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A VILLAGE LOST AND FOUND by Brian May and Elena Vidal
A complete annotated collection of the original 1850s stereoscopic photograph series Scenes in Our Village by T. R. Williams brought together for the first time in living memory
For the young Brian May, a fascination with 3-D picture cards given away in Weetabix packets led to a lifelong passion for 'stereoscopic' images. Soon May was taking sequential pictures with his Woolworth's 2/6d camera and making pairs of sketches that transformed into 3-D scenes when he 'relaxed [his] eyes and let the images float together'. Later, he scoured antique shops and auctions for stereoscopic photographs and the 'viewers' that enabled him to see the images in all their glory. It was in this way that May discovered the work of Thomas Richard Williams (1824-1871), who, in the 1850s, had created a series of 59 stereo cards depicting life in a small English village - Scenes in Our Village.
In A VILLAGE LOST AND FOUND, the product of more than 30 years' research, May and his co-author, photographic historian Elena Vidal, present an exhaustive study of Scenes in Our Village. The village, whose identity was lost for 150 years, was only recently rediscovered by May, in 2003, still in existence in Oxfordshire. The complete series of images is collected here for the first time in living memory, along with extensive related material, including many corresponding photographs of the village as it is today. Their research is amazingly in-depth, but the book is utterly readable, and the pictures leap into glorious 3-D, viewed in the new focusing stereoscope which May has designed and produced, to bring the stereos to life, and then fold neatly into the
slip-case of the book.
'A Village Lost and Found is a significant contribution to our understanding of photographic history and the Victorian period. These three dimensional studies of rural village life are so evocative that one can almost smell the new-mown hay, and feel the warmth of the very sun that illuminated these scenes 150 years ago. To quote the 1850s London Stereoscopic Company's maxim, "No home should be without one!â€'
Roger Taylor, Professor of Photographic History,
De Montfort University, Leicester.
The book gives an exceptional insight into everyday village life at the time - with a woman at her spinning wheel, the blacksmith outside his smithy, three men at the grindstone sharpening a tool, the villagers in the fields, bringing in the harvest as well as often taking time to enjoy a good gossip.
In every case the original verse which accom-panied the view is reproduced, enriching the picture by revealing the inner thoughts of the subjects, or transforming it into a comment on Life, Nature, or the Spiritual World. In addition, May and Vidal have researched and annotated all the views, revealing another layer of meaning, by exploring the history of these real characters, this idyllic village and its links with the present day. The result is a powerfully atmospheric and touching set of photographs.
A Village Lost and Found provides an extraordinary insight into English society in the mid-Victorian era, explains historic photographic techniques and explores the life of the enigmatic T. R. Williams, who appears, from time to time, Hitchcock-like, in his own photographs.
â€œThis is a picture book: an annotated book of photographs which tells a unique story - a story that has fascinated me for more than half a lifetime.â€ - Brian May