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3D Stereo Photography

Ever since primary school in Bristol in the 1960s I remember being allowed to explore the world through a collection of photographs in 3D with a hand-held viewer. I have retained the fascination with these immersive images and have been thrilled to find my work with antique cameras and processes has a close tie to 3D - Stereoscopic photography. Lots of images to view in my portfolio.

Clifton Suspension  Bridge

The link was made through being invited to view first hand the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust’s collection 3D images of the bridge and its construction.

Building SuspensionBridge.jpg
Cardboard stereoscopic viewer.jpg
Cardboard stereoscopic viewer.jpg

3-D cameras

I hadn’t realised that 3D photography came into being almost as soon as photography was invented! 3D drawings viewed with special viewers predate photography by 15 years. This type of discovery and subsequent investigation is another reason I enjoy this field so much.


I had seen antique (late 1800s) 3D cameras for sale for 10x what I was spending on the cameras I was using, so I thought I’d see if I could make my own and in the process learn about how they worked.


I started with my biggest camera, replacing its single large lens with a piece of card with the objective lenses from an old pair of binoculars push in and made light tight. With very ‘slow’ photographic paper as the film I could make long exposures without needing a shutter - covering and uncovering with a piece of black cloth would work - and indeed I got a pair of images. 

Making improvements

I needed to swap the left and right images around when printed to view as 3D

I also needed a divider (Septum) down the middle of the camera to prevent overlap and overexposure of the middle of the image.


With these improvements I took my camera to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and made a few images in the same place as those taken 130 years previously.

Cardboard stereoscopic viewer.jpg

Further improvements

Experiments followed to make a rubber-band powered shutter to give me the fast shutter speeds needed for film.

A pair of slits in the sliding shutter pass behind the lens allowing the light through. It is vital the two slots are identical in size.

Speeds of 1/125s are achieved reliably with this system.

Antique 3-D camera

Then I found online a cheap Stereoscopic camera from 1908 that needed some work, a Blaire Hawkeye No2


This I bought and enjoyed using for several months before selling it on after finding a better condition one - a later model No 4 from 1910. The Blaire company was then owned by Eastman Kodak so it is branded Eastman Blaire Hawkeye.

Blair hawkeye No4.jpeg
Cardboard stereoscopic viewer.jpg

A great find ....

I then stumbled across a camera in bits that in fact was a Houghton Stereo Victo plate camera. This I set about repairing and renovating into a working half-plate sized camera (4.75x6.25”). Adding to it a period Thornton Pickard roller shutter and a pair of identical Aldis lenses.


Using this and my Blair Hawkeye I have amassed a good collection of images and I have now published a pack of Westcountry Views with 3D-viewer and this can bought at Studio3 Gallery, Clevedon Craft Centre.


To see the 3-dimensional depth effect your eyes need to focus on both images. It is possible to do this without an optical aid by staring through the image and moving your eyes to get the two images to coincide. However it is much easier with some help from a stereoscopic viewers. These viewers come in many forms and can be found at a local or online auction. A Victorian or Edwardian stereoscope viewer like one of these then you get the authentic, historical, home entertainment viewing experience of 100 years ago.

Cardboard stereoscopic viewer.jpg

Westcountry Views

I have published a pack of 18 images together with a pair of plastic lenses called the LiteOwl. These are made by Brian May’s London Stereoscopic Company.

This can bought at Studio3 Gallery, Clevedon Craft Centre.

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