The Optical Magic Lantern Journal (August 1895)

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The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger. 131 smaller and consequently less expensive lanterns. To them the blow was a severe one, the more so as exhibitions having become more common were less sought after by the public, but still the competition that aroge came mostly from professionals, as amateurs in those days rarely attempted the limelight. This was not the end by any means, for there soon followed the system of hiring not only slides, but lanterns and all accessories, which brought amateurs more especially into competition with professionals. The hire-system rapidly spread and nothing stood in the amateur’s way except the management of limelight, making oxygen, etc., as it was not absolutely necessary to purchase any part of the apparatus. By this time the old exhibitors with expensive hand paintings had dropped off one after another, some of those who remained to the last getting stranded and sold up in distant provincial towns. And all the while receipts had been decreasing, partly because exhibitions, being more frequent, were becoming less attractive, and partly because exhibitors, finding their profits reduced, were becoming disheartened and careless. I pass over the ever-cheapening production of photographic slides, competed with in their turn ‘by chromo-lithographs, and hasten to record the final blow which fell a few years ago—the introduction of compressed gas. I suppose at the present time there is no village in England, however small, which does not get a lantern exhibition of some sort at least once a season, and seeing how the public regard the average exhibition, is it any wonder that highclass exhibitions are only attempted by the very few? So far, I have referred to the exhibition only, and have shown that altered conditions of production have increased the number of exhibitions out of proportion to the increase of population, and in so doing have shown the decrease in attractiveness of nearly all. With the lectures also much fault may be found. Here again the amateur is mostly to blame. Working up a lecture independently of any trade set of slides is practically unheard of : generally, nothing beyond the printed lecture is attempted, and this, without any previous acquaintance with the text. Now and again, someone, either more rash or stupid than his fellows, undertakes to “work the lecture up a bit,” and it always turns. out that the lecture takes place at the time of year when he has the least leisure. So he arrives about two minutes before the time, almost breathless, and ‘informs his colleague that he has “really had no time for preparation,” and ‘‘must read them some extracts.” Then, in the middle of the lecture, he stops short and says, ‘‘ Now I will read you the—something or other—from so and so—by what’s his name,” and an interval of silence follows while he finds the place. The decline of lantern lectures is in no degree owing to the increase of literature and the existence of free and other libraries, as a good lecturer will give his audience the cream of any particular book in a single lecture, and with better and more numerous illustrations than the book itself; a more complete comprehension of the subject being in that way obtained, just as in the same way we get a better idea from seeing a Shakespearian play well performed on the stage, than we do from the efforts of the mere reader or reciter. The public also has much to answer for, as a large section of it is extremely undiscerning, and looks upon every evening function at which a lantern is employed as a lantern lecture, apparently being quite unable to distinguish between a lantern lecture, a lecture illustrated by lantern views, a variety entertainment “turn,” an exhibition of diapositives at a photographie society, a mission or other service at which the lantern is employed, or a show provided for the delectation of some Band of Hope children. None of these are in any sense lantern lectures, least of all, perhaps, a photographer’s show, as this is not intended to be anything beyond an exhibition of the work of members or outsiders, the slides often being exhibited without any connecting remarks, or, if so, only those having to do withthe technique of photography. Another mistake often made is that of attempting to teach too much with the aid of the lantern. If we examine the prospectuses of lecture societies, we often find that there is among the more educational ones, only one lecture on a certain subject per season, and how much can be learnt in an hour and-a-half? To teach a subject or science with any completeness, at least six lectures are necessary, taking place at intervals of not more than a week, and even then it is best to have some standard authors to read up from and refer to at home. I have endeavoured in the foregoing article to point out some of the causes which have led to a state of things which all true lanternists must deplore, the cure for which must be found in individual effort rather than in combined action; and though those who endeavour henceforth to leave, as far as lantern work is concerned, ‘footprints on the sands of time,” may find their reward come but slowly, it will