The Art of Stereoscopy: Jim Naughten

The Art of Stereoscopy: Jim Naughten

I’m very fortunate to welcome to the Stereoscopy Blog British artist Jim Naughten. He uses photography, stereoscopy and painting to explore historical and natural history subject matter in a beautiful and unique way. He was awarded a painting scholarship to Lancing College and later studied photography at the Arts Institute of Bournemouth. Naughten’s work has been widely featured in exhibitions across Europe and the US and including solo shows at the Imperial War Museum, Horniman Museum, and a forthcoming show at the Wellcome Collection (2022), and group shows at the Royal Academy of Art and National Portrait Galleries in London.

I was really stunned by the beauty and intrigue of his 3-D book Mountains of Kong and I can’t believe he’s written something special for Stereoscopy Day to celebrate the art. He explains how he got into stereoscopy and how he uses it with his work.

Thank you Jim!

By Jim Naughten

I first stumbled across stereoscopy whilst researching a project on the First World War. At some point I found these strange cards with two identical images on them of fighting in the trenches. When I worked out that they were early 3D images I was intrigued and bought a tatty old Holmes viewer and a few of the cards from ebay. I think I nearly fell off my chair when I first saw the images in 3D. I was entranced, and utterly smitten. They are so beguiling and enjoyable to view. There appears to be an intimate connection with lost worlds, especially with many of the historical cards. Some of my favourites are extraordinary landscapes from Yosemite in the 1800s.   

Illustration 1-Holmes Stereoscope and WW1 cards-smish
Illustration 2-WW1-Première ligne-editing 2-smish

I wondered if it was possible to make stereo images and display them in exhibitions and books, and set about trying over the next couple of years. It has been a fascinating, fun, and very often complicated experience but ultimately extremely rewarding. 

It turned out that making the stereos was the easy part, and displaying them is where all the challenges really began ! I’ve generally worked with non moving museum specimens so I have been able to make my stereos with one camera on a slider mounted on a tripod. I’ve made and exhibited prints using various home made viewers with mirrors and stereo card viewers made from perspex, all with varying degrees of success but I have to say it’s hard to beat that original Holmes viewer for usability ! 

(The book has since been published and is available here)

It’s a hard medium to exhibit but when it works well its the best ! I have an exhibition opening in November at Londons Wellcome Collection called ‘Objects in stereo’. I hope some of you may be able to visit.

Jim Naughten

Illustration 3-The King of Kong-smish


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