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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds He was a very successful portrait photographer in Regent Street in the 1850s, and he was probably commissioned to do a series of the reopened Crystal Palace in 1854. So there’s a whole series there to collect. As we learned more about him, we discovered that he was very private. He really didn’t leave much of a paper trail. But he’s regarded as a gentleman photographer. There’s a whole story there, you know, because photographers kind of came into disrepute, because they went out onto beaches making money in seaside towns and things. But TR Williams was obviously an artist and there’s a whole section of his work, which is pure art, still lives, which are exquisite stereo daguerrotypes.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds And he seems to have mastered the knack of doing something which is pure art for its own sake, but nevertheless became successful commercially. That’s what I try to be in music. You try to do things which come from the heart and have a meaning to you. And you want to communicate them to people. But somewhere on the way, you connect with your audience, so it becomes something which is commercial. But he seems to have been, possibly, the first man to sell tableaux; a picture of some people doing something which tells a story. So you have something called The Letter, where the man is reading a letter, and she’s looking alarmed, like it’s something that she doesn’t want him to read.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds This kind of thing, you know., And that became huge. He seems to have been a pioneer. He was bred from pioneers because we know he was apprenticed to Claudet. And Claudet himself was apprenticed to Louis Daguerre, who invented the process. So it’s a very short lineage to TR Williams and he seems to have inherited the great innovative power of both of those gentlemen.

Dr Brian May on TR Williams as an artistic pioneer

In this second short video, Dr Brian May CBE, Director of The London Stereoscopic Company, looks in more detail at the pioneering work of TR Williams.

Feel free to comment on his observations about art and connecting with an audience.

Image: Stereo daguerreotype, depicting a portrait of an unidentified woman in a pale purple dress with a zigzag white lace design and a black shawl, hand-coloured, by TR Williams, London, 1850s IL.2003.44.2.326 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

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This video is from the free online course:

Stereoscopy: An Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography

The University of Edinburgh