Experimental lantern slide projection with Professor Nic Peterson, Martin Thomas, David and Judith McDougal, Jenny Gall and Diedre Feeney

A good couple of hours were spent at the ANU experimentally projecting magic lantern slides from the collections of Professor Nic Peterson, Martin Thomas and David and Judith McDougall, as well as my own, on my two vintage lanterns. Nic’s handcoloured mission slides from the 20s (I think that was the dates) were especially interesting, the handcolouring adding to their poignancy. Nic also had the back story on what was going on at the missions. I need to work on my skills as a lanternist, but we agreed we had discovered a lot here to develop further later in the year.

Mission slides projected through vintage magic lantern

Mission slides projected through vintage magic lantern

IMG_5790

My magic lantern slide collection

Now I have got my two lanterns working with LED lights, I spent the weekend beginning to catalogue the slides I have recently acquired. It turns out I have hand-painted slides of the Hymn Rock of Ages, very similar to the set which the Salvation Army used in one of Australia’s first outdoor projection in Melbourne in1894; as well as many complete sets of Life Model and Song Slides, such as were frequently used in Australian missions and churches. I’m now thinking of where to go next with my research, I’m currently looking at the reaction of nineteenth century Australian audiences to the lantern through newspaper searches, but there are so many other exciting things to do:

  • Commission contemporary artists to make contemporary lantern slides — paintings on glass or anything that can be sandwiched between 82 x 82mm glass!
  • Recreate shows using the Song Slide sets and the mp3 transcriptions of the Edison wax cylinders and Columbia records which the Library of Congress have made available on-line
  • Recreate shows using the Song Slide sets and Life Model sets with sheet music available from Trove and the recitations available online with performers interested in the genre of melodrama and sentiment
  • Build a rig that will allow me to ‘wear’ the smaller lantern as part of a performance (which was a technique developed by the London Polytechnic)
  • Collaborate with contemporary performers and musicians

Any ideas?

Outdoor projection of Rock of Ages, Melbourne 1894

Outdoor projection of Rock of Ages, Melbourne 1894

My Rock of Ages Slides, similar to the ones the salvation Army projected outdoors in 1894 Melbourne

My Rock of Ages Slides, similar to the ones the salvation Army projected outdoors in 1894 Melbourne

My complete set of 'Jane Conquest' slides, complete with angel 'effect' slides, similar to the one projected throughout Australia in the 1890s.

My complete set of ‘Jane Conquest’ slides, complete with angel ‘effect’ slides, similar to the one projected throughout Australia in the 1890s.

Jane Conquest slide show illustrated in Salvation A
Jane Conquest slide show illustrated in Salvation A

Professor Ian Edwards’ presentation to the Magic Lantern Convention, Birmingham

I ambled down to my letterbox to find the latest issue of the Magic Lantern Society Newsletter waiting for me. Delighted that there was a report on Professor Ian Edwards and his wife Margery’s presentation to the 9th Magic Lantern Society Convention in Birmingham. (See below). Professor Edwards presented a lantern show at my symposium of last year the Projected Image Heritage of Australia and New Zealand, and he also presented a show at the Australasian Magic Lantern Society Convention. We are working on another event next year, so like our facebook page please.

Professor Ian Edwards at 9th Magic Lantern Society Convention

Professor Ian Edwards at 9th Magic Lantern Society Convention

My ‘Soldiers of the Cross’ article has been published

My ‘Soldiers of the Cross’ article has been published in the Journal of Early Popular Visual Culture. Click on the link below to start ratcheting up my downloads!

Pagan Roman's break up a Christian service

Pagan Romans break up a Christian service

Soldiers of the Cross 1900

Title slide

Saul watches as St Stephen's blood pools about his head after a stoning

Saul watches as St Stephen’s blood pools about his head after a stoning

Soldiers of the Cross: Time Narrative and Affect

Magic Lanterns

I’ve purchased two magic lanterns and some nineteenth century slipping slides, lever slides and chromatropes, as well as a large collection of nineteenth century life model slides, from an auction. I’ve got the two lanterns working with LED floodlights that produce no heat or UV light. I’m having a fantastic time playing with these wonderful things. But as practice-led research I have discovered that it is extraordinarily difficult to change and focus the slides,  and manipulate and animate  the slides smoothly. Lanternists in the nineteenth century would have needed to do that as well as keep their patter going in a large hall without amplification, regulate the gas supply to their limelight, and control often unruly audiences. I’m looking forward to spending some time with Trove because I want to read the newspaper reviews of these performances, when Australian audiences were training themselves to sit together in the dark. Below is some of the equipment I’m working with, and a link to a seminar I organised last year.

The Projected Image Heritage of Australia and New Zealand

My 'iron duke' lecture hall lantern

My ‘iron duke’ lecture hall lantern

Rock of Ages hymn slides, as projected outdoors by the Salvation Army in 1894 in Melbourne

Rock of Ages hymn slides, as projected outdoors by the Salvation Army in 1894 in Melbourne

Salvation Army outdoor projection of Rock of Ages hymn slide on the side of a hotel, Melbourne 1894

Salvation Army outdoor projection of Rock of Ages hymn slide on the side of a hotel, Melbourne 1894

A chromatrope

A chromatrope

A chromatrope

A chromatrope

A slipping slide, moving the glass slightly produces a moire patterns from the scratched paint

A slipping slide, moving the glass slightly produces a moire patterns from the scratched paint

Skipping girl slide

Skipping girl slide

The skeleton removes its head

The skeleton removes its head

My 'parlour' lantern

My ‘parlour’ lantern

What makes the lantern slide experience distinctive from other media experiences?

What makes the lantern slide experience distinctive from other media experiences?

 

National Film and Sound Archive Scholars and Artists in Residence Presentation, 2011

 

The remarks I am going to make today are based on my initial brief encounter with the NFSA’s lantern slide collections. For the sake of brevity my remarks will not cover two significant collections in the Archive, the song slide collection, which is dealt with by the current excellent foyer show, and the theatre slide collection, which is large and fascinating, but falls outside the ambit of today’s talk. My remarks are based on several other diverse lantern slide collections in the Archive, but they do not go very deeply into any one collection, rather they are intended to be initial thoughts across a broad front which I offer in order to seek direction for the further research I might undertake. I’d also like to acknowledge that in preparing this talk I’ve relied on the previous published research of Elizabeth Hartrick, Chris Long and Shaune Lakin, as well as conversations with Dani Zuvela from Griffith University.

 

NEWLAND

In April 1848 the Daguerreotypist Joseph Newland placed an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald that offered customers, along with a minstrel show, the following:

 

BEAUTIFUL SCIENTIFIC EXHIBITION OF DISSOLVING VIEWS/ Powerful oxy-hydrogen microscope, and newly discovered optical instrument/ THE CHROMATROPE/Mr Newland will exhibit his beautiful collection of dissolving views (as shown at the Polytechnic, Adelaide Gallery, etc) powerful oxy-hydrogen microscope, and dazzling chromatropes, by the aid of the celebrated/ DRUMMOND LIGHT/the apparatus is of the most splendid and costly description being of a scale of magnificence never before introduced in the colonies — calculated to blend instruction with amusement — to gratify the learned and the unlearned — refresh the memory of the scholar — and afford the general auditor a magnificent display./ 10,000 SQUARE FEET OF ILLUMINATED SCENERY (Hatrick Figure 1.1)

Newland was augmenting his itinerant Daguerreotype business by showing imported hand painted slides on imported magic lanterns. He is also showing an ‘oxy hydrogen microscope’, where live insects trapped between two sheets of glass were enlarged onto the screen, as well as chromatropes, two circular sheets of painted glass which were rotated in opposite directions against each other. All three experiences are driven by the unprecedented optical experience of the high-powered, white, limelight. A further advertisement he placed two weeks later details the transitions the viewer would experience through a total of forty slides, while an orchestra played:

 

Part I 1. Ponti Rotti, Rome; changing to 2. Hammersmith Suspension Bridge; to 3. Colonnade, Venice; to 4. Sligo Cathedral, Ireland; to 5. Mount Vesuvius by day; to 6. Mount Vesuvius by night; to 7. Chromatrope; to 8. Val el Casat; to 9. Alloway Kirk – Burns’s Monument; to 10. View near Paris; to 11. Punch before dinner; to 12. Punch after Dinner; to 13. Tyre; to 14. Netley Abbey; to 15. Chromatrope; to 1.; Rustic View Summer; to 17. Rustic View Winter; to 18. Leap Frog; to 19. Crypt in York Cathedral; to 20 Chromatrope.

 

Part II Overture — “Gustavue” — Auber.

Illuminated Natural History

Part III repeated the pattern of part 1in a further twenty slides. (Vine Press House Lorrraine; El Sibal on the Salt Plains of Tunis , with natural bridge; Outside the Caen Cathedral; Inside the same cathedral;  Belem Castle near Lisbon; Tutertachen; Chromatrope; Shirbrook Bridge; Mount of Olives; Greenwich Hospital by Stanfield; Lea Bridge in Summer; Lea Bridge in Winter; Chromatrope; Lake Como, upper Italy; Army and Navy; Hall of 1000 pillars; Brickfielder; Kent East Indiaman in a gale; Kent East India Man on fire; Chromatrope.)

 

The principle spectacular effect was the dissolve, hence the title of the show ‘dissolving views’. Viewers experienced the frisson of seeing one hand-painted image dissolve into a quite different hand-painted image; or the jouissance of seeing the dissolve effect a temporal transition from day to night in the same scene. Other slides, such as ‘Leap Frog’ were probably single ‘slipping slides’, where a sheet of clear glass with strategically placed areas of black paint was quickly slipped across the hand painted image — obscuring one part of the image, while simultaneously revealing another; or mechanical slides, where one layer of class was quickly rotated, producing a simple animation effect. Between these transitions were placed three displays of the Chromatrope, an entirely abstract effect of colour, pattern and movement creating an almost pulsating effect three-dimensional illusion. Finally, the display of ‘Illuminated Natural History’ enlarged live insects onto the screen.

 

In the audience’s experience of the show it was the spectacular attraction of the apparatus and the various transition effects that were given priority, over the putative content of the views. When Newland took the show to Maitland in August 1848 the local newspaper specifically commented on the aesthetic and spectacular effects, rather than the actual content, of the three components to Newland’s show. ‘Mr. Newland showed great skill in the gradual fading away of one view and encroachment on it of the succeeding one, until one had finally disappeared, and the other was revealed in all its beauty.’ The paper also remarked on ‘the most dazzling effect’ and ‘brilliant colours’ of the chromatropes; while the ‘extraordinary size and quick and ferocious movements’ of the live weevils which were projected on the screen, ‘almost gave rise to a feeling of fear in the mind.’ (Maitland Mercury and Hunter River general Advertiser 9/8/48 p2

 

THE POWER OF THE DISSOLVE

The dissolve between two images was effected by having two lanterns focused on the one screen, with either an iris being closed over one lens while the other was opened; or a pivoting black metal fan with a feathered edges which ‘wiped’ one image while simultaneously ‘unwiping’ the other; or by the gas to one lantern being turned down while the gas to the other was turned up. As a variety of lecturers displayed them through the colonies during the rest of the century many other newspapers reported on the dramatic and narrative evocations dissolving views were able to create in their audience, particularly when accompanied by music and a lecture. In 1852 Alfred Cane exhibited a variety of chromatropes as well as dissolving views in Sydney, and the Sydney Morning Herald was quick to report on the effectiveness of the dissolve.

 

” A ship in a calm” was a particularly truthful representation of that most tedious, most trying, most wretched predicament. Grazing at the view, one might almost fancy one saw the lazy sharks crawling about in the blue water, carrying on their eternal war against every other creature… Then suddenly the scene changed, the ship is caught in a storm, and with double-reefed foresail only set, struggles vainly against the furious surge, which too fatally drives her onto the inexorable rock. These two representations of the chances of the ocean were followed by “the ship on fire,” and “the raft,” and elicited several rounds of applause, especially from the juvenile portion of the audience, who, with true British feeling, seemed to delight in the danger, although ’twas but in show. (SMH 30/1/52 p2)

 

Amongst the imported slides James Smith displayed in Melbourne in 1855 was the popular image of Vesuvius erupting. According to The Age the image began as:

 

‘[t]he Bay of Naples , smiling in the serenity of sunshine, with Vesuvius at rest lowering grandly in the distance. Then: Clouds and thick darkness come over the scene, and the volcano belches forth its red fires and gloomy vapours, and the effect produced is really admirable.” (9/5/55 p6).

 

SCIENTIFIC SPECTACLE

The dissolving effects, chromatropes and live microscopic projections were only part of these shows. Also on display was the spectacle of science itself. In Maitland in 1842 Newland also displayed the wonder of raw light itself:

 

The exhibition concluded with an illumination of the room by the Drummond light [limelight]: the room was too small to fully show the power of the light, but the operator tested its intense heat by burning in it a gimblet, which he actually burnt [it] into three pieces, the iron giving out brilliant sparks just before separating.

 

In 1854 (according to newspaper reports) nearly a thousand people saw Knight’s dissolving views in Hobart.

“The evening concluded by the exhibition of the chromatic fire cloud. This splendid and curious cloud of fire is caused by driving a quantity of muriatic acid against a board suspended parallel with the ceiling; the acid is then ignited, and a cloud of fire of various colours appears to descend.” (Hobart Courier 8/9/54 p2).

 

The great South Australian photographer Nicholas Caire found his photographic business failing in 1869 because of the drought, so he took to touring South Australia with two lanterns and sets of dissolving views imported from Britain. However as part of the show he also administered electric shocks from a galvanic battery to members of the audience who desired it. (Hartrick p74)

 

In the early 1900s the travelling troop of entertainers the Corricks purchased an eight horsepower electric dynamo from Paris which gave 5000 candle power of light to the projector, allowing slides to be projected on the outside of the hall. The dynamo also drove arc lights which illuminated the streets outside the hall, as well as stings of incandescent lights around the proscenium of the stage.

 

DISSOLVING VIEWS AND CHROMATROPES AS METAPHOR

We know that dissolving views were an important part of Australian colonial visual culture, because by the 1850s the terms ‘dissolving views’ and ‘chromatrope’ had firmly entered the Australian language as metaphors. For instance in 1857 a correspondent to the Hobart Courier satirized the various rhetorical exertions of colonial politicians in parliament as an exhibition of dissolving views. In his satire, taxes and debts were ‘dissolving’ the bright future Tasmania’s politicians were laying out:

A mist came over the glowing colours, extensive plains contracted to little valleys, undulating hills became rocky scrub, and the expected gold never came, and behind all appeared TAXES. Tax upon income; tax upon property; tax upon luxuries; tax upon four-wheeled carriages. It was evidently a mistake the obtrusion on so beautiful a vision of these unseemly and disagreeable objects, but unequivocally they made themselves apparent, and thus this beauteous scene dissolved away. (Hobart Courier 11/4/57 p3)

 

This would be equivalent to a satirist saying today that a politician’s promises were ‘virtual reality’.

 

In 1852 a poem called Ode to Melbourne was published in the Argus which was a satirical take on Melbourne’s poor drainage and alcoholic binge-drinking culture. It satirized Melbourne’s ‘filthy lanes’ and ‘atrocious smells’. Melbourne was full of pubs and drunkards, so the gutters ran with filth which reflected the debaucheries above:

 

Oh Pleasant city, full of pleasant places,

Thy very gutters show ‘dissolving views’

 

The dissolving view, far from the high minded transcendental language of the ads the exhibitors put in the papers, was here associated with the gaudy, the low, the inebriated and the insubstantial.

 

On the Irish poet’s Thomas Moore’s death in 1852, a literary reviewer critiqued the rich poetical imagery of his orientalist Romances, and used the optical experience of the Chromatrope, then only a few years old, as a powerful metaphor for the showy, the over the top, and the fake:

 

There is over-profusion of imagery [in Moore’s poem], and a uniformity of splendour, a constant succession of glittering images and high-strained emotions, by which the fancy, at first dazzled and excited, becomes sated and fatigued. We long for some relief and some repose. It is like the dazzling of the eye by too long gazing at a chromatrope, or other display of optical wonders. … The pleasure has been intense, but on that account all the more transitory, and followed by a feeling of disappointment. We have been looking at a grand pyrotechnic display with wonder and delight, but how different are the feelings of calm and lasting pleasure with which the glories of the nightly firmament fill the mind. Such contrast is here between Moore and other poets who are more true nature.

 

Why am I telling you about mid nineteenth century literary criticism? Because it shows by reflection what a profound impact lantern slides and chromatropes had on everybody during this period.

 

GEORGE SNAZELLE

Throughout the 1850s and 1860s lantern slides were being shown by photographers like Newland and Caire needing to diversify, or by other showmen exploiting the new technology, their exhibitions were never as successful as their ads made out. Often newspapers commented on what disappointing failures their displays were, when they were unable to produce enough light, unable to keep their slides in focus, or unable to correctly size the projected disc to the sheet. However, increasingly in the 1880s and 90s magic lanterns were mass produced and mass marketed, and slide sets accompanied by printed booklets were produced on mass and imported into Australia. Temperance unions such as the Band of Hope as well as religious groups increasingly used these lanterns and slide sets in their meetings.

 

They were also increasingly incorporated into music hall entertainments. For instance the English baritone George Snazelle toured the colonies in the late 80s and early 90s. His singing, accompanied by piano, organ and chorus was illustrated by dissolving views that added a ‘charming feature to a refined and amusing program’, which also included whistling, recitations and banter. (SMH 26/10/89 p12). His recitation of Tennyson’s The Brook was accompanied by eighteen dissolving views of the Thames. His singing of Gounod’s Nazareth was accompanied by six well know pictures, including Holman Hunt’s the Light of the World. He concluded his evenings with a display of chromatropes. (SMH 19/10/89 p12)

 

The Light of the World was fast becoming the most famous picture of the nineteenth century. Its Pre-Raphaelite painterly style created the effect of light seeming to emanate from the painting itself. It’s visual and symbolic melding of physical light with spiritual light was therefore perfectly suited to magic lantern projection. A version of the painting even went on a world tour in 1904, coming to Australia and New Zealand. Patrons sat in from of the painting and let it enter their eyes, then the lights in the room were turned down so they could discern a crucifix-like afterimage on their retinas.

 

The Chorus to Nazareth runs:

Tho’ poor be the chamber, come here, come and adore, Lo! The Lord of Heaven hath to mortals given Life For Evermore, Life For Evermore, Life For Evermore

 

Snazelle recorded his songs for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company of London between 1898 and 1906, and Nazareth was also recorded by the Australian singer Peter Dawson.

 

In 1893 Snazelle sung to lantern slides at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings and the Melbourne Opera House, where they were projected as discs 30 feet in diameter. He displayed The Light of The World again, while singing the hymn Behold I Stand at the Door accompanied by a chorus. By this time Snazelle was also presenting life model slides, which were becoming increasingly popular. Companies such as Bamworth and Co produced slides with live models adopting narrative attitudes in front of painted backdrops. Snazelle presented thirty life-model slides of Dickens’ ‘ A Christmas Carol’, and his daughter sang ballads to the life model slide series Daddy, (Hartrick 100-103)

 

DADDY CAPTIONS

Daddy, Good Night

Take my head on your shoulder, Daddy

Why do your tears fall, Daddy

I often seem to hear her voice

But I’ve got you and you’ve got me

 

In life model slide sets the various poses of the life models told a story, but not in the sense of an action linearly extending within a defined length of time, rather in an iterative way, suited to the structure of a popular song with it repeating chorus and separate self-contained verses.

 

REMEDIATION AND CONVERGENCE

The 1890s saw the convergence of magic lantern lectures, which had been developing for fifty years, with the cinematograph. Companies marketed lantern slide sets as well as Lumiere films, and cinematographic adapters for lanterns were also for sale.

 

The two modes of display did find themselves in conflict for audiences. In 1897 Henry J. Walker wrote an article Animated Photographs versus Dissolving Views for the UK Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger, in which he lamented that the new cinematographic craze which had been taken up by music halls was pushing aside the old dissolving view exhibitions. To defend dissolving views he retreated to the age old argument that the cinematograph was merely mechanical copying, whereas the dissolving view required manual craft on the part of the operator: “The animated photographs I put down as a mechanical triumph, and the success of dissolving views to the skill of the operator”. P110.

 

But in Australia the two co-existed for about a decade. For instance in1901 Snazelle returned to Sydney with a show called ‘Our Navy’ that combined his singing with imported lantern-slide sets, purchased biograph films and on-stage theatrical wave effects. Travelling companies such as Joseph Check’s Popular Variety Company toured Northern NSW in the late 1890s with a troop of burlesque artists and baritones who also exhibited Edison’s cinematograph, imported lantern slides, and lantern slides taken in the districts through which they were touring. The Corricks also illustrated their songs with sets of dissolving views, as well as screening biograph pictures. Following on from Snazelle, their rendition of ‘The Lads in Navy Blue’ was illustrated by ‘forty modern pictures of ‘Our Navy’’ which they had brought from the slide makers G. West and Sons, of Southsea, England, who specialized in maritime subjects.

 

SALVATION ARMY LIMELIGHT DEPARTMENT

In the 1890s Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army used off-the-shelf life-model slides and popular ballads in services to be what he termed ‘Spiritual Barnums’ (as in P T Barnum the American showman). He also projected the words of hymns and showed lantern slides during hymns singing. Most of the slides were purchased from the Melbourne slide importers T. W. Cameron or Cooper and Co. Often these slides were hand-coloured copies of popular engravings, such as those by Gustave Dore.

 

The War Cry of 16/1/92 reported on a service:

 

Some magnificent pieces from the life of Christ were introduced. These are from Dore’s pictures and are superb. They speak very loudly, as they are flung upon the sheet, and stand out in bold relief on the canvas. One could see the vindictive look on the faces of those who were driving the nails into the hands and feet of Christ.

 

Two years later the War Cry reported:

 

A great many were moved to tears at the sufferings of Jesus on the canvas so ably explained by the Captain. (War Cry 28/4/94)

 

Although Perry used off-the-shelf slides, he had a bigger budget than other lanternists and was able to refresh his stock frequently. In addition he was able to give his off the shelf slides, such as the Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, which he had brought from the Melbourne slide shop T. W. Cameron, more directly scriptural significance, as opposed to the merely religiously sentimental meaning they were given by performers such as Snazelle.

 

The scenes which followed depicted some of the choicest incidents in the life of the ‘Man of Sorrows’, with here and there pictures of symbolical character thrown in. Perhaps it is superfluous to say that spiritual allegory is only understood by those whose spiritual eyes have been opened. To such, the picture ,’”Behold\ I stand at the door and knock’, would be as an open book; ‘For in every breast that liveth\ Is that strange, mysterious door. (War Cry 28/7/94)

 

The Salvation Army programs also included chromatropes, and it was there that Joseph’s son, Reg, remembers seeing his first chromatrope as a small child sitting on his step-mother’s knee. It made an intense and unforgettable impression on him, and his memory of it in the 1977 film Reg Perry Remembers returns us vividly to the power of nineteenth century visual technology. But even the meaning of the chromatrope, which had been a staple of lantern performances for fifty years by this time, was given more pointed meaning by Perry because it was shown at the same time as the collection plate went round. Minnie L Rowell told the War Cry:

 

The proceeds of the service were to be devoted to reducing the electric light bill of the corps, and the collection was foreshadowed by the appearance on the sheet of a kaleidoscopic slide resembling a plate. By some wonderful means the patterns on the plate began to turn in and out and round and round in a most indescribable way, till I almost wondered if my head or this comical arrangement would turn inside out. (War Cry 1/7/96)

 

From 1893 Perry began to produce his own slides based on the life-model slides produced by British companies such as Bamworth & Co. This activity increased in 1896 when Herbert Booth arrived from Britain. In 1897 the combination of lantern slide, phonograph and Kinematograph was being promoted within the Army as a ‘triple alliance’. They were combined in the lectures given by Booth in the late 1890s, with titles such as Social Salvation, which combined slides and films both shot by Perry and brought off the shelf.

 

In 1900 Booth and Perry produced a recruitment lecture combining both off-the-shelf and home-produced slides and films called Soldiers of the Cross. The lecture, based on the Roman persecution of the Christians, ran for approximately two hours. In it’s original form the fifteen of so films, none of which ran for more than 90 seconds, occupied only a small proportion of the lecture time. All the ones made in Australia are now lost.

 

The film segments were all single, locked-off shots using the same actors, narrative scenarios, and painted backdrops as the slides. Chris Long, in his Cinema Papers article, maintains that the narrative of the lecture flowed smoothly from slide sequence to film, however he does quote a later program for the film which states: ‘Scenes are first shown by still pictures and then the same incidents are reproduced by cinematograph display.

 

This produces a fascinating dynamic between the iterative, chorus like structure of the life model slide tableaus and the continuous motion of the short film segments. An early episode features a spectacular stoning of the martyr Stephen.

 

The War Cry (22/9/00) describes this sequence:

The events that lead to the martyrdom of Stephen passed in review. The Sanhedrim, [Jewish court] the trial, Stephen’s impeachment by the rulers and the stoning of the first martyr. The Kinematorgraphe was employed in this latter scene. The effect on the audience, as they beheld in a moving picture Stephen cruelly beaten to the earth, and killed by fiendish fanaticism of the formal religionist of the day cannot be described. The kinematographe gives way to a picture of Stephen lying dead upon the roadside, while Paul the persecutor stands over him in an attitude of painful contemplation.

 

The slide sequence begins with a series in the court-room which is similar to the structure of the Bamworth life-model slides, where a series of rhetorical poses are iterated. There is even, as was common in Bamworth slides, a superimposition of a host of angels, probably derived from a purchased slide. We can readily imagine how these would have meshed in with Booth’s lecture as they, to quote the War Cry, ‘passed in review’. But later the slide sequences aren’t iterative, but appear to be diegetic, like frames extracted from a continuous movement: do we see Stephen’s blood pooling around his head as the persecutor Paul appears? Did film of Stephen’s stoning replace the two slides of the stoning, which were only shown when the cinematographic film wasn’t? Or did it come after the slide sequence of the same stoning, to re-iterate it and therefore re-emphasise the familiar tableau-like attitudes of the slides in the new medium of continuous motion pictures? I’d like to argue that it was the latter, as the War Cry says, ‘the Kinematorgraphe was employed in [my emphasis] this latter scene.’

 

However in other instances Chris Long seems fairly certain that film followed on from slide sequences, and these slide sequences seem to be quite cinematic, almost building up momentum. For instance in a later version of the lecture a scene of Roman soldiers raiding a church service was apparently followed by a filmed chase sequence shot on a new camera in which, according to the War Cry, a Roman soldier is boinged off a bendy plank and splashed into a stream.

 

Long also mentions films like ‘Paul escaping from Damascus in a Basket’ being commented on in 1901, did they replace similar slide sequences, or repeat and re-emphasize the movement of the slide sequence of the same incident.

 

Other slide sequences show strongly the bricolage approach of Booth and Perry. This bricolage is fundamental to the way the lantern-slide lecture was developing into the twentieth century. The longest episode from the lecture is titled Christians in the Catacombs, and is about how the Christian rituals of birth and death were continued underground. It begins with a historical map of the catacombs, also inserted are slides made from old stereographs of the catacombs which have been hand coloured to integrate them into the visual flow. Also included are engravings of the catacombs, which seem to have been the basis for the Army’s painted backdrops. According to Chris Long the climax of the episode, a clandestine burial, was also filmed, but it also appears as a tight sequence of slides. So we have a wonderful mixture here of what would, twenty years or so later, become separate genres within twentieth century media. ‘Documentary’ photography; ‘fictional’ acting; cinematography; ‘artistic’ engravings and paintings; ‘travel guides’, and even ‘historical anthropology’ are here all bricolaged together so that one lends authority and rhetorical emphasis to the other.

 

Perhaps the splitting apart and quarantining of different genres — into say fiction and documentary — which was to happen in the 1910s and 20s, is now collapsing together again at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Perhaps the logic of a You Tube channel, a blog or a web site is now not dissimilar to a lantern slide lecture.

 

COLONIAL SPECTACLE

Lantern slides are the missing ingredient which link together previously siloed scholarship on nineteenth century Australian visual technology and spectacle. Mimi Colligan’s Canvas Documentaries: Panoramic Entertainments in Nineteenth Century Australia and New Zealand and Anita Callaway’s Visual Ephemera: Theatrical Art in Nineteenth Century Australia are both fabulous books. But neither of them directly address magic lanterns. Similarly, the history of Australian painting often forgets that paintings could be optical spectacles as well as precious objects, not only in Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, but also in Longstaff’s Menin Gates at Midnight, which toured Australia in the 1927 and 1928 to the accompaniment of organ music.

 

From the point of view of today’s museums, magic lanterns and slides from the nineteenth century are especially important. All of the other wonderful visual technologies of colonial Australia have been lost. The ‘transformation scenes’ in pantomimes, which created illusions with lighting effects and mechanical scenery-changes, have been lost. The back-lit transparencies which decorated buildings have been destroyed, likewise the mechanical panoramas. The cyclorama buildings in Sydney and Melbourne have been knocked down long ago. But we do have chromatropes, and we do have mechanical slides, and they can be re-projected to give visitors some idea of the richness of the colonial visual experience. For instance the wonderful 250 watt Mazda light globe in the collection’s Praestantia lantern from Riley Brothers could be replaced with a cool, UV filtered LED light to replicate pretty closely the cool, actinic colour temperature of limelight.

 

A J ABBOTT

In the twentieth century the lanternslide slowly lost its sense of technological spectacle and uncanny magic. However it persisted as an important part of the emerging twentieth century mass media. Lantern slides increasingly became an ‘intermedia’, a conduit between different media platforms. They became a ‘vector’ along which images could travel. A good example of this is the slide collection of A. J. Abbott. ‘Professor’ Albert J Abbott was a palmist, a phrenologist, a Spiritualist and a pastor in the Free Christian Assembly, one of the many new radical churches which were springing up in Australia around the turn of the century. He couldn’t keep himself out of trouble, in 1896 he was accused of immorality for bestowing ‘pure kisses’ on female members of his congregation. And in 1906 a member of his congregations leapt on stage and hit him with her umbrella, accusing him of bigamy. He wrote various religious tracts, including one that subscribed to a widespread cult at the time that believed King George was descended from one of the tribes of Israel, and he drew elaborate diagrams of ‘God’s Dispensation’.

 

In about the 1910s he must have been attracted to Spiritualism, and begun to use lantern slides for his lectures. His lantern slide collection includes some old dissolving views, and some phrenological subjects, but are largely devoted to Spiritualism. They contain portraits of leading figures in the movement, including Emma Hardinge Britten who was the co-founder of Theosophy and visited Australia in 1880, and William Terry, leader of the Victorian Spiritualists and publisher of the journal Harbinger of Light. The lecture contains spirit photographs of all the major spirit photographers up to the 1910s: William Mumler, Frederick Hudson, Edouard Buguet, William Crookes, and Richard Boursnell. They are all copied out of books. For instance many are copied from a book published by Georgiana Houghton in 1882. The book was reproduced with carte de visites which had been turned into tiny lithographic plates, and these have been copied by Abbott.

 

If Abbott had access to the original book, he may have been able to recount the remarkable stories that Houghton told about how she conducted photographic séances at the glass house studio of Frederick Hudson and interacted with spirits in front of his camera. One image is of Georginia Houghton with a spirit called Zilla. Houghton described the photograph:

 

“We are standing face to face, her right hand is within mine, while with the left she gathers the drapery under her chin. There was a something that had puzzled me to understand, for it seemed almost like an arm passing round my left shoulder, yet it could not be, for both her hands were occupied.”

 

Houghton took the print to the medium Mrs Tebbs, who contacted the ‘Other Side’, and interpreted the bar of light linking the spirit to her:

 

“It is a ray of coloured light, flowing from her to you; they are shewing it to me” (here she moved her hands as if seeing the light issue from herself), “it is the link binding you to each other; it flows flows from the heart, but also from all this region below the heart, explaining the phrases  ‘his bowels did yearn upon his brother:’ ‘bowels of compassion’, etc and they are giving me to understand that unless that light can touch the other person, they ought not to have anything to do with one another: — a time is coming when that link will be perceptible to all of us, and thus we will know with whom we may beneficially hold communion. It does not seem the quantity of that stream of light, so much as the quality, which is of importance: — what they first showed me was a lovely pink colour, and now they are showing me some of a rich hue, like arterial blood. It encircles you, though you scarcely see it on this side (beneath the right arm), but it must come quite around, forming a complete bond of union: — you look as if you felt it, and the expression in your face is as if you had learned far more than words could tell; that language would only weaken the force you have received.”

 

CHARLES RYAN

Through the example of A J Abbott we can see that in the twentieth century lantern sliders were increasingly used as conduits through which various images were brought to audiences. They were vectors, not artefacts. For instance we can look at Charles Snodgrass Ryan and Ernest Brooks. Brooks was the official British photographer at Gallipoli, and Ryan was a surgeon, an ornithologist, and an amateur photographer. In April 1915, at the age of 62, Ryan was sent to Gallipoli as assistant director of medical services. He stayed at Gallipoli only until June 1915 when he was evacuated to London via Egypt with enteric fever. He had taken many personal stereo views in Egypt and on Gallipoli, and it was probably when he was in London that his personal stereos were acquired by the Central News Agency. Some of them were then reproduced in the Australian press in September and October 1915. For instance in September 1915 The Melbourne Leader published A captured Turkish Sniper screened by foliage attached to his clothing; On October 30 it published Brooks’ shot of Australians resting in the trenches at Gallipoli; a Ryan’s shots : a  ‘British Officer leading a Turkish officer blindfold through Australian Lines’;Using a periscope rifle in an Australian trench; General Birdwood taking a dip in the sea; ‘From the Lone Pine trenches after the battle Australian Troops all wear white arm bands.

 

Probably through the Central News agency these images were acquired by the London lantern slide manufacturers Newtons and Co, probably one of the largest global producers of slides (from whom the Salvation Army also imported slides). One half of some of Ryan’s stereo pairs were then hand coloured and sold as slide sets, augmented, by other stock slides of Egypt, same possibly dating from the nineteenth century. This set of slides eventually entered the NFSA collection through the World War Two correspondent Allan Anderson. Meanwhile the original stereos entered the collection of the Australian War Memorial and are on display there. So we have the same image existing during the War as illustrated magazine picture, a handcoloured lantern slide, and one half of a stereo pair. Each of these images identical images in a different forma entered different archives, The NLA, the NFSA and the AWM.

 

CONCLUSION

I think with that brief historical context we can now begin to disentangle the lantern experience its domination by other histories, such as the history of cinema or the history of painting. I think we can pull some of the threads together and make a rough table of what, at the turn of the twentieth century, distinguished the cinematograph from the magic lantern:

 

Cinematograph

Dissolving Magic Lantern Views

Music and inter-titles are diegetic (towards narrative and temporal movement) Music and lecture are ekphrastic (towards rhetorical emphasis of single images and statements)
Continuous motion Iterative gesture
Technology subsumed into image Image is a distinct part of a wider technological assemblage including limelight/electricity, dissolving mechanisms, audience wonder, etc
Editing Bricolage
A relatively discrete media object/event An intermedia vector shifting images between medias and genres

 

I believe that placing cinema in this broader context may help us have a more nuanced interpretation of viewer responses to film during this period. For instance the wonderful Pathé film Toto has been restored by the NFSA from the Corrick collection. Initially we may think that the audience’s main pleasure comes from the wonder of seeing a hand coloured simulation of a kaleidoscope up on screen. However, kaleidoscopes had been around since 1818, and the kaleidoscope craze had gripped Europe eighty years before the film was made. In addition, everybody in the audience had presumably already experienced, or at least heard about chromatrope slides. So the real pleasure for audiences at the time comes from feeling their point of view change from their position in the audience seeing projected images of people on the street, to the point of view of somebody within the film looking through an optical toy.

 

I also think that the qualities in the right hand column: ekphrasis, iteration, technological assemblage, bricolage, and image vector may have more in common with the contemporary producer and consumer of blogs, web pages and you tube channels, than the contemporary viewer of movies.

 

Martyn Jolly

Mechanical motion versus manual dexterity in pre-cinematic Australian animation

‘Mechanical motion versus manual dexterity in pre-cinematic Australian animation’,

The Animation Machine, Society for Animation Studies Conference, RMIT University, 25-27 June 2012.

 

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive Collection Scholar and Artist in Residence Fellowship program which supported the research that led to this paper. Some of my examples come form their collection as well.

 

For over fifty years, from the late 1840s to the early twentieth century, magic lantern operators astounded and delighted Australian audiences with exhibitions of a wide variety of optical phenomena. These ranged from swirling and pulsating patterns of pure colour as two hand-painted glass discs were rotated in opposite directions by the rack and pinion mechanism of the chromatrope, to the enlargement of live insects onto the screen. Central to their displays however were two key optical experiences, the essential visual pleasures of which are still familiar to us today. One was the dissolving view, the other was the mechanical slide. The dissolving view needed two aligned magic lanterns and a device for dissolving from one to the other, by either sweeping a feathered fan in front of the two lenses to give the audience the frisson of a defined ‘wipe’ from one image to another, or by turning down the gas supply on one lantern as it was simultaneously turned up on the other so that the audience experience the jouissance of one image literally dissolving into another. Dissolves could be done quickly, to give the impression of, say, a volcano suddenly erupting; or they could be done slowly, to give the impression of, say, day turning to night, or summer to winter. The second experience came from mechanical slides, which were hand-manipulated whilst in the projection-gate of the lantern. In slipping slides a sheet of clear glass with strategically placed areas of black paint was quickly slipped across the hand-painted image — obscuring one part of the image, while simultaneously revealing another. In lever slides one layer of circular glass was quickly rotated, producing a simple animation effect. Other slides used the circular rack and pinion mechanism of the chromatrope but replaced the kaleidoscopic patterns with hand-painted scenes.

 

For most of the period these phenomena were illuminated by limelight, a powerful white light produced when a gas flame heated a block of lime.

But they were also incorporated into larger intermedial performative contexts which might have included music played by an orchestra to accompany each slide, singing, and commentary from the lantern operator — either instructional information, light hearted patter or narrative storytelling. When lanternists purchased their sets of hand painted slides imported from overseas they also purchased booklets containing the accompanying patter.

 

In April 1848 the Sydney Daguerreotypist Joseph Newland offered customers a minstrel show, an orchestra, and a: BEAUTIFUL SCIENTIFIC EXHIBITION OF DISSOLVING VIEWS covering  10,000 SQUARE FEET OF ILLUMINATED SCENERY. His show featured several simple narrative transitions such as ‘Punch before Dinner’ to ‘Punch after Dinner’, and one based on a famous recent event, the burning of the East Indiaman ship the Kent in 1825, which transitioned from a ship in gale to a ship on fire. There was also at least one animated mechanical slide,  ‘Leap Frog’.

 

In the audience’s experience of the show it was the spectacular attraction of the apparatus and the various transition effects that were given priority, over the putative content of the views. When Newland took the show to Maitland in August 1848 the local newspaper specifically commented on the aesthetic and spectacular effects, rather than the actual content, of the various components to his show.

 

 Mr. Newland showed great skill in the gradual fading away of one view and encroachment on it of the succeeding one, until one had finally disappeared, and the other was revealed in all its beauty.(Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 9/8/48 p2

 

As a variety of other lecturers displayed them throughout the colonies during the rest of the century many other newspapers reported on the dramatic and narrative evocations dissolving views were able to create in their audience, particularly when accompanied by music and a well presented lecture. In 1852 Alfred Cane exhibited a variety of dissolving views in Sydney, and the Sydney Morning Herald was quick to report on the effectiveness of the sequence of dissolves.

 

” A ship in a calm” was a particularly truthful representation of that most tedious, most trying, most wretched predicament. Gazing at the view, one might almost fancy one saw the lazy sharks crawling about in the blue water, carrying on their eternal war against every other creature … Then suddenly the scene changed, the ship is caught in a storm, and with double-reefed foresail only set, struggles vainly against the furious surge, which too fatally drives her onto the inexorable rock. These two representations of the chances of the ocean were followed by “the ship on fire,” and “the raft,” and elicited several rounds of applause, especially from the juvenile portion of the audience, who, with true British feeling, seemed to delight in the danger, although ’twas but in show. (SMH 30/1/52 p2)

 

Alfred Cane must have been very skillful to create such a seamless effect and such an extended narrative from just four slides, a dissolving apparatus, and his own voice. Of course shipwrecks were particularly vivid for colonial audiences in Australia, and the narrative followed a familiar trajectory triggering socially programmed responses, but nonetheless the unified, single effect of a coherent animation of the painted pictures, produced in their midst by the magic lantern,  must have been very compelling for the audience. However they knew that, to use the newspaper’s words, ‘twas but in show’, so their pleasure was an alloy of both the enjoyment of the illusion itself, and the realization that the illusion was a mechanical creation.

 

Within their shows of other optical attractions such as chromatropes most dissolving view exhibitions  strove for extended narratives in at least one slide sequence. For instance the first exhibition of Mr Lillywhite’s views was described by the Adelaide Register in 1853 as containing an extended narrative involving a tiger:

 

The representations included pleasing landscapes, magnificent architecture, grotesque figures, and other features of a grave, fantastic, and startling character. The spectators were particularly delighted with some very amusing representations of the extraordinary means successfully resorted to by two Bengalees, who entrapped a ferocious tiger, which had scented them out whilst taking their noontide repast.

 

This exhibition also included a famous rack-work slide called ‘The Rat Catcher’.

 

Compelling short narratives were also being produced in the 1850s which relied on abrupt sudden unexpected changes, rather than a sequence of scenes.  James Smith displayed a series of imported slides in Melbourne in 1855. One was the popular image of Vesuvius erupting. According to The Age the image began as:

 

‘[t]he Bay of Naples , smiling in the serenity of sunshine, with Vesuvius at rest lowering grandly in the distance. Then: Clouds and thick darkness come over the scene, and the volcano belches forth its red fires and gloomy vapours, and the effect produced is really admirable.” (9/5/55 p6).

 

Newspaper reviews weren’t always so complimentary, however. For instance, a report in The South Australian of November 1847 commented on the mish-mash of the effects as well as the morally ambiguous subject matter of the dissolving views exhibited by Messrs Hall and Plush:

 

The exhibition was a sort of melange, consisting of optical illusions, phantasmagoria, fun, and harlequinade. The dissolving views were numerous and diversified, but contained too few representations of local objects. Some of the personal figures bordered upon indelicacy; so much so, as, in our opinion, to deter parents from treating their children to an otherwise harmless amusement; and it struck us that the dance of death savoured too much of profanity… a prudential change in their exhibition, with an improvement in the mechanical arrangement, would make it worthy of general patronage.

 

Although by the end of the century magic  lanterns had become associated  with didactic, scientific , religious,and temperance lectures, in the 1840s and 50s dissolving views and mechanical slides were still associated with ‘low’ entertainment — juvenile and obsessed with the occult —  often appealing to the baser instincts of their audiences. This is something that lanternists needed to both encourage and manage. But sometimes they weren’t able to entirely manage unpredictable audience responses in the dark. For instance a report of the lanternists’ Seymour and Gordon’s opening night in Adelaide in 1864 said:

 

The audience was not very large, and consisted entirely of occupants of the pit and gallery who, being unable to appreciate the nature of the entertainment, created such confusion that it was with great difficulty that the exhibition was gone through. The views were good, but the descriptive part was rendered inaudible by the noise.

 

Throughout the century newspapers regularly reviewed dissolving view performances and assessed as good or bad a consistent set of aspects of each evening’s entertainment, such as: the brightness and size of the disc of light on the screen (generally from 8 to 12 feet); the consistency of the illumination which was difficult to maintain because of a limited supply of gas; the focussing of the lantern; the  artistic control of the dissolve; the thematic appropriateness of the music (provided by orchestra, piano, accordion, or harmonium); the interest and relevance of the accompanying patter; the strength of the lecturer’s voice; the behaviour of the crowd (often the rowdiness of ill-bred children in the dark was commented on); the moral appropriateness of the subject matter (which ranged from ecclesiastical to occult themes); the topicality of the subject matter; and the educational value of the subjects. The wide range of experiences persistently commented on by the newspapers indicates the complex intermedial nature of the performances in which mechanical animations were embedded, and the way that they were an integral part of the re-organisation of modes of audience spectatorship.

 

We also know that dissolving views themselves were an important part of Australian colonial visual culture, because by the 1850s the term had firmly entered the Australian language as a metaphor. For instance in 1857 a correspondent to the Hobart Courier satirized the various rhetorical exertions of colonial politicians in parliament as an exhibition of ‘dissolving views’. In his satire, taxes and debts were ‘dissolving’ the bright future that Tasmania’s politicians were laying out:

 

A mist came over the glowing colours [of the politicians promises], extensive plains contracted to little valleys, undulating hills became rocky scrub, and the expected gold never came, and behind all appeared TAXES. Tax upon income; tax upon property; tax upon luxuries; tax upon four-wheeled carriages. It was evidently a mistake the obtrusion on so beautiful a vision of these unseemly and disagreeable objects, but unequivocally they made themselves apparent, and thus this beauteous scene dissolved away. (Hobart Courier 11/4/57 p3)

 

This would be equivalent to a satirist saying today that a politician’s promises were merely ‘virtual reality’.

 

In 1852 a poem called Ode to Melbourne was published in the Argus which was a satirical take on Melbourne’s poor drainage and alcoholic binge-drinking culture. It satirized Melbourne’s ‘filthy lanes’ and ‘atrocious smells’. Melbourne was full of pubs and drunkards, so the gutters ran with filth which reflected the debaucheries above:

 

Oh Pleasant city, full of pleasant places,

Thy very gutters show ‘dissolving views’

 

The dissolving view, far from the high minded education language of the ads the exhibitors put in the papers, remained associated with the gaudy, the low, the inebriated and the insubstantial.

 

It is clear from accounts such as this that it was the optical effects which were most responded to by audiences, rather than any putative content. However, when these effects could be extended over a narrative which linked them together they were responded to even more strongly. In the 1880s, a new kind of slide called ‘life model slides’ began to be produced. These hand-coloured live models adopting tableau-like attitudes in front of painted backdrops foregrounded narrative, rather than special effects, even more.

 

In life-model slide sets the various poses of the life models told a story, but not in the sense of a realistic story teleologically extending through linear time, rather in an iterative way, suited to the structure of a popular song with it repeating chorus and separate self-contained verses. These songs and recitations were issued in booklets along with the slide sets.

 

The sequence of life model slides called Daddy had a special effect, the appearance of an angel, double exposed  (or in our contemporary parlance, composited) on one slide, so it was suitable for a lanternist with a single lantern. However another series of life model slides, Jane Conquest, which would have been shown accompanied by a melodramatic poem about the mother of a sick baby who nonetheless managed to heroically ring a church bell in order to save fishermen from a shipwreck, was designed for dissolving lanterns, so a skilled lanternist could make the angel slowly appear and disappear above the baby’s crib.

 

REMEDIATION AND CONVERGENCE

The 1890s saw the convergence of magic lantern lectures, which had been developing for fifty years, with the cinematograph. Companies marketed lantern slide sets as well as Lumiere films, and cinematographic adapters for lanterns were also for sale.

 

Long-time lanternists were quick to defend themselves against the new technologies. For instance in 1897 the senior lanternist Edmund H. Wilkie wrote an article called ‘The Dawn of Animated Photography’ in the British journal The Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger. First of all he dismissed motion pictures as an:

 

 ephemeral idea which will be the fashion for a season and then subside into the background to be seen no more … so far from superseding  general lantern work [animated photography]  will most likely act in the contrary manner, and by directing public attention to optical exhibitions give a powerful impetus to dissolving view entertainments generally.

 

But even after dismissing motion pictures as a fad he felt compelled to also argue that in fact magic lanternists such as himself had been involved in the same project as the new cinematographers all along:

 

Ever since the lantern emerged from what we may turn the chrysalis stage, and took rank amongst other valuable scientific instruments, attempts have been made to obtain natural motions with regard to the figures of human being and animals. The forces of nature, the great terrestrial and atmospheric phenomena presented generally no particular difficulty to the slide painter and mechanician, but with the appliances until recently obtainable, movements such as walking could only be imitated in a degree and with great difficulty, and could not be considered as successful. p21-22

 

Wilkie couldn’t have been more wrong about the future of animated photographs. This blind spot was because, as a veteran lanternist, he was focused solely on the optical effects of the new cinematograph, rather the indexical ‘reality effect’ it promised. He saw the natural motion of the cinematograph as just another category of illusion which happened now to merely incorporate the persistence of vision, as compared to the optical effects of the dissolving view, which had, in his eyes, the advantage of rich hand-painted colour and fine detail that at the time still far outstripped the cinematograph, particularly in spectacular and sublime weather effects, if not always in complex motion.

 

In the same issue of the Almanac  Henry J. Walker wrote an article Animated Photographs versus Dissolving Views, in which he, too, lamented that the new cinematographic craze was pushing aside the old dissolving view exhibitions. To defend dissolving views he retreated to the argument that the cinematograph was merely mechanical copying, whereas the dissolving view required manual craft on the part of the operator:

 

If animated photographs draw a large amount of applause from the audience, it is because they think the moving figures wonderful; but they do not know which requires the most skill, the dissolving views or animated pictures. The majority know, comparatively speaking, nothing of the working of the lantern; and have know idea of the skill required to carry through successfully a first class dissolving view exhibition … with some dissolving view effects, a very considerable amount of thought and skill is required to make the pictures projected on the screen appear ‘just right’ to the spectators … I think I shall be right when I say that, placed side by side [dissolving views take] infinitely more skill to turn out a first class entertainment … The animated photographs I put down as a mechanical triumph, and the success of dissolving views to the skill of the operator. P110.

 

But nonetheless the two co-existed for about a decade during a period of major technological remediation, both around the world and in Australia, as modes of mass spectatorship were re-organized around both established viewing conventions and emergent new technologies. Actuality, illusion and the trick were key terms during this crisis, but so was the idea of ‘animation’. At stake was not only what animation might become with the persistence of vision, but also what it had been. I would therefore like to argue for the discussion of the history of animation to not begin with the cinematograph but much, much earlier.

 

Obviously the long history of cartooning is one archaeological substrata to modern animation. For instance we can clearly see newspaper cartooning being remediated into cinematographic animation in the World War One films of Harry Julius, which open with him in his role of a traditional cartoonist, before zooming in on his hand doing ‘lightning sketches’ in front of the camera in real time, before cutting to a stop frame animation where his role as the artist has been totally sublimated into the retinal flow of the animation itself. This process, which happens in a few exhilarating seconds in Julius’s films, mimics a process which had been happening in the auditoriums of Australia and the world over for the previous two decades, when the projectionist moved from being a performer at the centre of the audience artfully manipulating his lantern and delivering his patter, to being invisible inside his bio box using his skill to make the cinematographic mechanism run so smoothly that the audience forgot it was there.

 

But while most people would recognize cartooning as a tradition which was mediated into the cinema and is still present — subsumed into twentieth and even twenty-first century animation, I wonder what happens when we put dissolving views into a similar remedial framework. The ruptures and discontinuities have already been clearly identified by our alarmed lanternists from the late 1890s. They saw that their hand-produced illusions, produced live in the midst of an audience who were willing to emotionally enter familiar narratives through the intermedial techniques of music and poetry, whilst also appreciating them as illusion, were gradually being replaced with automatically recorded and projected illusions that relied on the persistence of vision alone. But they were too alarmed by the new cinematographic technology to realize that other visual pleasures were also continuing from the dissolving view to cinematographic animation. The newspaper accounts of the shipwreck stories, or transformation scenes, reveal that the audiences felt a raw pleasure in seeing pictures  move and morph, and dissolve from one to another. In both the dissolving view and the cinematographic animation it seems to be the between states, the indeterminate states of fluidity, the constant change that caused the most pleasure. To me it is this raw visual pleasure which unites contemporary audiences with audiences of the 1840s, despite the massive changes in technology in the intervening 170 years. This unifying pleasure in transitional images needs further investigation.

 

Martyn Jolly

 

 

 

 

Soldiers of the Cross and the Quo Vadis connection

Soldiers of the Cross and the Quo Vadis connection, blog entry, National Film and Sound Archive

One of the highlights of my CSAR Fellowship a couple of years ago was the chance to see the two hundred or so glass magic lantern slides from Soldiers of the Cross on the light-table out at Mitchell. I’m really interested in magic lantern slides and the history of the magic lantern in Australia. I kind of suspected that maybe these slides hadn’t yet received the attention they deserved because Soldiers of the Cross, an evangelical lecture produced by the Salvation Army in Melbourne in 1900, had been thought about by historians primarily interested in finding the origins of Australia’s cinema industry, and of course the cinematic part of the original presentation, the thirteen or so kinematographic films, had been lost. The slides, however, far from being just the remnants of a primarily movie-related event, are fascinating in their own right.

There is a lot visual information recorded on the 9 cm by 9cm glass slides, not to mention their extravagant handcolouring, or their careful and inventive narrative sequencing. One of people responsible for the production, Herbert Booth, the youngest son of the founder of the Salvation Army, left the Army in 1902 and took the slides with him overseas as an independent evangelist. He died in 1926, and the slides he had used for all those years didn’t return to Australia until the fifties. When I got access to some of the high resolution digital copies the NFSA’s Darren Weinert had made, in order to show them as part of Arc’s ‘Autumn Silents’ program, it was wonderful to be able to dive in to the detail in the slides, particularly the faces of the members of the Salvation Army who had dressed up as Romans or Christian martyrs to reenact the stories of the persecution of the early Christians. By showing the slides in sequence I hope I established that there were several distinct modes of temporality in the production, including what I dubbed the ‘iterative’, ‘expository’ and ‘action’ modes.

We had always known that some of the slides in the set that came back to Australia had been made a long time after the original production — the tableaus were more complex and the costumes and sets more elaborate. So I became intrigued to know where exactly the later slides had come from. At the Salvation Army Heritage Centre in Melbourne I had been shown a page from the Illustrated London News of 1907 where Booth was featured with his ‘evangelisation by tableaux vivants’ and ‘bioscope lecture’, so Booth was ‘on the road’ with slides and film for quite a long time. He was still touring when his first wife died in 1920.

I showed some of the later slides to colleagues in the lantern-slide researcher community, as well as the cinema historian community, and dropped them in to Google Image Search. I found that some were production stills from the 1913 Italian blockbuster Quo Vadis. Quentin Turnour had also cunningly programmed Quo Vadis into the NFSA’s season of ‘Autumn Silents’, and when I saw the film at Arc I identified twelve slides from the NFSA’s Soldiers of the Cross set as having their origin in Quo Vadis. They were most probably a set made by a commercial slide manufacturer in association with the exhibition of the blockbuster, purchased by Booth, and interleaved amongst the existing Soldier of the Cross set.

Back in 1900 the Salvation Army had incorporated slides of many famous nineteenth century paintings directly in their production, as well as using them as inspiration for their painted backdrops. Two of the paintings they had used, Thumbs Down and Last Prayers of the Christian Martyrs featured scenes in the coliseum and were by the popular French academic painter Jean Léon Gérome, also know for his soft-core porn harem scenes. The same paintings were clearly also the inspiration for the sets and costumes of the 1913 Italian Quo Vadis. My ANU colleague Gino Moliterno put me on to an article by Ivo Blom about the relationship of Gerome’s paintings to the Quo Vadis film where, as in Soldiers of the Cross, several scenes are directly modeled on the paintings. Blom’s article also discussed the relationship between the tableau vivant and early European cinema, as well as the general interest in ‘sword and sandal’ (or what I prefer to call ‘blood on the toga’) themes from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, and indeed right up to the present day, including the Quo Vadis novel about early Christian martyrs published in 1895.

Clearly much work remains to be done. But I think we now have a richer, more international and more intermedial context for the Archive’s Soldiers of the Cross slides.

In thinking about the narrative and temporal sequencing of these slides I had relied on the numbers painted on the edge of each slide. But the numbering system incorporates the Quo Vadis slides, so these numbers were added after 1913, at least 13 years after the first slides were produced back in Melbourne. What was going through Booth’s head, I wondered, as he interleaved, amongst the slides he himself had produced a decade and a half earlier, the new slides from a mega commercial blockbuster which drew on the same literary and visual sources he had drawn on. But I think Lindsay Cox from the Salvation Army Heritage Centre gets it right when he says:

“First and foremost the prime motivation in Herbert Booth’s life was the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It consumed him in his Salvation Army service and then as ‘Ambassador’ Booth the travelling evangelist. His creativeness and entrepreneurial skills were in their entirety for his work for God. The production achievements of Herbert were entirely a means to an end. If Herbert could not see a direct connection between using the technology and the saving of souls, he would have discarded it. Herbert Booth was adamant that his lecture was ‘not an entertainment.’ As commander of the Australasian Territory he was able to draw upon resources he never could have after leaving the Army. He was not a wealthy man, although no doubt, comfortable. Nor was his family wealthy, or able to, or perhaps desiring to support him. So, I do not feel that he had the resources to make the slides himself. There is also no evidence that he had anything other than artistic involvement in the productions. All the technical and processing stuff was Perry’s domain. I’m comfortable with the thought he just used whatever commercially available slides were available.”

Soldiers of the Cross – NFSA

‘Herbert Booth and Joseph Perry’s Soldiers of the Cross of 1900’, National Film and Sound Archive, Arc Cinema, 1 March, 2013

I’d like to thank Quentin for the opportunity, and Clare, Darren and Brooke for the yummy files.

I want to go back to the turn of last century and try to re-imagine the experience that audience members might have had at the Salvation Army evangelist lecture Soldiers of the Cross. This massive production, the most elaborate of the Army’s many technologically cutting-edge productions, was seen by large numbers of people around Australia, and was particularly aimed at recruiting young men.

What other media experiences would the excited crowds we see milling about Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne or the Sydney Town hall have had, before the went inside to take their seats? They would certainly have seen many dissolving view magic lantern shows, featuring hand painted slides in series such as Jane Conquest, or life model slides of actors in tableau vivant photographed against backdrops, such as Daddy. These slide shows used a dissolving mechanism to produce special effects by, for instance, dissolving an angel over a scene with a separate magic lantern, or creating a montage on the slide itself. They would have experienced stereo views, where they clamped a viewer onto their face and immersed themselves in virtual three dimensional space as they took a trip through a sequence of twelve scenes, usually of exotic locations they had no hope of visiting in real life. They might have visited one of the new kinetoscope parlours — there was one across the road from the Army headquarters — where they could bend their heads to eyepieces and crank through sixty seconds of animated pictures. They may even have seen animated pictures projected onto a screen from an adaptor placed at the front of a magic lantern. They might have gone to the Melbourne cyclorama building, where they could immerse themselves bodily in a panorama of the Siege of Paris. And they would have been aware of the great celebrity paintings of the day which they would have mainly know from numerous lantern slide reproductions or prints, but even perhaps by experiencing the aura of the paintings themselves. Some celebrity paintings such as Holman Hunt’s 1850s Light of the World, after being familiar for decades through slide and reproduction, physically toured the world like aging rock stars. And finally they would have experienced the hurly burly of the cosmopolitan streets themselves.

All this can be summed up in three buzz words from the period: thrills, animated photographs and colour. So all that was in their heads as they took their seats, but what had been going on behind the scenes? Soldiers of the Cross was produced in the Salvation Army’s Limelight Studios, headed by Joseph Perry, which combined gramophones, magic lanterns and the kinematograph in a ‘triple alliance’. However the key piece of equipment was the most unglamorous, and the most overlooked — it was the copy camera, which could take virtually any flat image, and turn it into a glass slide that could them be hand-coloured before projection. For this production Perry, along with the Commandant of the Army in Australia Herbert Booth and his wife Cornelie produced about 250 glass lantern-slides and approximately fifteen sixty-second strips of Lumiere film. Of the slides about thirty were copied from other sources, and of the films about two were produced by the Lumiere company. The rest were produced in Melbourne, and the whole lot was integrated together by the Booths and Perry. The script has been lost, as well as the films the Army shot. But a large proportion of the slides, and two Lumiere films, survive.

The best way of thinking about the logic of Soldiers of the Cross is to imagine it as a turn of the twentieth century Powerpoint. Like Powerpoint it brought together disparate sources into a singly formatted lecture. Like Powerpoint every time it was performed it was slightly different. And like Powerpoint it was the lecturer who made the show. The Booths wrote the script and read it, while Perry and his team dissolved the slides one into the other and projected the cinematographs. A band also played well-known hymns from the period, and led the congregation is singing. Although it included narratives, these were chapters embedded in an overarching structure which was liturgical and sermonic.

THE ST STEPHEN SEQUENCE

The production began with general scenes of the Life of Christ derived from reproductions of prints and painting, as well as two commercial kinematographs which were each one-minute reels, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion, from the thirteen one-minute-reels of the Lumiere production The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ made in 1898. It is important to look carefully at these Lumiere films. Although they weren’t shot in Melbourne they give an indication of what the Melbourne footage may have looked like. In these films it is the micro-movements, the swish of the palm fronds, the pounding of the Roman hammer, and the movement of the sponge through the air, these unmistakable markers of living animation, which would have most excited the audience.

After this introduction the first chapter of the lecture was the Martyrdom of St Stephen.  This is based on the biblical story of the first Martyr. It opens with St Stephen before the Jewish court. Why, one wonders, does this first chapter open with five very repetitive slides where not much is happening, where the narrative isn’t moving? This is because in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles St Stephen spends 53 Biblical verses defending himself against the Jewish court by recounting the story of Moses’ persecution. So it appears as though these slides would be dissolved, one in to another, perhaps quite slowly, as Booth recounted those 53 biblical verses.

After that, the Biblical narrative suddenly picks up. Stephen looks up and Heaven opens up to him. There he sees God with Jesus on his right hand. The Bible says:

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried out in a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’ Acts 7 55-60

Booth and Perry have superimposed a commercial slide of Jesus and angels for the effect of Heaven opening up.

The way the slides in this sequence have been made differ. We begin with slides shot with live models standing in front of a painted backdrop. But the slide of St Stephen being removed from the city is assembled in a different way. It is a collage of cut-out photographs pasted onto a painted background, and re-shot onto a glass-slide before being hand-coloured. Both quite different techniques are used throughout the Army’s productions.

The slides only follow the Biblical text loosely, but the general narrative would have been familiar enough to the audience. The account of this chapter in the Salvation Army magazine the War Cry closely follows the slides we have:

The events that lead to the martyrdom of Stephen passed in review. The [Sanhedrim, the] trial, Stephen’s impeachment by the rulers and the stoning of the first martyr. The kinematograph was employed in this latter scene. The effect on the audience, as they beheld in a moving picture the innocent Stephen cruelly beaten to the earth, and killed by fiendish fanaticism of the formal religionists of his day cannot be described. The kinematograph give place to a picture of Stephen lying dead upon the roadside, while Paul (sic) the persecutor stands over him in an attitude of painful contemplation.’ (MWC 22/9/00 p9)

The backdrop painting for the exteriors has clearly been inspired by a Gustave Doré engraving. There are three slides numbered in sequence for the stoning, two are shot against a backdrop, the third is a collage. The kinematograph would have come after this sequence of slides, which may have been dissolved more quickly, perhaps, than the earlier court slides. So the audience would have seen the same action again, repeated, but this time in moving picture.

We can get an indication perhaps of how this might have worked by looking at the script of a later set of life model slides called Lazarus, produced by the Army in 1902. This is a set of eight slides. The script for the later and shorter slide set tells the story of the raising of Lazurus with the usual cues for slide changes. At the end of the story the cue changes to ‘Kino’. Unfortunately the corner of the script has been torn off, but the lecturer says something like:

We shall now show you … (missing) … actually took place … (missing) … this remarkable miracle, most impressive and realistic. WE WILL SHOW YOU IN LIVING FORM WHERE MARTHA MEETS CHRIST, and tells him Lazurus is dead,…….’

The script then runs on as a commentary on the kinematograph, with prompts for the reader of the script for when the kinematograph scenes will change.

To return to the earlier, longer, Soldiers of the Cross production, as the War Cry says, the kinematograph then gives way to a slide of Stephen lying dead, with Jesus receiving his spirit. Then we see a hand-coloured copy of a lithographic reproduction of a Pre-Raphaelite Millais painting of St Stephen, before cutting back to two slides of Salvation Army Officer Colonel James Annetts, who played St Stephen, lying on the ground. Between the final two slides we see his crimson blood poo, as though a few moments of time have elapsed, and a crucial character for the next chapter, Saul, appear to look over him.

So in this chapter, even though viewers are experiencing a synthesized production, it is not built on anything like a unified visual syntax. Instead they are experiencing   at least five different modalities of affect, and four different expressions of time:

  1. A strophic, verse-like, iterative mode of slowly dissolving lantern slides, familiar from previous commercial slide sets
  2. An expository mode of tableaus taking us through key narrative points
  3. A faster, time-based, action mode, often in couplets or triplets, and perhaps linked to an accelerated lantern dissolve, which is an innovation of the commercial slide format
  4. The real-time animation and realistic living-picture mode of the kinematograph, giving a visceral feeling of natural movement
  5. The contemplative mode of a familiar work of ‘great art’ which is embedded in some kind of universal historical/symbolic/aesthetic time

These five different modalities I have identified are reflected in the contemporaneous comments on the production. For instance often the micro-movements magically captured by the kinematograph are mentioned, such as the splash of water as a martyr is thrown in a river, the rising of smoke, or the falling of stones. But also the beautiful colour of the slides is frequently mentioned. All of these modes, although not syntactically unified in any way we would recognize from subsequent cinema history, nonetheless worked together to directly involve the audience with the story through shared sight. This sense of collective witnessing, which this opening sequence sets up, is caught well by the War Cry:

We saw the great stones falling thick and fast upon the white robbed figure on the ground, till it grew strangely still. Then the ‘witnesses’ left the scene, and Saul of Tarsus stood alone looking down upon the dead young man. (MWC 29/9/00 p14)

SAUL

The next slide, after we have shared with Saul our contemplation of the dead St Stephen, is a shot of contemporary Damascus extracted from a stereograph. But this clever segue still follows the Bible pretty closely, because after being transported to contemporary Damascus as it was in 1900, the next slide whooshes us back to Biblical times for Saul’s conversion. We then see a tight sequence of three slides, shot outside rather than in a studio, which is a time-based triplet shows us St Paul’s escape by basket from the walls of Damascus to continue his preaching.

These time-based ‘runs’ of slides often seem to pick up momentum towards a kinematographic climax. For instance at slide number 72 there is a sequence of Romans raiding an outdoor service by Christians who are then forced to flee underground to continue their worship clandestinely in the catacombs. In 1901 this sequence was added to with a kinematograph of the Romans chasing the Christians across a plank over a stream, augmented with the much commented on comic relief of a Roman boinging off the springy plank and into the stream.

CATACOMBS

A later sequence focuses on life in the catacombs, perhaps to parallel life for Salvationists in the midst of pagan Melbourne. Like an establishing shot from a movie of twenty years later, it begins with an aerial map of the catacombs, and then swoops us down through the contemporary underground stone passages using stereo views from a commercial stereograph set. We then see daily life— worship, marriage, birth, sickness and eventual death — carried on in what I have called the ‘iterative’ mode through a mixture of Army collages and copies of prints and engravings. As the War Cry put it:

All these scenes, painted and reproduced to sight and sound by word and art pictures, simply enchain the mind, and carry one in thought 1800 years back through the ages. The listener sups, prays, praises, adores worships, suffers and dies with these saints of apostolic times.

The mode switches from ‘iterative’ to ‘time-based’ for a detailed and strangely beautiful, even today, funeral sequence of four monochrome slides. Once more there is kinematographic climax, before a final extended contemplation of souls ascending into heaven painted in brilliant supersaturated colour, which may perhaps have been accompanied by music or singing.

LIME KILNS

About twenty slides later another quartet of slides appears which encapsulates a tight action. A Christian woman is about to be burnt to death in a lime-kiln. Will she offer just one grain of incense to the Pagan Gods and save herself? No! After pointing upwards to the one true God she disappears into the kiln. This again was followed by a kinematograph of martyrs joyfully jumping into the kiln, with the added bonus of smoke effects.

COLISUEM

Fourteen slides later another run of five slides introduces an extended piece of action. Christians wait at the gate of the Coliseum, while a stuffed tiger with a virulent red tongue threatens them from a cage. Then the gates inch open in the final three slides, before a kinematograph shows the Christians entering the Coliseum and being approached by lions, after which individual slides show their martyrdom.

PERPETUA SEQUENCE:

The final sequence of the two and half hour show was for many people the most affecting, in Hobart for instance, it caused ‘general sobbing’ in the audience. (MWC 26/1/01 p9)

Perpetua, played by the young, attractive Army member, Cadet Mabel Tolley was a young wealthy Roman woman who chose to give up her baby and be martyred in the coliseum rather than renounce Christ. A script with slide and music cues exists, probably for a stand-alone version made shortly after Soldiers of the Cross. The surviving script is also punctuated with nine popular hymns requiring audience participation, with a hymn supplementing the narrative about every four slides. However in Soldier of the Cross itself there were most probably far fewer hymns because of the whole production’s larger scale.

The script is ekphrastic, that is, it describes what the audience is seeing with their own eyes, and rhetorically explains what they should be feeling. For instance, during a dissolve between two opening slides the script says:

We may picture the surprise of this Christian lady when sitting in one of her well furnished rooms. The stillness of the occasion was broken by the intrusion of two armed men. On learning the object of their sudden appearance, Perpetua showed neither fear nor alarm.

This was immediately followed by a hymn. Later, when she is cast into prison, the script tells the audience:

Glory filled her soul amidst the gloom of her surroundings.

Later on, a tight sequences of slides showed the visual evidence of interpersonal conflict, while the script provided the ekphrasis. After her father leaves, disappointed that he has not been able to convince her to drop the whole Jesus thing, the script says:

This was to her a dark and trying moment. The grey beard, the fatherly face, the agitated frame, the loving entreaties, and the stern rebuke; as well as the somber environment of the place, all spoke to her heart with a weird-like eloquence. Still she faltered not. An invisible power supported her even now.

As we have seen in the St Stephen sequence at the beginning of the production, the script is often self-referential, making direct links between Perpetua’s experience and the experience of the audience seeing the projected slides in Melbourne eighteen hundred years later. After Perpetua has finally handed over her baby to her mother the script says:

But when the mother had gone a dreary lull set in. The baby’s prattle had given way to a deep silence. The past rose in vivid pictures, and strong as she was in the grace of God, her poor heart was grief stricken. But there is always solace in prayer, and even in this dark dungeon Perpetua might well prove the unfailing words, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’.’

The script then calls for the hymn What a friend we have in Jesus.

In a second courtroom sequence more tight time-based, rather than expository, action is shown. She is offered pagan incense to burn and her mother and father show her the baby which will be returned to her if only she renounce Jesus. She refuses. Her father remonstrates with her once more, and is struck to the round by a guard.

After Perpetua has been martyred and before the final hymn the script ends with:

But the end was near, for soon Perpetua lay bruised and bleeding upon the floor of that slaughter house on iniquity still praying to Him she loved. The excited crowd yelled that her misery and pain might end with a thrust of the gladiator’s sword. A moment later the soul of Perpetua had gone to be with God, gone to hear her master say, “Now that thou hast been faithful unto death, I will give thee a Crown of Life”.

THE VOICE

Now we have looked in as much detail as possible at a few of the many sequences in this production, what general conclusions can be drawn? The unifying force in the piece was the voice, the live human voice reciting that sermon. That voice was provided first by the charismatic Herbert Booth, youngest son of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army movement. Herbert spoke in ‘short and harmonious’ sentences, ‘constructed with due regard to the balance and equilibrium of the whole’ (MWC 22/9/00). After he got sick the lecture was conducted by his equally charismatic wife. The War Cry  reported:

The lights went down, and the audience were hushed into breathless silence as the immense pictures were thrown upon the canvas. The Commandant’s voice alone broke the stillness thrilling the enthralled audience with burning words fitted in compact sentences, forming an eloquent and beautiful tribute to the heroic deeds and unflinching endurance of the saints whose pictorial reproduction riveted every eye. (MWC 22/9/00 p9)

Other connecting forces were musical, the familiar hymns and masses played by the orchestra and sung by the audience. But the dominant force which distinguished the limelight lecture from others was the lanternist himself, who was always present in the audience’s consciousness as his lanterns hissed and spluttered and projected their beam above their heads. As the War Cry noted:

Carefully watching the screen as the lecture progressed, and noting the rapid changes from one slide to another, from slide to kinematograph film, and then again from kinematograph film to slide, each appearing exactly at the right time, one could not help but admire the consummate skill with which Major Perry manipulated his elaborate and complicated apparatus. (MWV13/10/00 p8)

RETINAL POWER

The presence of the lanternist signaled the radical shift in focus of the site of principle address which the Salvation Army made in their evangelism: from the body, or the ear, or the mind, or the voice — although these were of course still present — to the eye and to the retina; from the phenomenological architecture of the church to the dominating address of the projection sheet; from the magical ritual of the service to the narrative power of the projected image.

The magic lantern shifted the locus of the spiritual to the limelight itself, and turned the lanternist into a kind of thaumaturge. For instance, before the third presentation of Soldiers of the Cross at South Melbourne Town Hall Brigadier Unsworth prayed with the congregation:

that the pictures might be luminous with Divine light, [instilled] with divine power, and fruitful in bringing about more of that spirit of heroism that dominated the lives of the Christian martyrs of old. (MWC 13/10/00 p8)

The Army’s spiritual bellicosity was evoked in another comment by the War Cry:

The lecture is a double-barreled weapon, which captivates both sense of sight and enchains the mind, while indelible impressions are made upon it. (MWC 22/9/00 )

THE DISSOLVE

The Army’s slides, like all slides of the period, were propelled forward by the retinal frisson of the dissolve, as one image appeared to materialize itself within the very optical substance of the image it was replacing.  The rhetoric of the Army frequently equates the light of the lantern with the light of salvation, and the magical transformation of the dissolve with the transformative power of Jesus.

INNOVATION

The Army’s main innovation was to use lantern slides to describe tight time-based actions, rather than expository narrative elements or iterative strophic elements. This I think is globally significant at the time.

The Army’s second innovation was to scale up the traditional lantern lecture into a complete evening’s production, and to give it a thematic unity. As the War Cry reported:

Although the audience was taken through a great variety of scene and incident, the intervals were cleverly bridged or, to change the metaphor, the stories, instead of being scattered gems were strung on an elocutionary necklace and, in their semblance or contrast made into a beautiful and complete circlet. (MWC 29/09/00 p8)

A third innovation was to work the kinematograph into the slides more closely. In Booth’s words:

I saw at a glance that living pictures, worked in conjunction with life-model slides, would provide a combination unfailing in its power of connecting narrative.’ (Citation)

THRILLS

These three innovations were all in search of thrills — Army thrills to compete with all of the other thrills young people, particularly young men, had to divert them in 1900. In its pre-publicity for Soldiers of the Cross, the War Cry described it as a ‘new sensation’. It was the power of the thrill which led Booth to chose as his subject the martyrdom of the early Christians, because the bloody and violent martyrdoms provided opportunity for spectacle and action. If the thrill was one key concept, the other was realistic action. The intention was to create a retinal connection between the audience and the Christian martyrs. The ultimate objective was for people, particularly men, to pledge their souls to Christ and their lives to the Army at the end of the lecture. Realism was one conduit of empathy, the other was the contemporary travel shots of the Holy Land and the copies of the great and familiar paintings which introduced each chapter.

As the War Cry predicted before opening night:

The thrilling scenes in the arena, the cruel tests, the thrilling presentiments of Christians under torture, the sustaining power of the presence of the invisible Christ should bring forth all that is best in the nature of the observers, while the graphic and eloquent word-pictures of our leader should tinge with colour, as with the hands of an artist in studies of human nature, these pictures, which all but speak their own story. May God’s spirit be poured upon lecturer, operator and audience alike!’ (MWC 15/9/00) p8)

TRANSPORT

Part of this thrill was also a sense of transport, to take the audience out of their seats in Melbourne, and into another spatio-temporal realm. As Booth promised:

I have sought to make everything absolutely correct. From the plumes on the Roman helmet and the imperial robe of Nero to the rough garments of the pagan slave, everything will be exact. You only have to follow the screen and you will be as much in Rome as if you had been there – now in the palace of Caesar, then in the open square – now in the residence of the patrician, then in the den of the libertine — now in the coliseum then in the Catacombs, where the early Christians concealed themselves for safety — all will be absolutely exact’ (MWC 18/8/00 p9)

This is very similar to the promises which had been made by stereograph manufacturers since the 1850s. By the 1900s sellers like Underwood and Underwood were marketing complete ‘Travel Systems’ incorporating, stereographs, guidebooks and maps, to give a similar, touristic sense of optical and retinal transport.

But to the Army audience this transport was more than just virtual tourism, it was transport of a more profound kind. A later report on a limelight meeting said:

the meeting almost becomes as a séance, and our spirits seem to blend with the spirits of these just ones.’(MWC 9/2/01 p9)

AFFECT

Was Soldiers of the Cross effective? The War Cry frequently reported on the ‘involuntary interjections, moans of pity, sighs of relief’ coming from the audience. (MWC 29/09/00 p8) All the Army reports are ecstatic, but they would be, wouldn’t they. However even the hard-bitten seen-it-all mainstream press confirmed the affective power of the production. The premiere scored a review from two out of the three of Melbourne papers, and both used the word ‘thrilling’.

The Age said:

To have some of the most tragic episodes of Christian history carried out in all savage but ?should? destroying realism is an accomplishment essentially of today. It was done by the aid of the kinematograph, when Commandant Booth delivered his thrilling lecture last night.

The Argus said:

Opening with the last days of the life of Christ, Commandant Booth dealt with the lives of the disciples [… ] and the thrilling scenes that were enacted in the arena of the Coliseum. Bold as the lecture was in conception, the illustration were even more daring. (MWC 22/9/09)

CONCLUSION

Soldiers of the Cross is extremely important because it was Australia’s first large scale multimedia production. On at least several occasions it kept close to 2000 people simultaneously enthralled by a production that was experientially integrated over an entire two and a half hour period. It innovated on narrative formats from the nineteenth century, and incorporated technology that would come to dominate the twentieth century.  It created an entirely new experience by weaving familiar visual forms and technological experiences in with established viewing protocols and ritualized behaviours that had been developed and inculcated into Australian audiences during the previous five decades. The scale and the complexity of the integration of these experiences looked forward to twentieth century media forms. One of those media forms was certainly the cinema, but others include the history of the lantern itself which continued in parallel to cinema for another five decades, as well as much later media forms such as broadcast radio and television, and even, at a stretch, contemporary digital media platforms. For these reasons it is an extraordinarily important event in Australian history. Much more important than we first realized.

Martyn Jolly

Soldiers of the Cross: Time, Narrative and Affect

‘Herbert Booth and Joseph Perry’s Soldiers of the Cross of 1900’, Magic Lantern Convention, Australasian Magic Lantern Society, Melbourne, 27-28 October 2012.

INTRODUCTION

The Salvation Army lecture of 1900, Soldiers of the Cross, was an extremely important event in the history of Australian media. It is reasonably well known, but because it included fifteen sections of kinematographic film along with its 200 lantern slides, until now it has largely been seen through the lens of subsequent Australian cinema history. Although it does have a place in that narrow teleology, it is much more important to a larger archaeology of media experience in Australia.  So I would like to discuss it on its own terms, and in particular try to think about it from the point of view of its audience’s experience. I would like to tease out two related aspects of that experience: the sense of realistic action it gave its audience, and the emotional affect it generated in them. In doing so I am building on the previous work of Chris Long, who discussed the production in the 1990s from the point of view of cinema, Elizabeth Hartrick who discussed it recently from the much more relevant point of view of broader Australian lantern slide culture, and Lindsay Cox who has discussed it from the point of view of the heritage of the Salvation Army. I’d also like to thank the National Film and Sound Archive who gave me access to the Soldiers of the Cross slides during my Collection Scholars and Artist Residency fellowship.

THE MYTH

Soldiers of the Cross has acquired a mythic status as Australia’s first film. It was not. Furthermore, a fixation on its an some kind of lost originary text has worked to obscure the complex multimedia work of the Salvation Army at the time, as well as the complex multimedia landscape of Australia as a whole. So one must return to it with circumspection. In addition, large parts of the production have been lost — the fifteen or so kinematographic films, and the script itself. All that remains are about 250 slides in the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive, which have not even all been scanned. In addition, this collection may have been modified after the initial production. Nonetheless, through looking carefully at the slide which are available, and putting them in their projection sequence by following the numbering system written on their edges, and then correlating that with published accounts of the production as well as scripts from other related productions, I think it is possible to make some general speculations about how it would have been experienced at the time. Further, I want to argue that seen on its own terms, stripped of its myth, it is an even more important and precious part of Australia’s history than we first thought

THE LIMELIGHT DEPARTMENT

Soldiers of the Cross was made in the middle of an extraordinary period of Australian media, from 1891 to 1909, when the Salvation Army were using advanced technologies to do two things: to convert souls to Christ, and to recruit new members to the Army. During this period the Army saw themselves as competing for attention with all of the other fantastic, thrilling, colourful attractions of the nineteenth century: the panoramas, the cycloramas, the dioramas, the pantomimes, the illuminated transparencies, the kinetoscope parlours, and the moving cavalcade of the streets themselves.

For instance in 1894 Joseph Perry of the Army’s Limelight Department used a limelight magic lantern to stage an outdoor meeting in a vacant lot on a cold and wet night in the middle of winter in the middle of Melbourne to divert the people who were aimlessly drifting along Little Collins street. The illustration in the Army’s magazine War Cry of this somewhat dismal event dramatized how the lantern not only obliterated with a blast of light the Schnapps ad on the side of the pub across which they had stretched their projection sheet, it also literally shouldered aside the attractions offered by Melbourne’s Cyclorama building. Other War Cry illustrations visually dramatized the ways the Army directly pitted their limelight lectures against the tired old productions of the theatre.

During this early period Perry used a variety of commercially produced and distributed media. From later in the 1890s they began to use commercial kinematographic films, as well as the gramophone recordings. But right from the early 1890s they extensively used many different types of lantern slide, these included: dissolving mechanical slides and chromatropes, which had been shown in Australia for over forty years; painted slides and life-model slides, that is hand-coloured photographed slides of models enacting a sequence of tableaus in front of painted backdrops to accompany the verses of a song, poem or short narrative, which had been popular for several years; ‘social’ slides, photographs of slum life and charitable works; song slides which projected the words of hymns for audience participation; and finally hand-coloured copies of famous paintings and engravings, such as Millais’s Light of the World  or Doré’s bible engravings.

The commercial slides the Army used before Soldiers of the Cross tell their stories in an iterative way, like visual verses. Some, such as Jane Conquest, which the Army used, are entirely painted, so they are able to move their narratives through a series of diverse scenes, though they are nonetheless locked into the repetitive verse structure of the accompanying poem that will be read by the lecturer. Other, such as the life-model set Daddy, are photographic, so they repeat exactly the same scene with only slight variation, in a strophic way. Many of these slides also feature additional special effects, usually angels, projected over another slide by a skilled lanternist, or collaged onto a slide by a skilled slide maker. Many commercial slide manufacturers copied each other in the competition for market share, so there is not much innovation during the 1890s.

From 1894 the Limelight Department began to produce its own life model slides, social slides and, from 1897, kinematographs of both ‘life model’ and ‘social’ topics. And they began to innovate on commercial formats.

When Herbert Booth took over as Commandant of the Salvation Army in 1896 he moved this production to the centre of the Army’s proselytizing, and began to work closely with Joseph Perry. They produced a major slide and kinematograph lecture in the ‘social’ genre called Social Salvation in 1899, and then embarked on another lecture in 1900 in the ‘life-model’ genre to be called Soldiers of the Cross. Even after the departure of Herbert Booth, who quit the Army in 1901 and took Soldiers of the Cross with him to the US, the Army continued to make slide and kinematograph lectures for a further eight years, as well as becoming an independent and active production company, before being precipitously closed down in 1909.

THE PRODUCTION

So what of Soldier of the Cross itself? What was it? It was a lecture. Although it included narratives, these were chapters embedded in an overarching structure which was liturgical and sermonic. What did the lanterns project? Occasionally, during the two and a half hours of the performance, about fifteen 90 second Lumiere kinomatographs were shown, but primarily the audience experienced about 250 slides dissolving one into another. These slides were a bricolage from various sources: copies of paintings and Gustav Doré bible engravings; copies of one half of stereo view photographs, which had been previously sold in sets of twelve as travel views for viewing in a home stereoscope; and commercially produced life model slides. But, predominantly, the production featured Army produced life model slides.

THE ST STEPHEN SEQUENCE

The production began with general scenes of the Life of Christ, as well as two commercial kinematographs which were each one-minute reels, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion, from the thirteen one-minute-reels of the Lumiere production The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ made in 1898.

After this introduction the first chapter was the Maryrdom of St Stephen.  This is based on the biblical story of the first Martyr. It opens with St Stephen before the Jewish court. Why, one wonders, does this first chapter open with five very repetitive slides where not much is happening, where the narrative isn’t moving? This is because in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles St Stephen spends a whole 53 verses defending himself against the Jewish court by recounting the story of Moses’ persecution. So it appears as though these slides would be dissolved, one in to another, perhaps quite slowly, as Booth recounted these 53 biblical verses.

After that, the Biblical narrative suddenly picks up. Stephen looks up and Heaven opens up to him. There he sees God with Jesus on his right hand. The Bible says:

 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried out in a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’ Acts 7 55-60

Booth and Perry have superimposed a commercial slide of Jesus and angels for the effect of Heaven opening up. (This effect could have been dissolved as a superimposition on top of the slide if they had been using a triurnial lantern, but they reportedly used a biurnial lantern, so to give the animated effect of the heavens opening, only a dissolve from one slide to another double-exposed version of the same slide was possible.) The backdrop painting for the exteriors has clearly been inspired by a Doré engraving, but the way the slides in this sequence have been made seems to differ. We begin with slides shot with models standing in front of a painted backdrop. But the slide of St Stephen being removed from the city seems to be assembled in a different way. I think it is a collage of cut-out photographs pasted onto a painted background, and re-shot onto a glass-slide before being hand-coloured. Both quite different techniques are used throughout Soldiers of the Cross.

The slides only follow the Biblical text loosely, but the general narrative would have been familiar enough to the audience. In the effect generated by the montage with the commercial slide we see Jesus and angels, not Jesus on the right hand of God. We don’t see the court stopping their ears, or other details. However the account of this chapter in the War Cry closely follows the slides we have:

The events that lead to the martyrdom of Stephen passed in review. The Sanhedrim, the trial, Stephen’s impeachment by the rulers and the stoning of the first martyr. The kinematograph was employed in this latter scene. The effect on the audience, as they beheld in a moving picture the innocent Stephen cruelly beaten to the earth, and killed by fiendish fanaticism of the formal religionists of his day cannot be described. The kinematograph give place to a picture of Stephen lying dead upon the roadside, while Paul (sic) the persecutor stands over him in an attitude of painful contemplation.’ (MWC 22/9/00 p9)

There are three slides numbered in sequence for the stoning, two are produced in one method, the third in the other method. The kinematograph would have come after this sequence of slides, which may have been dissolved more quickly, perhaps, than the earlier court slides. So the audience would have seen the same action again, repeated, but this time in moving picture.

We can get an indication perhaps of how this might have worked by looking at the script of a later set of life model slides called Lazarus, produced by the Army in 1902. This is a set of eight slides. The script for the later and shorter slide set tells the story of the raising of Lazurus with the usual cues for slide changes. At the end of the story the cue changes to ‘Kino’. Unfortunately the corner of the script has been torn off, but the lecturer says something like:

We shall now show you … (missing) … actually took place … (missing) … this remarkable miracle, most impressive and realistic. WE WILL SHOW YOU IN LIVING FORM WHERE MARTHA MEETS CHRIST, and tells him Lazurus is dead,…….’

The script then runs on as a commentary on the kinematograph, with prompts for the reader of the script for when the kinematograph scenes will change.

To return to the earlier, longer Soldiers of the Cross production, as the War Cry says, the kinematograph then gives way to a slide of Stephen lying dead, with Jesus receiving his spirit. Then we see a handcoloured copy of a lithographic reproduction of a Pre-Raphaelite Millais painting of St Stephen, before cutting back to two slides of Salvation Army Officer Colonel James Annetts, who played St Stephen, lying on the ground. Between the final two slides we see his crimson blood pool, and a crucial character for the next chapter, Saul, appear to look over him.

So in this chapter, even though viewers are experiencing a synthesized production, it is not built on anything like a unified visual syntax. Instead they are experiencing   at least four different modalities of affect, and four different expressions of time:

  1. A strophic, verse-like, iterative mode of slowly dissolving lantern slides, familiar from previous commercial slide sets
  2. A faster, more expository mode of action-tableaus, often in couplets, perhaps linked to an accelerated biurnial dissolve, which is an innovation of the commercial slide format
  3. The real-time animation and realistic living-picture mode of the kinematograph, giving a visceral feeling of natural movement
  4. The contemplative mode of a familiar work of ‘great art’ which is embedded in some kind of universal historico/aesthetic time

These different modalities I have identified are reflected in the contemporaneous comments on the production. For instance often the micro-movements magically captured by the kinematograph are mentioned, such as the splash of water as a martyr is thrown in a river, the rising of smoke, or the falling of stones. But also the beautiful colour of the slides is frequently mentioned. All of these modes, although not syntactically unified in any way we would recognize from subsequent cinema history, nonetheless worked together to directly involve the audience with the story through shared sight. This sense of collective witnessing, which this opening sequence sets up, is caught well by the War Cry:

We saw the great stones falling thick and fast upon the white robbed figure on the ground, till it grew strangely still. Then the ‘witnesses’ left the scene, and Saul of Tarsus stood alone looking down upon the dead young man. (MWC 29/9/00 p14)

SAUL

The next slide, after we have shared with Saul our contemplation of the dead St Stephen, is a shot of contemporary Damascus extracted from a stereograph. But we are still following the Bible pretty closely, because after being transported to contemporary Damascus as it was in 1900, the next slide whooshes us back to Biblical times for Saul’s conversion. We then see Saul’s own persecution, and a tight sequence of three slides which in an expository triplet show us his escape by basket from the walls of Damascus to continue his preaching.

These expository ‘runs’ of slides often seem to pick up momentum towards a kinematographic climax. For instance at slide number 72 there is a sequence of Romans raiding an outdoor service by Christians who are then forced to flee underground to continue their worship clandestinely in the catacombs, or by the cover of night. In 1901 this sequence was added to with a kinematograph of the Romans chasing the Christians across a plank over a stream, augmented with the much commented on comic relief of a Roman boinging off the springy plank and into the stream.

CATACOMBS

A later sequence focuses on life in the catacombs, perhaps to parallel life for Salvationists in the midst of pagan Melbourne. Like an establishing shot from a movie of twenty years later, it begins with an aerial map of the catacombs, and then swoops us down through the underground stone passages using stereo views from a commercial stereograph set. We then see daily life— worship, marriage, birth, sickness and eventual death — carried on in what I have called the ‘iterative’ mode through a mixture of Army collages and copies of prints and engravings. As the War Cry put it:

All these scenes, painted and reproduced to sight and sound by word and art pictures, simply enchain the mind, and carry one in thought 1800 years back through the ages. The listener sups, prays, praises, adores worships, suffers and dies with these saints of apostolic times.

The mode switches from ‘iterative’ to ‘expository’ for a detailed and strangely beautiful, even today, funeral sequence of four monochrome slides. Once more there is kinematographic climax, before a final extended contemplation of souls ascending into heaven painted in brilliant supersaturated colour, which may perhaps have been accompanied by music or singing.

About twenty slides later another quartet of slides appears which encapsulates a tight action. A Christian woman is about to be burnt to death in a lime-kiln. Will she offer just one grain of incense to the Pagan Gods and save herself? No! After pointing upwards to the one true god she disappears into the kiln. This again may have been followed by a kinematograph, with the added bonus of smoke effects. We have quite good scans of these slides and we can burrow into their details to appreciate the fine brushwork of the Army’s colouring studio applying swathes of colour on the robes and dabs of optical accents. These scans also bring us extraordinarily close to the ordinary Australian faces of the Army members who have consented to Booth’s request that they pose for his production.

Fourteen slides later, after another contemporary view of the coliseum, another run of five slides introduces an extended piece of action. Christians wait at the gate of the Coliseum, while a stuffed tiger with a virulent red tongue threatens them from a cage. Then the gates inch open in the final three slides, before a kinematograph shows the Christians entering the Coliseum (check), after which individual slides show their martyrdom. In the publicity for the production much is made of the violence of the scenes, but often the extreme action is not in the Army slides but in the copied prints. It seems unlikely to me that the kinematographs would have been any more violent than the slides.

PERPETUA SEQUENCE:

The final sequence of the two and half hour show was for many people the most affecting, in Hobart for instance, it caused ‘general sobbing’ in the audience. (MWC 26/1/01 p9)

Perpetua, played by the young, attractive Army member, Cadet Mabel Tolley was a young wealthy Roman woman who chose to give up her baby and be martyred in the coliseum rather than renounce Christ. This sequence of twenty slides perhaps only used the kinematograph at the very end. (CHECK) The sequence was remade at least two times again after Booth took Soldiers of the Cross away with him, and a script with slide and music cues exists, probably for a stand-alone version made shortly after Soldiers of the Cross. Although the slide cues of this script do not correspond exactly with the slides in Soldiers of the Cross they are pretty close and still, I think, give us a good sense of how the voice of the lecturer would have unified the experience for the audience. The surviving script is also punctuated with nine popular hymns requiring audience participation, with a hymn supplementing the narrative about every four slides. However in Soldier of the Cross itself there were most probably far fewer hymns because of the whole production’s larger scale, and they may have been sung for the audience.

The script is ekphrastic, that is, it describes what the audience is seeing with their own eyes, and rhetorically explains what they should be feeling. For instance, during a dissolve between two opening slides the script says:

We may picture the surprise of this Christian lady when sitting in one of her well furnished rooms. The stillness of the occasion was broken by the intrusion of two armed men. On learning the object of their sudden appearance, Perpetua showed neither fear nor alarm.

This was immediately followed by a hymn. Later, when she is cast into prison, the script tells the audience:

Glory filled her soul amidst the gloom of her surroundings.

Later on, a tight sequences of slides showed the visual evidence of interpersonal conflict, while the script provided the ekphrasis. After her father leaves, disappointed that he has not been able to convince her to drop the whole Jesus thing, the script says:

This was to her a dark and trying moment. The grey beard, the fatherly face, the agitated frame, the loving entreaties, and the stern rebuke; as well as the somber environment of the place, all spoke to her heart with a weird-like eloquence. Still she faltered not. An invisible power supported her even now.

As we have seen in the St Stephen sequence at the beginning of the production, the script is often self-referential, making direct links between Perpetua’s experience and the experience of the audience seeing the projected slides in Melbourne eighteen hundred years later. After Perpetua has finally handed over her baby to her mother the script says:

But when the mother had gone a dreary lull set in. The baby’s prattle had given way to a deep silence. The past rose in vivid pictures, and strong as she was in the grace of God, her poor heart was grief stricken. But there is always solace in prayer, and even in this dark dungeon Pepretua might well prove the unfailing words, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’.’

The script then calls for the hymn What a friend we have in Jesus.

After Perpetua has been martyred and before the final hymn the script ends with:

But the end was near, for soon Perpetua lay bruised and bleeding upon the floor of that slaughter house on iniquity still praying to Him she loved. The excited crowd yelled that her misery and pain might end with a thrust of the gladiator’s sword. A moment later the soul of Perpetua had gone to be with God, gone to hear her master say, “Now that thou hast been faithful unto death, I will give thee a Crown of Life”.

THE VOICE

Now we have looked in as much detail as possible at a few of the many sequences in this production, what general conclusions can be drawn? The unifying force in the piece was the voice, the live human voice reciting that sermon. That voice was provided first by the charismatic Herbert Booth, who spoke in ‘short and harmonious’ sentences, ‘constructed with due regard to the balance and equilibrium of the whole’ (MWC 22/9/00) then after he got sick by his equally charismatic wife. The War Cry  reported:

The lights went down, and the audience were hushed into breathless silence as the immense pictures were thrown upon the canvas. The Commandant’s voice alone broke the stillness thrilling the enthralled audience with burning words fitted in compact sentences, forming an eloquent and beautiful tribute to the heroic deeds and unflinching endurance of the saints whose pictorial reproduction riveted every eye. (MWC 22/9/00 p9)

Other connecting forces were musical, the familiar hymns and masses played by the orchestra and sung by the audience. But the dominant force which distinguished the limelight lecture from others was the lanternist himself, who was always present in the audience’s consciousness as his lanterns hissed and spluttered and projected their beam above their heads. As the War Cry noted:

Carefully watching the screen as the lecture progressed, and noting the rapid changes from one slide to another, from slide to kinematograph film, and then again from kinematograph film to slide, each appearing exactly at the right time, one could not help but admire the consummate skill with which Major Perry manipulated his elaborate and complicated apparatus. (MWV13/10/00 p8)

RETINAL POWER

The presence of the lanternist signaled the radical shift in the site of principle address which the Salvation Army made in their evangelism: from the body, or the ear, or the mind, or the voice — although these were of course still present — to the eye and to the retina; from the phenomenological architecture of the church to the dominating address of the projection sheet; from the magical ritual of the service to the retinal power of the projected image. This separation of the Army lecture from convention religious experiences was signaled as early as 1891. For instance in reporting on a 1891 limelight lecture by the Army’s founder, General William Booth, at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings the War Cry reported:

A dim religious light pervades the building, which was, however, relieved at one end by a huge white sheet, behind which a mysterious manufacturing of light and shade seemed to be going on. (Citation)

The magic lantern shifted the locus of the spiritual to the limelight itself, and turned the lanternist into a kind of thaumaturge. For instance, before the third production of Soldiers of the Cross at South Melbourne Town Hall Brigadier Unsworth prayed with at congregation:

that the pictures might be luminous with Divine light, [instilled] with divine power, and fruitful in bringing about more of that spirit of heroism that dominated the lives of the Christian martyrs of old. (MWC 13/10/00 p8)

The Army’s spiritual bellicosity was evoked in another comment by the War Cry:

The lecture is a double-barreled weapon, which captivates both sense of sight and enchains the mind, while indelible impressions are made upon it. (MWC 22/9/00 )

THE DISSOLVE

The Army’s slides, like all slides of the period, were propelled forward by the retinal frisson of the dissolve, as one image appeared to materialize itself within the very optical substance of the image it was replacing.  The rhetoric of the Army frequently equates the light of the lantern with the light of salvation, and the magical transformation of the dissolve with the transformative power of Jesus. A War Cry comment on William Booth’s 1891 lecture says:

You would be gazing intently at a street girl’s red jacket, until all at once you would discover that it was not a street girl’s dress, but a Salvationist’s guernsey, and the surroundings were totally different. You would be taking in that fact when a glance would show you that what you took for a guernsey was a fire, the pantaloons of an actor, the side of a house, red Maria, a red flannel petticoat, or the leg of a horse. (Citation)

INNOVATION

Booth’s major innovation was to scale up the traditional lantern lecture into a complete evening’s production, and to give it a thematic unity. As the War Cry reported:

Although the audience was take through a great variety of scene and incident, the intervals were cleverly bridged or, to change the metaphor, the stories, instead of being scattered gems were strung on an elocutionary necklace and, in their semblance or contrast made into a beautiful and complete circlet. (MWC 29/09/00 p8)

A secondary innovation was to work the kinematograph into the slides more closely. In Booth’s words:

I saw at a glance that living pictures, worked in conjunction with life-model slides, would provide a combination unfailing in its power of connecting narrative.’ (Citation)

THRILLS

This was in search of thrills — Army thrills to compete with all of the other thrills young people, particularly young men, had to divert them in 1900. In its pre-publicity for Soldiers of the Cross, the War Cry described it as a ‘new sensation’. It was the power of the thrill which led Booth to chose as his subject the martyrdom of the early Christians, because the bloody and violent martyrdoms provided opportunity for spectacle and action. If the thrill was one key concept, the other was realistic action. The intention was to create a retinal connection between the audience and the Christian martyrs. The ultimate objective was for people to pledge their souls to Christ and their lives to the Army at the end of the lecture. Realism, through the meticulously researched and supposedly historically accurate costumes, was one conduit of empathy, the other was the contemporary shots of the Holy Land and the copies of the great and familiar paintings which introduced each chapter.

As the War Cry predicted before opening night:

The thrilling scenes in the arena, the cruel tests, the thrilling presentiments of Christians under torture, the sustaining power of the presence of the invisible Christ should bring forth all that is best in the nature of the observers, while the graphic and eloquent word-pictures of our leader should tinge with colour, as with the hands of an artist in studies of human nature, these pictures, which all but speak their own story. May God’s spirit be poured upon lecturer, operator and audience alike!’ (MWC 15/9/00) p8)

TRANSPORT

Part of this thrill was also a sense of transport, to take the audience out of their seats in Melbourne, and into another spatio-temporal realm. As Booth promised:

I have sought to make everything absolutely correct. From the plumes on the Roman helmet and the imperial robe of Nero to the rough garments of the pagan slave, everything will be exact. You only have to follow the screen and you will be as much in Rome as if you had been there – now in the palace of Caesar, then in the open square – now in the residence of the patrician, then in the den of the libertine — now in the coliseum then in the Catacombs, where the early Christians concealed themselves for safety — all will be absolutely exact’ (MWC 18/8/00 p9)

This to me sounds very similar to the promises which had been made by stereograph manufacturers since the 1850s. By the 1900s sellers like Underwood and Underwood were marketing complete ‘Travel Systems’ incorporating, stereographs, guidebooks and maps, to give a similar, touristic sense of optical and retinal transport.

But to the Army audience this transport was more than just virtual tourism, it was transport of a more profound kind. A later report on a limelight meeting said:

the meeting almost becomes as a séance, and our spirits seem to blend with the spirits of these just ones.’(MWC 9/2/01 p9)

AFFECT

Was Soldiers of the Cross effective? The War Cry frequently reported on the ‘involuntary interjections, moans of pity, sighs of relief’ coming from the audience. (MWC 29/09/00 p8) All the Army reports are ecstatic, but they would be, wouldn’t they. However even the hard-bitten seen-it-all mainstream press confirmed the affective power of the production. The premiere scored a review from two out of the three of Melbourne papers, and both used the word ‘thrilling’.

The Age said:

To have some of the most tragic episodes of Christian history carried out in all savage but ?should? destroying realism is an accomplishment essentially of today. It was done by the aid of the kinematograph, when Commandant Booth delivered his thrilling lecture last night.

The Argus said:

Opening with the last days of the life of Christ, Commandant Booth dealt with the lives of the disciples [… ] and the thrilling scenes that were enacted in the arena of the Coliseum. Bold as the lecture was in conception, the illustration were even more daring. (MWC 22/9/09)

CONCLUSION

Soldiers of the Cross is extremely important not because it was Australia’s first film, but because it was Australia’s first large scale multimedia production. On at least several occasions it kept close to 2000 people simultaneously enthralled by a production which was experientially integrated over an entire two and a half hour period. It used technology from the nineteenth century, and technology which would to come to dominate the twentieth century, while it weaved together familiar technologically mediated experiences, collective viewing protocols and ritualized audience behaviours that had been developed and inculcated into Australian audiences during the previous decades. The scale and the complexity of the integration of these experiences looked forward to twentieth century media forms. One of those media forms was certainly the cinema, but others include the continuing history of the lantern itself, as well as much later media forms such as broadcast television and even, at a stretch, contemporary digital media platforms. For these reasons it is an extraordinary event in Australian history.

Martyn Jolly