About Me

I’m Stephen Herbert, and I enjoy writing about early optical media. I’ve been a film technician, technical supervisor, museum consultant, researcher, writer, editor and publisher. I’m now retired, but continue to write about my interests and activities. My analogue workshop is a mess of mechanisms, models, and other marvels.

The Optilogue contains accounts of my original research and experiences, and reflections and commentaries on popular and academic books and articles in this field.

I hope you decide to subscribe, and tell your friends and colleagues about this site.

Stephen Herbert

Visiting Research Fellow, Kingston University

Career Overview: Paper conservation training, Public Record Office (1968). Cinema projectionist, inc. National Film Theatre London etc. (1969-1973). Audio Visual technician in education (1973-79). City & Guilds Advanced qualified technician (1980). Film production Technical Supervisor, Goldsmiths College (1979-1989). Deputy, then Head of Technical Department, BFI South Bank: National Film Theatre, Museum of the Moving Image, London Film Festival (1989-1996). Imax, London, South Bank, development team member (1995-1997). Film presentation technical consultant freelance (1996-2000). Co-partner with Mo Heard, The Projection Box publishing (1994-2006). Museum consultant freelance (1999-date). Semi-retired, pursuing analogue technical workshop projects (2016-date).

Exhibitions: 1990 Magical Lanterns (MOMI London) co-curator with Lester Smith. 1993 Catching the Action – Muybridge and the Chronophotographers (Co-Curator, with Brian Coe), MOMI, London. 1994-6 Countdown to Cinema (Curator), MOMI, London. 1995 Optical Toys cinema centenary display (guest Curator) Pollock’s Toy Museum, London. 1990s Foyer exhibition, optical toys, (guest Curator) for Prof. Richard Gregory, Royal Society, London. c.1995 The Western (MOMI, London) director/producer, The Big Sky multi-projector installation. c.1997 Imag-ine – the future (writer, graphics producer), MOMI, London. 1998 permanent display installation (Co-curator with Richard Crangle), Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter. 2000 Magic Pictures: Theodore Brown, Salisbury Inventor (Curator), Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire. 2004 On the Box (Text contributor) Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. 2008 The Magic Lantern in Hastings (Guest Curator, display) Hastings Old Town Museum. 2010 Muybridge: Revolutions (Adviser) Kingston Museum, London. 2012 Capturing the Shadows, London Film Museum, Covent Garden (writing, image selection, design: Co-curator, Leslie Hardcastle).

Museum / Archive experience: Member, curatorial team, Museum of the Moving Image London 1989-1996. Artefacts identification and research, Hove Museum 1990s and 2012. Eadweard Muybridge Bequest, Kingston Museum: cataloguer 2001-2003. Consultant, International Media Museum project Qatar 2011-12. Layout, ergonomic design, display and tech design, Dubai Museum of the Moving Image 2012. Consultant, museum project, Bahrain, layout, tech design, 2017. Consultant (Muybridge), Kingston Museum, London 1992-present.

Programmer: Special Events, MOMI London and BFI South Bank Cinemas, 1989-2000. 

Technical: Film presentation 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, 16mm, 35mm, (including nitrate), 70mm, video, digital, 1969-date. Installation supervisor, of c.20 public exhibitions, 1980s-90s. Projection with original Kammatograph, and bioscope projectors, 1990s. Lumière Cinématographe shows: assistant at NFT London 1971, Public presentations MOMI London 1990s, Lumière Centenary presentation Westminster University, 1996. Shooting and analogue presentation of Kinemacolor film, 1995. Commissioned Mutoscope/Loopascope installation, Telling Time, National Gallery, London, 2000-2001. Historical technical advisor, The Race to Cinema (private project) – a continuous 15-year project to build and test 14 ‘proto-cinema’ film cameras, 2000-2015. Member of the International Louis LePrince Research and Engineering project, 2010-date.

Training given: Projectionist and technician training, 1989-1996. 100 actor guides trained to use a triunial magic lantern, and a replica Reynaud Théatre Optique, MOMI London, 1989-1999.

Talks include: “Home Movies” MOMI Education, etc 1989-96.  “The Kinora” Magic Lantern Society, 1980s; “Kinora Living Pictures” RPS Historical Group, 1990s; “Theodore Brown’s Magic Pictures” RPS Historical group, 1990s; “Emile Reynaud” RPS Historical Group, 1990s;  “Presenting ‘Pre-Cinema’ to the museum visitor” Barcelona, 1994; “Cinema Centenary” Burnley, 1996; “The Technology of the First Films” The Newcomen Society, Birmingham, 1996; “Collecting Pre-cinema toys” MOMI Education, London, 1997; “Industry, Liberty, and a Vision” (dramatised presentation with John Witts and Mo Heard), National Film Theatre, London 1998 & Silent Film Weekend, Nottingham 1999; “From Diorama to Imax” BFI Imax London, c.1999, and Cologne University, 1994; “Taking to the Air” (early aviation/film) with Dr Luke McKernan, London, 2002, Nottingham and Sacile, 2003; “Muybridge in Birmingham” Birmingham Science Museum, 2003; “Projecting the Living Image: Eadweard Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope animations” Cinema: Motion – Illusion – Spectacle conference Roehampton University. National Film Theatre London, 2004; “Muybridge: A century of reflection”, National Portrait Gallery London, 2005; “Ourselves as Others See Us – Animated Portrait Photography” National Portrait Gallery, London, 2005; “Eadweard Muybridge (Introduction)” Stanley Picker Gallery/Kingston University, Kingston, 2007; “From Anorthoscope to Zoopraxiscope: An A-Z of Victorian Animated Cartoons” University of Westminster London, 2010; Inaugural Lecture (Muybridge Revolutions) “Eadweard Muybridge: The Father of the Motion Picture?” Kingston, 2010; “The Victorian Animation Industry” Barbican Art Gallery, 2011; “From Zoopraxiscope to Rotoscope: Commercial animation informed by the camera 1880-1929” University of Lincoln, Motion Capture Symposium London, 2012; “From Plateau to Muybridge and beyond: Expanding Circularity” Muybridge Event, Hampton Wick, 2016; “Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope” Kingston Museum, 2019. Also: talks about John Logie Baird and Will Day (Hastings); New Research: Optical Toys (Cinématheque Française/MLS, Paris); The Phenakistiscopes of Michael Angelo Hayes (Padua).

Cinema / television / radio / DVD / theatre consultant – interviewee: including:  ‘Magical Lanterns’ interview, BBC Radio, 1990. Home Movies radio interview, (London 1990s). Burnley, Cinema Centenary radio interiew (1996). Cinematograph and magic lantern demonstrations, ‘What the Victorians Did For Us’ Victoria & Albert Museum special, BBC2 tv 2000. Muybridge horse gallop re-enactment sequence (technical involvement and interviewee), ‘What the Victorians Did For Us’ BBC2 tv 2002. In Search of Sound interviewee(DVD, Lobster Films, France 2004). A Dream of Colour interviewee (DVD, Lobster Films, France 2004.) Interviewee, provided home movies of 1970s ‘The Way We Were’ (home movies) (Anglia TV 2005). Interviewee, ‘Nation on Film’ BBC tv 2006. Interviewee, ‘The Eureka Years – 1879’ BBC radio 2008. Tech (projection) and actor, The Golden Bowl feature (Merchant-Ivory) 2009. Period projector/camera/filming consultant, Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2010-2011). ‘Baird’s Maltese cross’ BBC tv 2010. Interviewee, Die Kürze des Augenblicks, German National Radio 2012. Tech history consultant,Travelling Light, Nicholas Wright play, National Theatre London 2012. Consultant / interviewee, The First Film (David Wilkinson 2012-2015). Victorian projector project, and interviewee, Mechanical Monsters (Furnace TV for BBC) with Simon Schaffer (2017/18). Interviewee, Kasimir Proszyinski, (Polish tv, 2017).

Websites: 

Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema (with Luke McKernan) http://www.victorian-cinema.net/

The Wheel of Life (19th century animation devices) – http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/wheelHOME.htm

The Compleat Muybridge – http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/muybCOMPLEAT.htm

The Race to Cinema (tech advisor) – http://www.theracetocinema.com/

MuyBlog (2007-2010) http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/blogcopy.htm

The Optilogue 

Editor: A series of books and CD-Roms by various authors for The Projection Box, my publishing partnership with Mo Heard, from 1994. Freelance fiction book editor, numerous titles, 2008-2010. Plus non-fiction: Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema, (with Luke McKernan) (BFI, 1996). A History of Pre-Cinema (2000). A History of Early Film (2000). A History of Early Television (2004) [Three, 3-volume Routledge facsimile collections, with introductory essays.] Eadweard Muybridge: The Kingston Museum Bequest (The Projection Box / Kingston Museum, 2004). Film History Journal, Special Issue – Film Museums (2006). Early Popular Visual Culture Journal, Special Issue – Muybridge (2013).

Books (author): Theodore Brown’s Magic Pictures: The Art and Inventions of a Multi-Media Pioneer (The Projection Box 1997). Industry, Liberty and a Vision: Wordsworth Donisthorpe’s Kinesigraph (The Projection Box, 1998 and 2nd edn 2017). The Dickens Daguerreotype Portraits (The Projection Box, 2011 and 2012). Muy Blog: Eadweard Muybridge Selection 2009-2012 (The Projection Box, 2014). 

Researcher/writer: (2005-2012): Accounts of Curious Mirrors. Book by Janet Leigh Foster, work in progress by the author.

Contributing editor, books: Magic Images (MLS, 1990) Servants of Light (MLS, 1997) Encyclopaedia of the Magic Lantern (MLS, 2001).

Picture researcher/educational writing: Muybridge and the Chronophotographers, Brian Coe, contributor (BFI/MOMI 1992). Eadweard Muybridge (Kingston Museum) brochure for schools 2004, author, picture researcher. The First Moving Pictures: How the Cinema was Born Education Dept, brochure MOMI 1996, co-author, picture provider.

Book Reviews Contributor: British Journal of Photography: Victory in Kodachrome [Victory in Europe], Max Hastings 1985; Early Popular Visual Culture (Routledge): Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of hearing and seeing by technical means, Siegfried Zielinski. Household Gods: The British and their possessions, Deborah Cohen. Montreurs et vues d’optique, Pierre Levie. Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, recollection and film history, Amelie Hastie. Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s performance of modernism, Rhonda K. Garelick – all volume 6, issue 1, April 2008. The Man Who Stopped Time, Brian Clegg. Picturing the Chinese, Grace Lau – both volume 7, issue 1, 2009. Journal of Film Preservation (FIAF) Inventing Cinema. Machines, Gestures and Media History, Benoit Turquety – no. 102, April 2020.

Archive department contributor: (Early Popular Visual Culture) “Professor Goaheadison’s Latest.” vol. 9, issue 1, 2011. 

Selected articles/chapters: Various articles for the New Magic Lantern Journal (MLS): “German Toy and Home Magic lantern-Cinematographs” (5.2 August 1897); “Nouvelles Scientifique” (6.1, January 1989); “The Molteni Biunial and stereo projection” (6.3 January 1992) “1880-81 and all that: a slice of lantern life” (9.1, 2001); “Quick change: Muybridge’s patented slide changer” (9.2, Summer 2002) “Remembering Reynaud in London and Paris” (September 1994); The Magic Lantern (MLS) – “Electric carbon arc lamps: memories from ‘The Box’” (The Magic Lantern 24); “A home-built, tri-colour projector revived” (The Magic Lantern 25).

Plus: “Animated Portrait Photography”, History of Photography, 1989. “Recreating the first filmshows”, Cinema, the Beginnings and the Future (University of Westminster, 1996). “Kinora Living Pictures” RPS History Group Newsletter, 1990s. “The Kingston Muybridge Bequest”, (with Paul Hill) Film History, 1997. “Lanterns for Advertising”, Servants of Light, (MLS, 1997). “The Riddle of the Lanterns”, Servants of Light (MLS, 1997); “Projecting Nitrate”, This Film Is Dangerous (FIAF, 2002). ”Colour and the Lantern”, Living Pictures, 2004. “A Slice of Lantern Life”, Realms of Light (Magic Lantern Society, 2005). “Chronology”, Eadweard Muybridge: The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs (Taschen, 2010). “’Don’t forget the magic’: the life and death of the British Film Institute’s Museum of the Moving Image, London”, Early Popular Visual Culture, 2016. “Exit, pursued by a Gizmo”, The Covent Gardener (2018).

Contributor: Websites and reference works. Dead Media website (1990s). Muybridge website, Kingston Museum (1995). Encyclopedia of Early Cinema (Routledge NY, 2005). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Birt Acres entry) (OUP, online 2006). Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography (Routledge NY, 2008).

Essay Competition: Co-established and managed, with Mo Heard, The Projection Box Awards for visual media history essays, 2008-2010. 

Affiliations: Research Officer, Magic Lantern Society (1988-2000). Board Member, Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter (1997-2000). Consultant (visual perception), Dept of Art, Design and Architecture, Plymouth University (2019). Visiting Research Fellow, Kingston University, London (current).

Stephen Herbert, April 2022.

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