Focusing the Light: Lantern Slide Show

May 2017, Photo London, Somerset House, London; October 2018-2019, V&A Photography Centre, London

What is a Magic Lantern Show? The crackle and hiss and smell of the gas lamp, giving way to the low hum and fluorescent flicker of the electric bulb, punctuated by a thunking jolt as the slides change. Sometimes they melt magically into one another, but the thunk cuts through the illusion. Sat in the dark, the projectionist has the best view; the spectators crane around his silhouette, in front of rows of spectators who crane around those craning, all to catch the astonishing photographs, projected larger than life, in time with the voice of the lecturer.

The “Dark Tent” in the V&A Photography Centre provides a space to recreate the communal spectacle of the projected image. Succeeded by cinema, the lantern slide lecture offered audiences their first glimpse sense of wonder at the the wider world. This nine-minute film reimagined the magical experience of a lantern slide show as it follows the intrepid journey of two early summit attempts on Mount Everest. 

Using the original lantern slides and archival research, I created the structure and content for the film installation whilst Assistant Curator at the V&A.