British photographic history

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The magic lantern, optical projection and early film - lecture series

The Magic Lantern Society & The University of Westminster will present a second series of six evenings of optical magic at the old Polytechnic, fortnightly from Thursday 12 November – Thursday 10 December 2009, and from Thursday 28 January – Thursday 25th February 2010, at The Old Cinema, University of Westminster 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW.

The Programme

Thursday 12 November @ 7pm
‘Professor’ Mervyn Heard
An exploration through the playbills and other ephemera of the bizarre ghost-show entertainment known as the phantasmagoria as witnessed in London and the provinces at the turn of the 18th century.
Mervyn Heard is a magic lantern showman and the author of ‘Phantasmagoria : The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern’. He is also Chairman of the Magic Lantern Society

Thursday 26 November @ 7pm
Lavater – The Shadow of History
Simon Warner
The noted physiognomist Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) returns for one night only to reclaim his place at the centre of European culture, armed with magic lantern, silhouette apparatus and a curious tale of photographic experimentation in his Zürich cellar.
Simon Warner is a photographer and video artist with interests in the history of photography and visual media. With a NESTA Fellowship he has created a series of impersonations of key figures in European culture and took part in the Arts Council England touring exhibition Alchemy (2006-7).

Thursday 10 December @ 7pm
Grappling with Ghosts: Staging ghost effects in the modern theatre.
Paul Kieve
Hours in dark theatres, expensive quotes from Pilkington’s glass, ill tempered Opera singers in Hamburg and perhaps the world’s first ghost doves. This talk explores the fascinating tale of how the original impractical Dircksian Phantasmagoria of the 1850‘s came into its in the 1860‘s and how, even with huge advancement in stage engineering and lighting, is still spookily difficult to stage.
Paul Kieve is one of the UK’s most prolific designers of theatrical illusions (The Lord Of The Rings, Zorro, The Invisible Man). He is the only magician to appear in and consult on the Harry Potter movies and is the author of the internationally published book Hocus Pocus. His current projects include Zorro at The Folies Bergere in Paris and the forthcoming musical ‘Ghost’.

Christmas Break

Thursday 28th January @ 7pm
Visualising the Marvellous: G. A. Smith and his film 'Santa Claus' (1898)
Dr Frank Gray
G. A. Smith (1864-1959) was one of the great early film pioneers. A stage mesmerist and an associate of the Society for Psychical Research, his six 'spooky' films of 1898 represent his fascination with the 'other side' and his close association with late Victorian paranormal culture.
Dr Frank Gray is the Director of Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton and a specialist in late Victorian cinema.

Thursday 11 February @ 7pm
Geared to the Stars – Victorian Astronomy through the Magic Lantern
Mark Butterworth
Lectures on astronomy were a common form of popular entertainment in the nineteenth century. With an original Victorian magic lantern projector and delicate, hand painted glass slides from the 1840's, Mark Butterworth recreates one of these illustrated lectures. Using complex and intricate mechanical "rackwork" slides to illustrate astronomical concepts, it gives an introduction to mid-19th century astronomy.
Mark Butterworth researches astronomical history and specialises in understanding how popular astronomy was presented to the general public in the 18th and 19th century. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Thursday 25 February @ 7pm
From Anorthoscope to Zoopraxiscope – an A-Z of Victorian animated cartoons
Stephen Herbert
Moving image 19th-century ‘toys’ – philosophical instruments for the drawing room, intended to promote intellectual discussion and provide amusement for adults as least as much as for children – come to life with this illustrated talk.
Stephen Herbert is a Visiting Research Fellow, Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Kingston University London.

Admission is free, commencing 7pm sharp. As this series of talks is entirely free it is advisable to come early, Tickets will be issued from 6pm. For further online information about the talks visit :

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