interview by Ted Lehr

The Akron Civic Theater is a majestic structure. Over the years it has been home to countless concerts, dramatic productions and graduations. When I was a boy, the Civic would host an annual classic horror/sci-fi 3D movie night. Tickets were a scant $3. The bill was the same every year — It Came from Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon — but I didn’t care. The movies were enthralling, over-the-top B-movie fare that would appeal to any 10-year-old boy with an overactive imagination.

But what really put the experience over the top and burned it into my memory was the 3D aspect. The Creature popping off the screen at the audience as we squirmed in our seats, 3D glasses perched on our noses. It wasn’t just a movie… it was real.

Cut to today. 3D photography is alive and well in myriad forms. In fact, the National Stereoscopic Association (NSA) is holding its national convention from July 30—August 5 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.

NSA president John Bueche recently spoke to The Devil Strip about the event.

Ted Lehr: How did you first encounter 3D?

John Bueche: Back in the early ‘70s, my parents got me a View-Master “Theatre in the Round.” The viewer was 3D and the projector was 2-D. [The toy] came with ten reels. I thought it was amazing. Jump forward, I’m in my 30s. I’m at a flea market and I find a box of View-Master reels. I buy them. Later, I wonder to myself if they are worth anything. So, I go to a bookstore and find a book. I found out that I could take my own 3D photographs. 

It was through that book that I started researching View-Master. I didn’t know that in the ’50s, people were taking their own 3D images with Stereo Realist cameras. So I started looking around. I bought a camera and a projector and found out that there were people other than me who had an interest. Two years later I was president of the National Stereoscopic Association. 

TL: When you reencountered the View-Master in your 30s, what was it that sucked you back in?

JB: A lot of us grew up with simpler toys. It was a memory from my childhood, along with the fact that there were these great images from all over the world. All the images I bought that day were from the 1970s or earlier. There was definitely a nostalgia attached to it. 

TL: What is the history of the NSA event?

JB: The NSA started in 1974, right down the road in Canton, as a collectors group. Collectors from all over the world would bring their [viewers, photos, movies, etc.] and they would have a big weekend tradeshow. Over the years, they decided to show their own work. That’s how we got 3D Theatre [one of the annual convention attractions]. Next came the excursions. Those are on the first two days. By Thursday, there are workshops and art exhibits. 

[The NSA] gets together once a year. The locations of the events crisscross the country. We publish a magazine called Stereo World, which publishes six times a year. 

TL: From the collector side of the hobby, what are the Holy Grail pieces for View-Master or other devices?

JB: Any of the advertising reels from the ’50s through ’70s. There were military reels made in the ’40s used to train the navy and army in plane and ship identification. [Not to mention any of the hundreds of licensed reels pertaining to Disney, Star Trek, nature, space, travel, sports, etc.]

TL: What is the joy of 3D?

JB: You’re either hooked or you’re not. The whole world is filled with 2-D images. There’s something in my brain that loves the extra dimension of depth. We want to see something we can walk into. That’s the power of 3D.

TL: Why should people come to 3D-Con 2019?

JB: If you have any interest in the history of photography, we are the place to come. As soon as photography was invented, 3D was part of it. There is something for beginner, intermediate and advanced photographers (and collectors). Also, Sunday is free. 

3D-Con 2019 occurs from July 30 to August 5 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn. For attendees, there will be day trips around the Akron-Canton area, vendors, workshops, photo screenings and much more. It is the premier event of its kind. It appeals to hardcore photographers as well as those who want to experience a little piece of that 3D magic.

Visit www.3D-con.com for ticket and event information. 

Additionally, there is a local group, the Ohio Stereo Photographic Society, which meets locally multiple times a year. They can be found at www.drt3d.com/ohio3d.

Ted Lehr has been a freelance culture critic for the Devil Strip since 2016. Mr. Lehr denies being scared as a young boy each time the asteroid flew out of the screen at him during the opening sequence of It Came from Outer Space. Err, much.

Photo: Rick Shomsky. Used with permission from John Bueche.

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