Friday, 22 May 2015

Sepia Saturday 280: The Pleasures of a First Pipe

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

The Sepia Saturday theme this week appears to be a postcard reproduction of a pen and ink drawing entitled, "The Leap Year: The ladies after a little wine and tobacco join the gentlemen in the drawing room," and the gentlemen, I must say, don't look particular pleased about the situation. My examples, in a somewhat related vein, are of magic lantern slides, a photographic format that was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but then very quickly overtaken by the motion picture industry.

Image © and courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection
Magic Lantern Slide Projector, c.1900s
Image © and courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection

Originally invented in the 17th century, the magic lantern was employed by conjurers, magicians and illusionists in the late 18th century to trick audiences into believing they had seen supernatural beings, commonly known as phantasmagorias. By the late 1800s, however, they were being used for the more mundane task of projecting images for entertainment purposes, these pictures covering a wide array of genres. The Magic-Lantern is one of web sites that has many examples displayed online, and is well worth a browse. By the 1890s, with the cost of photographic equipment no longer being prohibitive, the lantern slide format was even used for vernacular photography, and I have featured several such examples here on Photo-Sleuth.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
The Pleasures of a first pipe, c. 1890s-1900s
Series of three lantern slides from negatives by W.W. Winter, Derby
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Derby photographer W.W. Winter is best known for his prolific output of fine studio portraits produced during a lengthy career from the late 1860s until his retirement from the business in 1909. The firm still operates today from premises on Midland Road, near Derby's busy railway station, and with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, an archivist, an artist-in-residence and a team of volunteers is currently undertaking a project to rescue and digitize many thousands of glass plate negatives from the cellar.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
No. 1 Lighting Up

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
No. 2 In Full Blast

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
No. 3 The Final Result
Magic lantern slides by W.W. Winter of Derby
Images © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

These three lantern slides are not from W.W. Winter's cellar, but rather a serendipitous find on eBay a few years ago. Not only are they the only lantern slides from this studio that I have come across, but the comic subject is somewhat unusual for W.W. Winter. I suspect it was a experiment which was subsequently abandoned as being commercially unsuccessful. Sadly, the third and last in the series is cracked, and partly masked by tape, rather detracting from the image, but at least it has survived.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
W.W. Winter Ltd studio, Midland Road, Derby, 14 Sep 2013
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

I was very fortunate to be able to visit the premises of the W.W. Winter studio when in Derby in 2007, and particularly honoured to be given a personal tour by Hubert King, whose association with the firm began as an apprentice when he was a teenager. Hubert's father had started working for W.W. Winter as a photogrephic assistant in 1896, later becoming sole proprietor. At the time of my visit, Hubert was still working part-time for the firm.

Image © Copyright & courtesy of W.W. Winter Ltd
Barbara Ellison, Brett Payne & Hubert King, 14 Sep 2013
In the W.W. Winter Ltd studio, Midland Road, Derby
Image © Copyright & courtesy of W.W. Winter Ltd

The portrait (above) of Hubert with my aunt and me in the studio gallery (although I'm not sure if they still call it that) was kindly taken by one of the studio photographers. The gilt-framed portrait of King Edward VII around which we have been carefully positioned, by the way, was taken by Mr Winter in that same studio well over a century earlier.

25 comments:

  1. I am surprised that the W. W. Winter studio name is still being used long after the death of W. W. Winter.

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    1. Postcardy - Col Sanders died a while ago too ;-)

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  2. Brett, a wonderful take on the inspiration theme. What a marvellous instrument the Magic Lantern was, especially in a time period in which people still believed in the magical. The slides are a treasure! I wonder what ever became of the young pipe smoker featured in them.

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    1. Jennifer - Thank you. The young smoker probably lived to a "ripe old age," after experiencing early the deleterious effects of nicotine.

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  3. So . . . if I'm figuring this right, the Magic Lantern projected slides at a set pace in a set order to tell a story - yes? Or was the pace manually directed? I'd never heard of the Magic Lantern before. What I had heard of, however, is the word 'phantasmagoria' or at least a form of it. My Grandma Louise had some strange & funny expressions - many of which have stayed with me through the years - & one of them was 'phantasmagorious' except we spelled it with an 'f' instead of a 'ph' & used it when something was what we'd call today 'awesome'. :)

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    1. Gail - It was manually operated, something like in old-style, pre-cartridge/carousel 35mm slide projector. How interesting - I'm sure your grandma's use of the word must originally have derived from the lantern shows. I wouldn't call anything today, "awesome"!!

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    2. You wouldn't use the WORD "awesome", or nothing today IS awesome?? I like the word, but it has been overused a bit.

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    3. I wouldn't use it. It's very much an Americanism, I think, because I don't recall ever hearing it when I was growing up. Nowadays, young folk, even in New Zealand, use it all the time.

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  4. Wonderful story, Brett. I suspect a magic lantern photo series with a message, like the Pleasures of a First Pipe, came with a story (or sermon) to recite to the audience. Otherwise the show would be over in seconds. This set resembles the French postcard series that tell a short humorous story.

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    1. Mike - And I'm sure the raconteur would have had a very special skill at keeping the audience entertained. I'm thinking this one was perhaps a filler between the main attractions, just lasting a few seconds. Your own postcard series were very much brought to mind when I originally spotted this. They also appeared, often in much longer series, as stereoviews.

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  5. A very interesting post Brett. I imagine the Magic Lantern Show was the forerunner of the ubitiquous slide show to which we were all subjected in the 60s.

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    1. Liz - Yes that's correct, and I have previously featured some amateur magic lantern slides here on Photo-Sleuth.

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  6. Great post. That Magic Lantern link is terrific. I can imagine how exciting it would have been to see one of these shows. I doubt we have any businesses left around here that have passed from one generation to the next.

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    1. Helen - I think it's very unusual, and I believe that WW Winter Ltd is probably the oldest photographic studio in the UK still operating under the same name. They moved to those premises in the 1860s, I believe.

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  7. How fun, magic lanterns leading up to the longevity of a photo studio...and you are right there in the middle next to His Majesty! Isn't that close to phantasmagoric?

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    1. Barbara - phantasmagorious or phantasmagoric, not terms that are likely to come out my mouth, but they do indeed capture the the flavour.

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  8. Oh Barbara, I do like your comment. Yes indeed, I think it very close to phantasmagoric. Great post Brett - as always.

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    1. Alex - Thanks for leaving a comment.

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  9. I can imagine your delight at finding the three slides of the boy smoking. They're great photos.

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    1. Lorraine - Yes, it was a totally unexpected surprise.

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  10. Brett another incredible interesting post, and I do favor and that term, Studio Gallery at times! All perfect photos, but I really favor your last one, (cool to see you the happy blogger) and the photo of the lad titled lighting up.

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    1. Karen - Gallery seems to have been the term used to describe the ante-room to the main studio, where prospective clients could browse portraits and framed enlargements of previous clients, and choose which style they would like for their own.

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  11. An amazing post with a great story to accompany the pictures. Does anyone still use glass plate negatives. It would be interesting to see some modern portraits alongside their digital equivalents.

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    1. boundforoz - Yes there are a few enthusiasts out there who make their own, I believe, but you'd have to be pretty dedicated. More commonly used is sheet film, which is used for very high quality photographs.

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  12. It’s great that the volunteers are digitising these plates.What quirky images though. I wonder if there were cheaper magic lanterns in the 30s as my Mum says they had one at home, and her family were not well off.

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