery Victorian photographer – who enigmatically stamped his cards 'TRW' – and find the unnamed village in the pictures.
While that might appear an idiosyncratic pastime for rock star Brian May CBE, he revealed in the preface to the book that he had been "fascinated" by 3D illusions since childhood. Such an interests should perhaps not be too surprising, as May studied physics at Imperial College London, obtaining a 2:1, before co-founding Queen with Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor in 1970.
His interest in stereoscopy was piqued as a 12-year-old by a 3D cards given away in Weetabix packets, and as a student May would visit Christie's South Kensington showroom to examine old cameras and photographs. Only when his musical career took off could he afford to buy anything,quickly becoming an avid collector, particularly of the work of 'TRW'.
He wrote of 'TRW', whom he later identified as one Thomas Richard Williams: "I felt drawn to Williams as an artist, perceiving an uncanny parallel between his world, balanced on that fine line between 'art for art's sake' and art for the audience, and my own world, in rock music." Such comparisons may seem odd, but May said of his "bug" for stereoscopy: "I get as big a kick out of this as I do from music."
He quickly became "hooked" on buying Williams' work, even inviting fellow collectors to Queen concerts to secure deals.
While stereoscopy was a brief craze in the mid 19th century, it quickly faded, leaving TRW's work languishing in attics and trunks for some 150 years.
Part of the fun, May said, was the detective work involved.
One major riddle was that Williams gave no clue as to where he had taken the pictures. May didn't even know if they were taken in one place or across the country. Searching in vain, he finally decided to put up one picture of a church on the internet, and offer a set of Queen CDs to those who could identify it. "Within 36 hours I had six answers, all the same," he said. "I couldn't contain myself. I jumped in my car and drove there and – wow! There it was."
May's mystery church was in fact St Margaret of Antioch in Hinton Waldrist, a village just off the A420 between Oxford and Swindon. Engaging the help of John Moland, the church warden, and a local historian, May set about identifying all the scenes in Williams' pictures and photographing how they look today. The end result is a weighty 239 page book, that will be published on October 22.
In the measured language of a social historian, rather than a rock star, May explained why he admired his Victorian hero.
"It seems that he had a clear vision – that of painting a lasting picture of the idyll which he regarded as precious, and communicating it to his audience." He remarked of Williams' vision: "It's amazing that he should be thinking of this in the 1850s – the last spinning-wheel in the village, the ploughing with horses. "He is very aware that a whole way of life is about to be lost."