Following its presentation to the world at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the stereoscope – a device that makes images appear 3D – mesmerised Victorians. Collecting and viewing stereo photographs became a craze.
Stereoscopes were produced in different price ranges, thousands of stereo images were printed and bought each year, and one company involved in this boom, The London Stereoscopic Company, proclaimed: ‘No home without a stereoscope.’
Explore the origins of the stereoscope and stereo photography
‘Stereoscopy’ derives from the Greek ‘stereos’ meaning ‘firm’ or ‘solid’ and ‘skopeō’ meaning ‘to look’ or ‘to see’. So together, they mean ‘seeing something firm or solid’.
On this free online course, we will examine the rise of stereo photography and the work of two pioneering photographers – the Scotsman, George Washington Wilson, and the Englishman, Thomas Richard Williams.
We will explore how the stereoscope, originally created by inventor Sir Charles Wheatstone to investigate human binocular vision, was improved by scientist Sir David Brewster, to become a vital, elaborate drawing room essential.
Enjoy stereo photography from National Museums Scotland collection
To enjoy stereo photography, you usually need a stereoscope or stereo viewer, but you can enjoy this course without one.
It has been developed following the major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in 2015, Photography: A Victorian Sensation, and many of the images you will explore in this course are drawn from the National Museums Scotland collection.
You have covered the key themes of the course:
- The Great Exhibition, London, 1851
- The rise of stereo photography
- Armchair travel
- Stereo sensations in Britain
- Practitioners: GW Wilson, TR Williams
- Playing with stereo
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...
- Explain the stereoscopic process
- Assess the contribution of key practitioners of stereo photography in 19th century Britain
- Demonstrate awareness of the social, cultural and economic context of photography in 19th century Britain
- Describe 19th century photographic techniques
- Identify places depicted in stereo images
Who is the course for?
This course is open to anyone with an interest in photography or Victorian history. No previous knowledge or experience is required.
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