Term has started, the students are back and that means that another St Andrews Photography Festival is upon us.
This year we are examining the ongoing legacy of stereo photography. Since before photography, the method by which a view of the three-dimensional world could be transferred onto a two-dimensional medium has occupied the minds of scientists, artists and printers.
With the advent of photographic processes, major progress was made in adding realism and perspective to typically flat images. Sir David Brewster claimed to have invented stereo photography, much to the frustration of Charles Wheatstone who asserted his earlier pioneering of the process. The issue of who came first and who shouted the loudest will be discussed as part of a conference held in St Andrews in mid-October.
What is not debated is that the first stereo-portrait was taken in St Andrews by Dr John Adamson. Dr Adamson’s work will be featured, rather appropriately, at his former family home, now The Adamson on South Street, St Andrews. Additionally, the influence of prominent Scottish (or Scottish-based) photographers such as George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, Thomas Rodger, John Moffatt and Charles Piazzi Smyth is uncontested. The latter not only utilised the process but contributed to the ‘Victorian Sensation’ that was, and is, Stereo Photography.
A series of stereo-box exhibitions will be available around town. Festival-goers can visit various cafes, restaurants and libraries to view images, with the aid of stereo-viewing devices like those that would have been used 175 years ago. Today’s viewers have a sleek and updated design, and have been kindly supplied by our festival partners, the London Stereoscopic Company.
There will also be some exhibitions which draw you into the viewing process. Contemporary artist Calum Colvin, OBE will have several works on display at The Byre Theatre which include a rarely used ‘Wheatstone Viewer’.
It is not just professional photographers we are highlighting this year, but amateurs such as Perthshire based Andrew Milne, whose collection has recently been brought to light through the work of his descendants. Furthermore, stereographic examples from the Rossie Priory Collection held at St Andrews will also be reproduced for visitors.
Beyond the literal interpretation of our theme, we have also taken a few liberties to fill our popular outdoor spaces at The Scores and Holy Trinity Church with two large exhibitions by Paul Duke and Adam Geary. Paul Duke’s exhibition ‘No Ruined Stone’ offers a timely and far-reaching insight into a fractured and deprived housing estate in Edinburgh. Adam Geary’s exhibition ‘STEREO’, originally published as a book, provides a repetitive soundtrack of images and thoughts that remind us that in the end, all we will have left are our memories.
Our event line-up is equally as exciting. We are honoured to host two book launches: Photography and the Doctor: John Adamson of St Andrews by A. D. Morrison-Low and Peter Blair’s Scotland In 3D which accompanies his exhibition. David Bruce will open the festival on 1 October with the launch of Alison Morrison-Low’s book.
We will have a series of public demonstrations of historic processes, workshops, presentations of collections from both the Library’s Special Collections and MUSA, an evening seminar hosted by the Thinking 3D project, talks and the highly anticipated 3D-film series presented by the University’s Film Studies department.
It is going to be another packed October, so we look forward to seeing you in St Andrews!
Photographic Collections Manager
& St Andrews Photography Festival Organiser