Magic Lantern Experience

Orlov’s Magic Lantern Experience

   Magic Lantern Slide Show is a truly unique way for audiences to travel back to the time before computers, television, movies and even radio.  This two-part show, which includes over 100 original slides from 19th and early 20th centuries, is sure to be fun and educational for all audiences.  Original 1917 Magic Lantern is used to project images up to 30ft across, depending on the size of the available screen.

   Viewers are first made familiar with the history of the Magic Lantern as a medium.  Anton Orlov’s collection of Lantern Slides covers use of The Lantern as a tool for amusement, learning and advertising.  Slides that were a direct precursor to the modern-day movies are sure to dazzle and amuse the audience.

   During the second part of the show Anton exhibits select images from his recent discovery of an astounding and entirely unique collection of Lantern Slides taken in the winter or 1917-18 in Russia, China and Japan.  These hand-selected images are of real historic and artistic value and as such have been recently featured by a variety of news sources all across the world.

   The show requires only a darkened room with a projection screen.   Please contact Anton Orlov at to book a date for your own thrilling Magic Lantern experience. 
Terms reasonable.
Chromatrope Slide courtesy of

More about Magic Lantern

   Magic Lanterns have been with us since the middle of 17th century.  They are the original projection devices employing the use of a concave mirror behind a light source, which shines the light of various sources through a transparent image projected on a screen by the means of a lens.


   The invention of this device is widely credited to a Dutch scientist and inventor Christiaan Huygens.  He describes a projection lantern in a manuscript dated 1659 and actually names it ‘La Leterne Magique’.  Some sources still site Athanasius Kircher as being the father of Magic Lantern, but that is being disputed more and more these days.  Some authors also point to the Lantern being foreshadowed by the 15th century engineer Giovanni Fontana and his description of a projection apparatus with similar properties.  Whatever the case may be, by 18th century a plethora of Magic Lantern séances have sprung up all over Europe with most popular and well known being the Phantasmagoria by Etienne-Gaspard Robert (stage name Robertson).   The Magic Lantern has made its way to America by the early 19th century and many showmen traveled the country giving shows to the eager public.

   Prior to the invention of photography all slides were hand painted on glass with transparent watercolor paints.  It was a tedious task, but the results achieved can be astoundingly beautiful.  Scenes with a single drawing soon drew the imagination of artists to come up with images that changed upon the screen.  These included simple slip-slides with two or more pieces of glass with various scenes parts of which sometimes were being masked off by black paint.  There were also slides called Chomatropes – a type of a kaleidoscopic image produced by two discs with painted designs, set in gears and rotated opposite of each other by a hand crank.  These can be mesmerizing to watch.  Motion slides are credited with inspiring a series of inventions by various people, which led to the eventual development of motion cameras by Lumiere brothers.


    At first Magic Lanterns were being used by magicians and charlatans to trick the public into believing they could summon ghosts and spirits.  There are cases of clergymen projecting images of saints into trees, walls and rocks having the public believe that a apparition has taken place and setting up holy sites at those locations.  Eventually Magic Lanterns were employed for much more sensible uses such as education, cataloging and entertainment.  Multiple manufacturers produced Lanterns of all shapes and sizes with some being small enough to be sold as children’s toys (believe it or not, children playing with fire was rather common practice in the Victorian era).  Magic Lanterns were used by educational institutions to show students complex diagrams and charts.  Museums employed Lanterns to document their collection and to propagate the images to libraries around the world. Keystone Viewing Company and alike employed photographers to produce numerous sets of slides, bringing far-away corners of the world right into the living rooms of their customers.  Individuals could also have their negatives converted into Lantern Slides in order to share their images with a wide audience during a lecture-show.   Customers were also offered to have their black and white images hand-colored.  When in the 1950s Mr. Land invented Polaroid film one of the products offered was a film type 46-L - it produced transparencies for projection by Magic Lantern.

    The demise of the Magic Lantern came only in the 1960s with the perfection and spread of use of smaller and easily reproducible 35mm slides.  Since many libraries and universities already held large collection of Lantern Slides their use continued in some places into 70s.  Today many people will sooner associate the words Magic Lantern with a firmware made for digital Canon cameras than with the beautiful and rich tradition that was known by that name for centuries.  Currently there are only a few Magic Lantern Shows in the world and The Photo Palace Bus is looking forward to adding to this rich tradition by hosting shows in your area.


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