Museum of Brisbane

Stereographs: The original 3D technology

People looking at stereoscope2

See early 20th century Brisbane in 3D in our latest exhibition The view from here: The photographic world of Alfred Elliot 1890 – 1940. Curator, Phillip Manning explains the technology behind the devices and  why they are an important part of this exhibition.

The people and many of the places captured by Alfred Elliott are long gone, but the stereoscopes in the exhibition allow us to have the experience of Elliott’s stereographs as originally intended and the result  somehow makes them feel more real than just a picture of the past.

A stereograph glass-plate negative has two near-identical images on one plate of glass, taken by a camera with two lenses roughly the same distance apart as our eyes. After the negative is printed it can be viewed through a stereoscope, which uses the binocularity of human vision to create an illusion of depth. Because our eyes are set apart each one sees the world from a slightly different angle, so when looking at a stereograph through a stereoscope the brain blends the two images so that we can ‘see’ a single image in 3D.

Elliott created more than 150 stereographs, with a selection of these reprinted for the exhibition, allowing us to see 19th and early 20th century Brisbane in 3D.