Stan White: 1980s Retrospective in Stereo - May 17th, 2006

Stan White, Brantford Ontario

Stan White is well known throughout North America for his work in stereo imagery. He has also presented stereo shows in England, France and Switzerland. His background includes commercial photography and teaching at Sheridan College, Oakville campus. He is past editor of the stereo journal of the PSA and past chairman of its Stereo Division. Stan has also published articles in Stereo World and Photographic Canadiana

Stan presented a 170 slide retrospective of his 1980's work, including some images never shown before (experimental and tabletop set-ups). Many of the slides were submitted to PSA stereo exhibitions. Stan opened his show with a brief commentary on the history of stereo images - a art form that pre-dates photography. The special projectors and polarized viewing glasses were provided by Stan (See our page on Stereo Night 1999 for images of Stan's projector).

Wheatstone investigated stereo images in the early 1830s using hand drawn stereo pairs and viewers that he designed. The modern photographic stereo art arrived along with the Daguerreotype. A decade later in 1849, Brewster designed a more practical viewer. Popular use had to wait nearly another decade for the wet-plate process and the traditional albumen print stereo cards seen in today's image and paper shows, camera shows, and antique/flea markets.

Stan White
by Robert Lansdale

Benjamin Dancer, noted for inventing a technique to make microscopic photographs, was one of the first to realize the stereo effect didn't require a wide base. His stereo camera had roughly a three inch separation between lenses. Stereo cards and viewers were the television of the time in the last half of Queen Victoria's reign. Stereo images came closest to creating reality with their three dimensional view of the world. Standards varied with 5x7in being the choice in America, half-plate in England, and 11x15cm on the continent. Each size captured a stereo pair.

Stereo mirrored the changes in traditional photography. Autochromes added colour in the early 1900s. In 1896 Jules Richard designed cameras that made smaller 45 x 107 mm transparent stereo images on glass plates (later adding a larger 6 x 16 cm version). This was followed four years later by his Taxiphote magazine viewer. It held a number of stereo transparencies that could be easily viewed in sequence (Bob Wilson brought his Taxiphote to the January 1992 meeting where speaker Peg Forbes told us about her successful search for the owners of an old Taxiphote full of amateur travel slides). By 1940 the commercial production of stereo cards disappeared. Over the years interest in the stereo process has waxed and waned. Polaroid material was invented in the 1930s making stereo projection practical - just in time for the introduction of 35mm Kodachrome slide film in September, 1936.

Setups to create stereo images

35mm film and miniature cameras introduced another wave of stereo. A regular miniature camera could take a stereo pair using a slide bar for still life, or a prism/mirror device like the Leitz Stereoly for moving subjects. In 1943 a young inventor, Seton Rochwite approached the David White company, a maker of surveying instruments for a job. He brought along a stereo viewer he designed and drawings for a 35mm stereo camera he was making to show the company his potential. David White not only hired Rochwite, he agreed to manufacture his stereo camera and four years in 1947 the camera was released. The Realist camera was a big success for the small company with over 40,000 sold over the life of the camera. Other camera makers like Kodak followed and took over the market from the relatively expensive Realist camera line.

In the 1950s, many well known movie stars and celebrities were stereo enthusiasts, including Art Linklater and Harold Lloyd. They were members of the Hollywood Stereo Club, which still functions to this day. Celebrity interest - and the ready availability of young starlets as willing models - brought a renewed period of popularity for the stereo image. The Realist used 35mm film cleverly squeezing 29 stereo pairs on to a standard 36 exposure roll of 35mm film.

Whimsical shots of
stereo cameras.

Stan first worked in stereo while he was living in England. He became interested once again in the 1980s. Stan entered his slides in US competitions where he had to compete with spectacular scenery not easily found in southern Ontario. He opted to use table-top stereo and humour to stand out, finding inspiration in paintings, using props like mannequins, and adopting the works of others such as the Canada Geese hanging in the Eaton Centre atrium. This evening's show consisted of stereo images grouped by subject matter, interspersed with slides of his set-ups and 3D cameras. The slides were projected by two custom-made projectors mounted in a single housing (valued today at as much as $5,000). Many of the images are taken at f/22 to preserve a deep depth of field - a shallow depth of field leads to fuzzy images and a loss of the stereo effect.

Stereo Realist Manual

The past few years, Stan has tackled near infra-red (IR) stereo images. With his film cameras and Macophot (with an anti-halation layer) or Kodak high speed IR film (without an anti-halation layer), Stan has to work at a slow 25th of a second using a wide aperture of f/3.5 to  record an image. To work at a more suitable f/8 takes a 16 second exposure time. Many of the near IR film images have a characteristic fuzziness due to the lack of an anti-halation layer. 

Today, he is experimenting with near infra-red (IR) stereo using a pair of modified Canon Rebel digital cameras mounted on a stereo-bar. Digital imagers are very sensitive to IR, as a result,  digital cameras have an IR blocking filter inserted in the light path. Stan's cameras were recently modified to replace the internal IR blocking filter with Schott 715 IR filter allowing him to record near infra-red images. While near IR is just beyond the visible range of light, it gives a good tonal range for working in Photoshop.

 With the modified Rebel cameras, Stan can record hand held IR images at an aperture of f/8 and speeds of 1/1000 or 1/2000th of a second allowing him to record fast moving subjects with the deep depth of field so important to good stereo. You can see four examples Stan provided after his talk, by clicking here. The images are sized to allow you to free view them in stereo with a bit of practise.

Stereoly device attached to a screw mount Leica camera

Today stereo remains a niche interest. Bob Wilson coordinates a very small southern Ontario stereo club that meets in members homes to make and share stereo images and experiment with new techniques.  Digital is affecting the creation of stereo images. All existing stereo cameras use film, a rapidly disappearing resource. On the plus side, new technology is rapidly expanding today's options for creating and viewing stereo images. 

If you would like more information on the fascinating world of stereo check out the short course at J R S Design, or visit the Wikipedia Stereography page. 

Following is a selection of Stan's images, unfortunately not in stereo. I recorded them from the projected slides by placing one lens of my polarizing glasses in front of my camera lens. I couldn't resist taking some stereo shots of Stan with my Sony F828. You can see the results here on the IR stereo page right hand column

Richard's Taxiphote stereo viewer
Stan emphasizes a point
Stan approving one of Bob Lansdale's shots

Thanks to Stan White for permission to show some of his images on this page. They were captured with a Sony F828 directly from the screen. Adjustments were made in Photoshop CS2. Contents and images are ©2006 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and other copyright holders . Contact PHSC if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

Click on most of the small images to see a larger version in a separate window.

Bob Carter

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