British photographic history

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The National Technical museum at Letna Park in Prague, which is one of the oldest in Europe, reopens to the public after a four-year reconstruction. It is a collection of the Museum of Technology and the Military History Institute in Prague, through which visitors can explore more than 40 weapons and vehicles, the Czech Army used during the last 110 years.

Uhh? Where does the history of photography fit in? Well, hidden amongst the exhibits are a couple of gems!  First is a renewed exhibition of the history of photography, called a photo studio. The development of photography, its use and influence on society from the 19th century up to the present day is presented together with basic photographic processes and their development in a stylized photographic studio. The individual historical stages are documented by used appliances and original photos of everyday life in society. The central part of the exhibition is a glass studio – a reconstruction of a contemporary photographic studio with a glass ceiling from the 20th century used for a portrayal in daylight. The most valuable exhibit is considered to be the daguerreotype of the Royal Palace in Paris dating from 1840 whose author was the inventor of photography : J. L. M. Daguerre himself.

Another remarkable part of the collection is devoted to daguerrotypy – the oldest practically applied photographic technique. The collection contains two daguerrotypies of J.L. M.Daguerre himself. Particularly precious is also a microdaguerrotypy from 1840 and a daguerrotypy of sun spectrum. Quite numerous collection is devoted to one of European pioneers of photography Wilhelm Horn. The period of a painting conception of photographic recording from the 50s and 60s of last century is represented in the collection by ambrotypy andchromophotograp­hy. The collection also contains a set of albums with portraits, examples of activities of the first Czech photographic associations, and stereophotography. Beginnings of colour photography are documented by Lippmann's pho­tographs and particularly by the collection of autochromes which is the largest in the Czech Republic. Karel Smirous is the dominating author of this oldest practically applied technique of colour photography. The collection also comprises special photographic techniques and rarities creating an attractive supplement and documenting the variety of possibilities of photographic recording.

 

Photographic cameras and accessories

The collection of photographic cameras and accessories dates back to 1911 and was combined with the field of polygraphy. Since 1923 the collection has been developing independently. It documents the development of basic design groups of photographic cameras. It contains objects demonstrating fundamental chemical and physical processes in the field.

The oldest are examples of camera obscura – predecessors of photographic dark-rooms, the collection follows with chambers fordaguerrotypy. The wet colloid process is represented by several studio dark-rooms as well as travel chambers. The collection also contains many studio and travel chambers for dry plates, manual chambers for plates as well as reel film, cassette, box, tilting and brace types, single- and twin-lens reflex cameras, cameras for cine-film, mini-cameras, special cameras – underwater, panoramatic, stereoscopic, for aerial photography, for microphotography, for spectroscopy, camouflaged, reproduction, cameras for component colour photography – Bernpohl, Spektaretta.

The collection of individual photographic objects counts about five hundred pieces. It includes objectives from the oldest models (Plosl, Chevalier, Voigtlender, Petzval, Steinheil, Busch) to modern types. A large part of the collection comprises accessories of cameras, outfit of dark-rooms, instruments for determination of exposure, illuminating technique, flash and filament lamps. A very large part of the collection is devoted to instruments for inspection and projection of static pictures. The collection is completed with price lists of photographic firms and promotion materials.

 

Prehistory of cinematography

The collection documents development from the first attempts at recording motion and representing events to the cinematograph of brothers Lumiere. It contains originals of magic lantern of simple as well as complex design that made it possible to create illusion of motion by a multiple projection. Quite abundant is the collection of hand- painted projection pictures.

The collection also contains tens of stroboscope disksthaumatrops, magic drums and similar instruments – toys that utilized reverberation of sight perception for showing simple actions. Worth particular attention is a set of three-dimensional models depicting ten motion stages of a bird's flight. It served as a pattern for manufacturing the copy of Marey's miros­cope. The field of serial photography of motion phases is represented by copies of the Marey's and Demeny's instru­ments and tens of original chromophotographic studies by Marey. The collection comprises also a copy of Muybridge's zo­opraxiscope – an apparatus for projection of serial photographs. There is also a functional copy of Anschutz's elec­trotachyscope including original picture disks and also functional precise copy of the Edison's kines­cope.

The work of prof. Reynaud is represented by several originals of praxinoscopes and a world uniquefragment (17 picture frames) of the original film band for projecti....

The original cinematograph of brothers Lumiere was purchased in Lyon in 1898 by architect Krizenecky who made with it the first Czech films. The copy of this apparatus completed with a lamp box documents using of this instrument in projection. The collection is completed with many written materials.

 

So the next time you are in Prague, don't just down some Czech beer while looking at the Astronomical clock. Head to the National Technical museum for some photographic history delights! Time for me to book a ticket! Full details can be found here

 

Photo: Photographic studio in the Museum.

 

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