The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Lecture: Famous and Anonymous Victorians in the Stereoscope

11 October 2019, 19:00

Ondaatje Wing Theatre

Tickets: £10 (£8 concessions and Gallery Supporters) Book online, or visit the Gallery in person.

Digital interpretation of the original stereoscopic card

© The National Portrait Gallery, London

Original stereoscopic card


Isambard Kingdom Brunel
by Robert Howlett, and George Downes
November 1857
NPG P1979

The stereoscopic craze that swept over France and Britain from the mid-1850s to the 1862 Exhibition led to the production of millions of binocular photographs that are an invaluable help for anyone who wishes to study and understand the Victorian era. Among those images, so precious for the historian of the period, are hundreds of portraits of famous and totally anonymous Victorians. Projected on a large screen and visible in 3-D through special glasses, they bring to life in a very vivid way those ghosts of the past and let us step, for a while, straight into the very heart of photographs that were all taken when Queen Victoria was ruling over Britain. Even the “carte-o-mania” which succeeded this stereoscopic frenzy yields, at times, some surprising full length and full 3-D portraits in a way that will be explained by photo historian Denis Pellerin with chosen examples from Brian May’s and the NPG’s collections.

Denis Pellerin is a self-taught photo-historian with an MA in Art history from the Sorbonne and a very strong passion for nineteenth century stereo photography. Denis has been researching and learning about the history of stereo photography for over 30 years and has written multiple articles and books on the subject, both in French and in English. During his thirtieth year as a secondary school teacher, Denis had the good fortune to meet and work with Dr. Brian May before being hired by the latter as the curator of his extensive photographic collection (over 100,000 stereo photographs). His mission is to make the collection alive. It is safe to state that it is currently the most researched, most advertised, most lectured on, and most written about collection of stereoscopic images in Europe, if not in the world.

Priority booking for Gallery Members is open now. Public booking will open on Thursday 8 August 2019.

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