03/08/2021Oldest Stonehenge family photo discovered in collection of rock legend Dr. Brian May
- 3D stereoview of 1860s day trip to Stonehenge uncovered by curators
- Stereoscope Cabinet displays Stonehenge images set to May’s own piano soundtrack
Stonehenge’s oldest family photo has been discovered in the collection of Dr. Brian May, legendary guitarist of rock band Queen, English Heritage announced today (3 August). The image will be on display as part of a collection set to a soundtrack performed by May himself, viewed through a digital stereoscope, loaned to the charity by the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.
The 3D image or stereoview was taken by photographer Henry Brooks and depicts his family enjoying a day out at Stonehenge in the 1860s. The image was discovered by Denis Pellerin and Rebecca Sharpe, curators of the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy, following a public appeal by English Heritage to find the earliest family photo taken at the stones. English Heritage is now putting out a further call to find descendants of Henry Brooks to invite them back to Stonehenge to re-create the photo as a new stereo card.
The 1860s stereoview shows two nearly identical photographs mounted on a card which together produce the illusion of a single three-dimensional image when seen through a stereoscope. This summer, the photo can be viewed through a digital stereoscope at the Stonehenge visitor centre, and visitors will be able to enjoy a short film of historic and contemporary Stonehenge stereoviews, accompanied by a piano soundtrack of May playing Who Wants To Live Forever.
Dr Brian May, Queen guitarist, astrophysicist and stereoscopic enthusiast, said: "I’ve been fascinated by stereo cards since I was a boy and got one in a cereal packet! This is a fantastic early example and exciting because it’s one of the oldest family snaps taken at Stonehenge. It feels even more evocative when set to music – a bit like a silent movie and we thought it would be great fun to recreate the image as a stereo view at Stonehenge and breathe new life into an old photo."
Susan Greaney, English Heritage Historian, said: "We’re so excited to have Brian May involved with our exhibition at Stonehenge. The stones play such an important role in our collective memory and this can be seen so clearly in the long tradition of family and group photos taken at the stones and on display in the Your Stonehenge exhibition. These sorts of Victorian 3D images have a real vividness and depth in themselves, and this one provides a further dimension still because we know who took it. We know that Henry Brooks had a talent for the visual arts, as census records show that he started his career as a photographer before becoming a painter in later life. Some of his paintings are in the collections of Salisbury Museum, along with one by his son Frank, who in the photo sits with his back to the camera. We’d love to track down Henry and Frank’s descendants and bring that photo to life again."
Are you a descendant of the Salisbury photographer and painter Henry Brooks? Please get in touch with us at YourStonehenge@English-Heritage.org.uk
Visitors to Stonehenge this summer can look back in time from a different perspective with the Digital Stereoscope, on loan from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy until end September 2021.
Your Stonehenge – 150 years of personal photos has been extended until 31 August 2022.
Henry and Frank Brooks’ paintings are in the collection of The Salisbury Museum.