Obituary: Gwyn A Nicholls (1939-2023)

Obituary: Gwyn A Nicholls (1939-2023)

Gwyn Nicholls, who has died aged 84 years, was a knowledgeable collector and historian of the stereoscope and stereo photography, who assembled a significant world-class collection of viewers and stereo images.

Gwyn was born on 21 May 1939 and after graduating from the Royal College of Art he worked for the Greater London Council until it was closed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1986. After this he remained with the residual body helping to transfer and dispose of its assets.

12306217275?profile=RESIZE_400xGwyn’s collecting interest began with early photographic postcards, but it was from 1987 that he began to actively collect stereoscopes, stereographs in all their forms: on card, metal and glass, along with associated books and ephemera relating to the subject. His job was increasingly flexible and allowed for travel in London and beyond which provided an opportunity to visit auctions, antique fairs, and general and specialist photographica dealers. Much of this was accomplished by trawling catalogues and auction notices in the Antiques Trade Gazette in a pre-online world.

He quickly built up a detailed knowledge of nineteenth century stereography, not simply as a collector but through a deeper understanding of their history and evolution which he did through looking at patents and other sources, and by researching the photographers and publishers behind the many series of cards and unique stereo-daguerreotypes that he collected.

It was 1987 as a new specialist at Christie’s in South Kensington that I first met Gwyn. He was friendly and approachable and always willing to share his knowledge and insights into new consignments. In return he would have a preview of some of the large lots of stereocards that were offered at that time, where he would diligently look at the back and front of each for anything new, sometimes asking for a photocopy, and often bidding at the subsequent auction.

Gwyn was also a regular attendee at the photograph fairs at the Bonnington and other venues, selling duplicates and checking out other dealers’ stock. His table was never easy to pass quickly, for both its content and for a long chat about the market and new finds. He was there as much for the friendships and social side as for the business side, although he was astute at that, too. He also took an interest in making sure particular stereographs went to the ‘right’ home.

Paul Burford commented: "I spent many hours with Gwyn traveling to view and attend auctions, doing photographic fairs and even flying up to Edinburgh to have a look at the Howarth Loomes collection at the National Museums Scotland as well as spending many hours at his home discussing the various viewers and stereoscopic photographers of the nineteenth century, his knowledge and company will be greatly missed".

Gwyn formed one of the pre-eminent stereo collections with a focus on pre-1880s period, selecting the rare, the interesting and significant, and adding to its breadth, selling duplicates and upgrading. His collection was not simply large and comprehensive, but it was also one of the best in terms of the condition and quality of what was in it. Gwyn’s collection was not hidden away:  he enjoyed showing it to other collectors and those with an interest, to share knowledge and discuss stereo history. Such visits were not brief – there was always so much to see and Gwyn’s enthusiasm and knowledge, took time to share.

Gwyn’s health started to deteriorate around six years ago and he eventually stopped attending fairs and was less able to add to his collection. He remained in contact with many of those collectors and enthusiasts who had become friends.

He died on 12 November 2023. His wife Sylvia predeceased him, and he leaves behind a daughter and son.

With special thanks to Paul Burford and Paula Fleming for their insights and photographs, and Denis Pellerin. 

Dr Michael Pritchard
1 December 2023


Top:: © Paul Burford, Gwyn with a Hurst and Wood stereoscope and part oif his collection behind collection, 2011.
Middle: © Jenny or Ray Norman, Gwyn Nicholls, with Paula Fleming in the background, 12 March 2008.
Lower: © Denis Pellerin, Gwyn Nicholls 


E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of British Photographic History to add comments!

Join British Photographic History


  • I'm so sorry to hear of Gwyn's passing.  I remember first meeting him in Camden Passage in Beryl Vosburgh's splendid shop Jubilee.  Floor to ceiling stereos, where you could spend hours and lose track of time - wonderful!  Gwyn used to phone - he'd look for out Ludlow stereos for me and I'd look for F S Mann for him.  A delightful man - he'll be  very much missed.

  • I met Gwyyn at a few Christies South Ken auctions in the late 80s which led to an invitation to visit his home in Wimbledon, the first of many over the next twenty five or so years. Looking through his folders was an important element in developing my knowledge of the subject and I must have bought hundreds of cards from him over the years. I can still recognise their source from his elegant handwriting on the back of some. He was always proud to show off new additions to his stereoscope collection and I bought a few of those too though of course the finest examples were never for sale. I have missed those visits for the past few years and seeing him at Photography Fairs. He was also the only person from the photography collectors world who would occasionally telephone for a chat or to suggest a visit and I enjoyed having him over to look at my holography exhibits from time to time. Paul Burford's stereoview brings back the pleasure of visiting Gwyn and his magnificent collection.


  • It was always a treat to see Gwyn at a fair as his display was more like a museum than a sales table! We had a mutual interest in all things 3D, including View-Master which, although at the bottom of the 3D, world was just as interersting to him as his many beautiful stereo viewers. When I came across any 3D views of Hastings, one of Gwyn's many areas of interest, I would always show it to him first, but most of the time he already had one and often in better condition! At a Stereoscopic meeting a LONG time ago he showed us a slide show of some of his collection - no computers or mobile phones back then. To say we were all spell-bound is an underestimation! He will be sadly missed.
    Tim Goldsmith

  • Lovely man. He's been much missed these last few years.

This reply was deleted.

Blog Topics by Tags

Monthly Archives