Copyright: Magnum Photos

Copyright: Magnum Photos

By Lucy Jordan

Earlier this month the London Film Museum opened the doors of their new Covent Garden extension, and boy is it a treat.

The basement of the Flower Cellars building has been transformed into a state of the art space, housing the museum’s permanent collection, ‘Capturing the Shadows’, along with their current and inaugural display, ‘Magnum on Set’.

The exhibition was curated by film historian Stephen Herbert, and MOMI founder Leslie Hardcastle OBE, and it is evident that the project has been a real labour of love.

‘Capturing the Shadows’ documents the transition from the birth of photography to the dawn of the moving image.

Apple iPads are provided to visitors at £5 each, and when placed before wall mounted ‘QR’(quick response) tiles dotted around the exhibition, will produce further details and trivia about the films on display.

“I think I’m most proud of the triple lantern,” said Herbert. “We’re lucky as it is one of only three in the country.”

The lantern is a beautifully crafted wooden image-capturing contraption, which only ten people in England know how to operate.

This walk through cinematographic history concludes with wall projections of the first films shown at the Grande Café in Paris in 1895, by the Lumiere brothers, along with ‘Master of Cinema’ Melies’ hand-coloured ‘Voyage a travers l’impossible’, and the first ever on-screen joke, in ‘The Sprinkler Sprinkled’.

Seeing the first ever recorded image, Joseph Niepce’s ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’, along with the years of ingenious inventions that preceded today’s cameras, makes viewing the following ‘Magnum on Set’ all the more spectacular.

Copyright: Magnum Photos

Copyright: Magnum Photos

This collection is comprised of projected clips, behind the scenes stills from the legendary Magnum Photos agency, and original artefacts, props and costumes from the selected films.  Among these, you are treated to a well-worn Planet of the Apes costume, the original script from Some Like it Hot, Charlie Chaplin’s cravat from Limelight, and John Wayne’s Stetson. Wayne was apparently complimented on the hat by a London cinema manager at which point Wayne plonked it on his head saying, “It’s yours.”

Other inclusions in the collection are The Trial, Rebel Without a Cause, Suddenly Last Summer, The Seven Year Itch and L’important c’est d’aimer.

The museum is a truly nostalgic experience, which elegantly stitches together the old and the new so that you can fully appreciate today’s screen marvels, but leaving you with a longing for a past that you may not have even lived through.


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