The Magic Lantern was the forerunner of the modern slide projector and part of the wonderful tradition of optical projection alongside the Camera Obscura, Shadow Shows and the Magic Mirror. Long before cameras became commonplace, Magic Lanterns were used to capture images that could then be shown to an audience, to entertain and educate. Intrepid photographers would travel the world to document its people and places, from the ancient temples and tombs of Egypt to the factories and furnaces of industrialized Germany in the 19th century. A devotee of the Magic Lantern, Charlotte Fiell has painstakingly trawled through thousands of slides to put together a collection of 900 images that depict a pre-globalized world where regional customs and cultures were as distinctive as they were diverse, while the renowned geographical historian, James Ryan has assessed their cultural relevance and historical context. Here are depicted the bustling streets of Victorian London and the strangely tourist-free Taj Mahal of the 1890s. Sariclad carpet weavers in India gaze perplexed at the camera while giant statues of the Buddha smile enigmatically in Burma.
These hand-coloured images are beautiful yet poignant, evoking a world now lost in the mists of time.