London Shadows

Exhibition, First shown November 2002 revised October 2006

This exhibition is the result of a purchase of a box of lantern slides bought in a local auction room. Catalogued as 'views of London theatres etc.' it did not attract much interest but we were soon to discover that this decayed and dusty box is very unusual. To anyone interested in the history of photography a common frustration is that most photographs are anonymous and undated and this small collection is rare because most of the slides are named and dated. Montague Whickham had set himself the task of being expert at night photography and producing a lecture set of London scenes which was presented with notes about night photography. The Pictures, taken 1912/13 just before the First World War, are images full of atmosphere with a wealth of historic detail. They show a City experimenting with the new electric light and a night life of window shopping and crowds promenading through the extraordinary pleasure domes of the White City. The 'Criterion' flanked by early cars and Victorian Handsome Cabs, proclaims ' Our Sovereign, the Glory of our Empire' and features an sign illustrating a 'Dreadnought' Battleship above the Restaurant entrance, while in the Theatre, George Bernard Shaw's 'Arms and the Man ' is playing!

Another picture, taken on the corner of Tottenham Court Road, shows the entrance to the Central Line Tube Station. Clearly visible on an office window is a sign for Ernst Leitz the German company of microscope makers who would a few years later create the world's most famous 35mm camera the Leica.

Whickham was a very able photographer both as a technician and a picture maker. He must also have been fairly wealthy as he specifies the use of rare and expensive wide aperture lenses to be used fully open to capture people. Its certain that he would have used a small quarter plate camera on a tripod and that exposures ranged between a few seconds and 12 minutes.

An exposure table created by trial & error before the invention of the light meter.

Much mystery remains about Montague Whickham and his passion for photography, we guess that his home was in the North East and we know that he he was a member of the Edinburgh 'CPS' from 1911 . In addition we have a few pictures taken by him in Birmingham in 1912. If anyone has more information on MW , or a history of the White City, please contact Mike Tilley at Newcastle Arts Centre. 0191 2615618 or e-mail, mike@newcastle-arts-centre.co.uk

The slides have been digitally copied and restored using 'Photoshop' and printed at Newcastle Arts Centre with pigmented inks. The images are now archived on CD and the exhibition prints are expected to last in excess of 75 years if kept in normal museum conditions. The restored images are copywrite Newcastle Arts Centre 2002 and prints are for sale at sizes up to 600 x 500cm.

A Leica 2F of 1956 and an Edwardian 'Sanderson' 1/4 plate hand & stand.

A 35mm slide and a Lantern Slide

A detail from one of the pictures of the White City

Tottenham Court Road

To compliment these pictures we are also showing some snapshots taken be E E Smith at night in London around September 1963. These prints are made from 35 mm Colour Slides and because they suffer from slight camera shake it can be assumed that he used his Leica handheld. 50 years have passed since Whickham was here and we are into the 'swinging sixties' a land of the Wimpy Bar and neon lights, The views, although full of colour, seem empty and more alien than the scenes of 90 years ago.

The slides of E.E.Smith have been kindly lent by the Armstrong Trust to make prints for this show.