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Roll Up For Magic Lantern Shows!

December 21, 2012
by the gentle author

Awaiting a Magic Lantern Show at the Bishopsgate Institute

It is my delight to collaborate with the Bishopsgate Institute, staging a return to the glory days of Magic Lantern Shows that were such a popular feature of the Institute in its early years.

We have invited Libby Hall, collector of dog photography, and two Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographers Phil Maxwell and Colin O’Brien to show their favourite pictures to an audience as modern day Magic Lantern Shows and talk about their work – to cheer up our evenings in January, February and March.

Admission is free but tickets must be reserved in advance and we expect to get booked out, so if you would like to come we advise you to book online sharpish through the Bishopsgate Institute or by calling 020 7392 9200.

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Libby Hall, Tuesday 29th January at 7.30pm

Between 1966 and 2006, Libby Hall collected old photographs of dogs, amassing many thousands to assemble what is possibly the largest number of canine pictures ever gathered by any single person. Libby began collecting casually when the photographs were of negligible value, but by the end she had published four books and been priced out of the market.

Yet through her actions Libby rescued an entire genre of photography from the scrap heap, seeing the poetry and sophistication in images that were previously dismissed as merely sentimental – and today, we are the beneficiaries of her visionary endeavour.

Brick Lane Laundrette Kiss

Phil Maxwell, Tuesday 26th February at 7.30pm

Phil Maxwell is the photographer of Brick Lane – no-one has taken more pictures here over the last thirty years than he. And now his astonishing body of work stands unparalleled in the canon of street photography, both in its range and in the quality of human observation that informs his eloquent images.

“More than anywhere else in London, Brick Lane has the organic quality of being constantly changing, even from week to week.” Phil told me when I asked him to explain the enduring fascination for a photographer. “Coming into Brick Lane is like coming into a theatre, where they change the scenery every time a different play comes in – a stage where each new set reflects the drama and tribulations of the wider world.”

Clerkenwell Car Crash, 1957

Colin O’Brien, Thursday 28th March at 7.30pm

Colin O’Brien grew up fifty yards from Hatton Garden in Victoria Dwellings, a tenement at the junction of Farringdon Rd and Clerkenwell Rd – the centre of his childhood universe in Clerkenwell, which Colin portrayed in spellbinding photographs that evoke the poetry and pathos of the forgotten threadbare years in the aftermath of World War II.

Over all this time, Colin has pursued his talent and taken more than half a million pictures, many of them in the East End. His work is barely known because he never worked for publication or even for money, devoting himself single-mindedly to taking photos for their own sake – yet over the passage of time, as a consequence of the rigour and purism of his approach, the authority of Colin O’Brien’s superlative photography stands comparison with any of the masters of twentieth century British photography.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. December 21, 2012

    Love the dog video! It’s amazing, when you think people have loved their dogs for centuries. So sad to see all the photos too though. All those people who were living their lives just like you and I are, now all gone 🙁

  2. December 21, 2012

    colin o’brien’s pix of postwar london always remind me of martha quest’s epic walk-about in the first several chapters of The Four Gated City. it was the first time i had ever gotten a sense of what the luftwaffe, and the people of the east end — and the king’s speech — had done.

  3. Gary permalink
    December 21, 2012

    I can remember those old magic lantern shows when I was a child in the 1930’s.
    My father used to run these shows in the old Church hall in Old Ford Road, E.3
    the projector was lit by limelight, a form of incandescent gas light that was very brilliant, a small chimney on top gave out a thin plume of smoke. The 3″ slides were in 12″ long boxes with a script that was read by the narrator who clicked when each slide had to be changed.
    When the war started my father brought all of the slides out to Romford to avoid war damage, unfortunately the projector was too heavy to transport and was left at the Church, it was destroyed when the Church was bombed. I still have these slides and the huge brass lense for the projector. I am trying to locate an old projector in the antique trade so that I can show these old slides, they consist of tours of foreign lands, wildlife and many other subjects.

  4. Moy Paterson permalink
    December 21, 2012

    These Were Our Dogs made my evening – and raised a few smiles. Gorgeous!

  5. Chris F permalink
    December 24, 2012

    Hey Gary… Whilst musing over your comments about the magic lantern slides, I suddenly remembered that my brother-in-law has a genuine magic lantern projector hidden away in his garage. It has been converted to take an electric bulb but still works… He doesn’t have any slides but I don’t think that he would sell it. Maybe we could organise some sort of get together to view the slides as long as they fit his projector. Let me know through our host if you are interested…

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