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Queen guitarist Brian May, an avid collector of Victorian photography, pictured in 2014 with a stereo viewer at Photographica (photo by Nigel Richards, one of five organisers of the fair, who has been involved with the Photographic Collectors’ Club of Great Britain and the event since the 1980s).

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Back in the day when rock stars set their trousers and instruments alight on stage, Queen guitarist Brian May was busy buying Victorian photographs.

He dived around junk shops, bid at auction and waded through thousands of boxes at fairs and markets. May now has one of the largest collections of Victorian stereo photographs in the world.

His firm, the London Stereoscopic Company (LSC), is one of the exhibitors at Photographica.

This annual classic camera fair is organised by the Photographic Collectors’ Club of Great Britain and runs on Sunday, May 19, at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London.

May’s business can trace its roots back to Oxford Street in 1854, when the London Stereoscope Company was born. By 1856 the company had changed its name, to The London Stereoscopic Company, and finally in May 1859 assumed the name it was to retain for years to come: the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.

May’s firm states: “Their business was selling stereo views and viewers to the public, and they were leaders in a boom – a craze – which swept England, Europe, and eventually the US too, of stereo photographs of every conceivable subject, which, viewed by means of a stereoscope, presented scenes in life-like three dimensions.

“In a world which had never experienced television, the movies, or the internet, this was understandably a revelation.”

May and fellow enthusiast and scholar Denis Pellerin had revived the LSC in 2008.

Classic collecting

Photographica attracts classic camera collectors and users from across Europe and the world to buy from 135 tables of collectable, users and retro cameras, from wood and brass to modern classics and early digital plus film, books and some early photographs. 

londonstereo.com