A New Panopticism: How George Washington Wilson Romanticised Scotland’s Cities through Stereoscopic Photography [EN]

Ashleigh Black


This paper will examine the panoptic visualisation of Scotland’s cities through the stereoscopic photography of George Washington Wilson. The camera is like an eye; an all-seeing apparatus. A new kind of panopticism was born through Wilson’s artistic skills as a photographer whose gaze served to observe and extol rather than to survey and punish. Wilson was a Scottish photographer who was active from the 1850s until his retirement in 1888 and was renowned for his stereoscopic photographs of Scottish scenery.

In 1859 Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that the stereoscope “is to be the card of introduction to make all mankind acquaintances.” Wilson photographed in stereoscopic vision the Scottish Highlands as well as some of the first views of the Giant’s Causeway. Lesser known however, are his stereoscopic photographs of Scotland’s cities. After the defeat of the Jacobite army in 1745 Scottish culture was repressed and crushed. Subsequently, through the writings and art of influential figures like Sir Walter Scott, Scotland’s culture and identity was revived. It was once said of George Washington Wilson that his camera did more for the people of Scotland than the pen of Sir Walter Scott. This paper will analyse Wilson’s panoptic vision, with regards to his stereos of Scottish cityscapes. The panoptic vision of George Washington Wilson was epitomised by his ability to evoke a sense of pride of place; to turn a simple cityscape into a work of art which not only stirs wonder but transports the viewer entirely.

A Short History of the View-Master [EN]

Margaret Hanke


In the fifty years after its public debut in 1939, the View-Master offered a popular means of seeing pictures. Like its stereoscopic predecessors, the View-Master exploited the phenomenon of binocular vision in order to produce three-dimensional images. Unlike the devices that came before it, the View-Master utilized 16- millimeter Kodachrome slide transparency film that was illuminated by two small, translucent windows in the rear of the device. Images were mounted onto a reel in pairs of seven and rotated through the View-Master with the aid of a lever. By the 1960s, the View-Master became a popular toy in the United States and is best remembered today for its vibrant glimpses of far off destinations, wonders of the natural world, a long catalog of Disney films, cartoons, and other subjects ranging from the educational to the pop cultural.

As a scholarly subject, the View-Master offers a largely overlooked link between studies on popular nineteenth century 3-D imaging technology and virtual reality. This paper concentrates on an obscure episode from the View-Master’s early history. Invented by William Gruber in 1938, the View-Master’s emergence coincided with the onset of World War II in Europe. Its commercial launch was buttressed by a large purchase in 1941 by the US Military, who used the View-Master as training tool for naval aviators. Dubbed “Stereoscopic Range Estimators,” the View-Master’s military reels pictured aircraft in flight and functioned as an early form of flight simulation. As the View-Master was implemented as an aid to military surveillance, its German-born inventor was simultaneously put under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his affiliation with the Nazi party in Germany. These surprising revelations about the View-Master’s early history expand our understanding about the complexity of the 3-D image’s utility as an object of play, simulator, and surveillance tool.


Margaret Hankel is a doctoral student at Bryn Mawr College in the History of Art department. She specializes in the history of photography, modern and contemporary art, and new media. She earned an MA degree in Art History from the University of Georgia in 2017, and a BA in Art History from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. Her dissertation research focuses on the history of stereography in the twentieth century and the use of 3-D technologies in contemporary art practices. Other research interests include the intersection of art, gaming, and the theory of play, as well as the technological development of color photography across both analog and digital mediafrom early color experiments in the nineteenth century to the use of LCDs today. Before pursuing graduate studies, she worked as a freelance photographer and archivist in Chicago, IL.

An ‘absolute impression of reality’: Capturing the wonder of the stereo-autochrome [EN]

Catlin Langford


Released commercially in 1907, the autochrome was the first widely available colour photography medium. It revolutionised the possibilities of photography, allowing individuals to capture realistic depictions of the world in all its colours. Autochromes were projected for both entertainment and educational purposes, providing illustrations for topics as diverse as botany to round-the-world journeys. Described as ‘uncommonly realistic’, the images inspired fascination and acclaim. This was especially true of stereoscopic autochromes that combined the stereoscopes’ sense of depth and three-dimensionality with the autochrome’s full spectrum of colours. The result was a sensation. Compared to witchcraft, stereo- autochromes were described as ‘startling’ in their production of an ‘absolute impression of reality’, enabling an immersive, realistic picture and experience of the world for the viewer. I am currently undertaking a project to catalogue the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of approximately 2,500 autochromes. Within this collection are a series of stereo-autochromes depicting a range of subjects, from English gardens to scenes of Holland. Owing to their inherent fragility and significant light sensitivity, these works cannot be exhibited. For this reason, this cataloguing project allows for these works to be experienced once again through digital means, whilst simultaneously ensuring their preservation for the future. This paper will seek to capture the wonder surrounding the stereo-autochrome in the early 20th century and will consider the ongoing work to preserve and digitise these objects in the present age.


Catlin Langford is Curatorial Fellow in Photography, supported by The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In this role, Langford is focusing on the significant series of autochromes held in the Royal Photographic Society collection. Langford previously held positions at the Royal Collection Trust, Witt and Conway Libraries and the National Trust of South Australia. She has presented on photography at conferences and organisations across the United Kingdom, including at the University of Oxford, the University of Westminster, the National Galleries of Scotland and Birkbeck, University of London. She holds a BA and BA (Honours) from the University of Adelaide. She completed her MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2016, focusing on the curation of vernacular photographs.


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