Once upon a time, we’d gather in darkened rooms with stacks of yellow boxes and small steel cases packed with precious transparencies in 2x2 cardboard mounts. To the whirr of a projector fan we’d cycle the cardboard-mounted slides though stack-loaders or carousels and share stories and conversation as image after image after image flashed on the rollup screen at the front of the room. It was a ritual, a rite of friendship, a social event, a school of photography, and history, and geography, and current events. And just plain fun. It was the slide show.
By the brilliant glare of the projector light we’d keep up with each other’s photographic efforts and travels, from down the street to around the globe. Slide shows were mandatory after every trip and would run as long as it took to project each and every frame. Sometimes planned, often spontaneous these gatherings were instilled with the magic of the magic lantern shows of old.
Those days are gone. It’s been a decade or more since I’ve attended a slide show of any kind. I’ve given away my projectors and screen and supply of spare bulbs. Instead of friendly gatherings by the light of a DAK500 bulb we’re forced to make do with teasers, occasional images compressed to 1s and 0s and dispatched over the ether in emails and social media postings. But we never really see the true dimension of each other’s work. Inflicting slide show-sized postings on unwitting recipients violates every convention of electronic communication and social media.
I miss the fellowship and sharing photographs with friends, but it’s unlikely that the slide show will ever enjoy the sort of retro-revival that’s reinvigorated vinyl records and other old school art forms. And while there’s no digital or electronic substitute for the social delights of gathering with friends to project bright light through tiny pieces of celluloid, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of technology that not only permits sharing photographs, but transcends the limitations of geography and time zones and coordinating schedules. So in the spirit of the slide show I’m assembling a few galleries and uploading them here as time permits. So far I’ve put together the first two days of the autumn adventure in the UK
It’s no magic lantern show, but it’s a start.