In Victorian times, as today, audiences were fascinated by visual special effects. Skilful projectionists using specially designed lantern slides were able to create the illusion of movement or gradually transform a Winter scene into a Summer one or day into night. The devices used to achieve this could be simple, such as one piece of glass with a painted picture on it moving in front of another or very complex slides with levers, pulleys and rack and pinion mechanisms. The slides shown are known as ‘dissolving views’. This pair comprises two identical photographic slides of Trafalgar Square in London (probably made in the 1890s), hand coloured to show a day time and night time scene. Using two magic lanterns or a biunial lantern (the one shown is a triunial) with one slide in each, the projectionist would position the lanterns so that the two images were precisely aligned on the screen. Then, by slowly altering the intensity of light from each magic lantern, the picture on screen would miraculously change from day to night. This might not sound wildly exciting now but when first introduced in the 1820s it was magical and mysterious.
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