It remains one of my happiest childhood memories, visiting my grandparents’ home on Sunday evenings with my parents. We enjoyed rarely cooked roast beef with Yorkshire pudding with gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots and green peas. The food was fun, though as the last of three children well spread there was no one my age in the room. Still the after-dinner entertainment was worth the wait.
Granddad would bring out a rickety, long-legged table. He would setup the slide projector and insert a variety of rectangular plastic trays—these were the days before Kodak Carousel technology—there were hundreds of these trays places on shelves along one wall of his study. We watched a hundred or so slides together–images of family and friends, landscapes (some familiar to me, others not), and event pictures (he once came to my school parade but forgot to put film in the camera!).
Two images stick out in my mind: A picture of an early BC ferry slipping along a launch track for its first dip in the ocean at Victoria’s Laurel Point shipyards. Ship building was very active in 1960s Victoria. I suspect the image I saw was of the Queen of Sidney or the Sechelt Queen. The other image was of a logging truck somewhere in the Cowichan Valley, dumping logs from the road into a booming ground. Such iconic images (which are sadly lost to posterity) would be important archival material; the images I include below are not Granddads sadly.
Of course we watched far too many pictures of flowers, some with sleepy butterflies lying on them. I later learned that he captured them in a net, placed them in a jar, put the jar in the frig for an hour or so, and only after photographing then with a Yashica rangefinder camera returning them to floral sunbathing glory until they flew away no worse for wear.
I am certain my love of photography arose from these Sunday sessions. When my grandparents died, and as we cleared out the basement, we found a treasure trove of historic negatives (some celluloid, some paper!) and positives of British military shipping. My great grandfather had been a Royal Naval Photographer so we donated these to the Royal naval Museum in Portsmouth England.
Back to slideshows, and to my particular interest and enthusiasm. There are certain visceral things I remember about these Sunday soirees. First the whirring of the projector fan and the awareness of something very hot in the room; also the mechanical functions of the projector as slide after slide usually (though not always) moved or dropped into place. I remember that many images were not correctly aligned—emulsion side to the bulb and projected upside down. The occasional slide jam frustrated the audience as we all faced the screen which sometimes was not directly at right angles to the lens, creating perspective distortions. I also remember the wonderful patina of emulsion-based film images, both print and slide which I try to replicate in my digital work.
I once attended a Nikon School of Photography course, a two-day event which introduced students to SLR (remember these) photography. Concepts were beautifully illustrated through a bank of nine slide projectors stacked three on three, via a sophisticated choreography. In a larger context, many of my generation visited Expo-86 in Vancouver, the event which made Vancouver for better and worse a global civic destination. The multi-media presentations in national and international pavilions was state of the art for the time.
Jump ahead to the present moment, and I can say with confidence that slideshows are coming back. A recent suggestion to my companion Kamloops Photo Arts Club leaders of hosting a slideshow evening received only muted enthusiasm. So imagine our surprise when we ended up with so many submissions–seventeen in all–that we now require two evenings to host all this creativity. I can identify several reasons for this enthusiasm:
- New software, especially PowerPoint, Lightroom and professional platforms including Photopia have made assembly, design, presentation and online uploading both easy and enjoyable;
- Presentation online using Zoom or other sharing platforms integrate slideshow presentation effectively;
- Transfer of large files is now safe and free;
- The incorporation of multi-media features, i.e. music, special effects and narration creates emotional and inspirational possibilities and results;
- Home-based output technology via smart televisions or using the next generation of digital projectors allow for high quality home-based presentation;
- Finally, sharing via YouTube means outputs can be shared internationally at no cost. As one who presides at funerals I would often offer the family the service of assembling, editing and broadcasting slide collections which once posted on YouTube were available to those unable to attend in-person.
So if the above are the technical advantages, what are the artistic benefits. There are many including:
- Slideshows honour the integrity and detail of the individual image, a finesse sometimes lost in purely video productions. Slideshows still allow for extensive and creative post-processing possibilities, a welcome advance over film-based production. When combined with panning, zooming and strategic blending the result is only slightly short of a purely video production.
- Slideshows foster the ability to tell stories in dramatic fashion, something lost with individual static images. Whether we like it or not, we live in a very impatient world. Most viewers need movement to retain attention. If we seek a wider audience, slideshows will engage viewers more effectively than a gallery of physical or digital images. While the link is time-sensitive, visit Photomotion to discover what one BC Photo Club has developed for a lower mainland audience.
- Finally, the technology listed above is available to all, from the beginner to the more experienced photographer. Ten years ago a photo artist was still cuffed to a desktop workstation. As with “the selfie” producers can now assemble short programmes on their phone and publish a high quality product, almost immediately on social media. Ten years ago, at least in North America, we embraced the single image as supreme, rivalling in a significant way text, word and story. Today, the story is the thing, ironically allowing more space for the image in creative combination, thus ensuring the future of photo-based art itself. Image combined with story creates an experience, which for better or for worse is the new medium of choice. Whether for entertainment or for a particular hortatory purpose, the slideshow is here to stay, to say what can and must be said and illustrated.
So bring on the slideshow—and may this blog constitute an invitation to everyone, to join us online at the Kamloops Photo Arts Club as our honoured guests, for two slideshow nights: Wednesday February 16 and March 2, both events at 7 p.m. Email me for details and the link.