Dovercourt’s William Friese-Greene exhibition takes place

A NEW exhibition has been launched to celebrate the life of William Friese-Greene, one of the first people to create moving images that led to the birth of cinema.

Friese-Greene, who is known as the father of cinematography, lived in Dovercourt between 1889 and 1904 and it was there that he experimented with a number of world-class inventions, including the creation of inkless printers. to produce books and cameras used to animate photographs.

It was his discoveries, which he shared with other inventors such as Thomas Edison in the United States and the Lumière brothers in France, that ultimately led to the creation of the very first camera projector.

However, without Friese-Greene’s first tests, this may never have been possible.

For example, although he did not hear from Edison after sharing his secrets, Friese-Greene is credited with planting the seeds that led Edison to develop a movie theater system with a peephole, called more late the Kinetoscope.

Friese-Greene patented a first two-color turning process in 1905 and while at Dovercourt he also filed over 20 other patents.

In addition, he experimented with creating 3D images, which was way ahead of his time.

Laura Ager and Richard Oxborrow in preview of the exhibition

Friese-Greene passed away 100 years ago in London, penniless and virtually unknown, but his legacy will be remembered for wanting to share the joy of creating moving images with the world.

This year, a group of heritage organizations based in Harwich came together to celebrate the centenary of his death and ensure his legacy lives on in Dovercourt.

Laura Ager, education manager at Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich, who is one of the main organizers of the free exhibition, said she was proud that the people of Harwich and Dovercourt have the opportunity to honor one of the greatest icons in their history. .

“I really enjoyed researching her life’s work and was fascinated by what I found,” she said.

Thurrock Gazette: The hotel on the waterfront, where Marconi has set up his 120 foot radio mast.  Photo: Harwich CompanyThe hotel by the sea, where Marconi has installed his 120-foot radio mast. Photo: Harwich Company

“When he lived on Cliff Road in Dovercourt, he flourished during the heyday of the Victorian era, when everyone invented new technology.

“At the time, he was a photographer by trade and was obsessed with capturing moving images.

“At the start of his journey, he worked with John Rudge, who created the Biophantic Lantern Camera, which could display seven photographic slides in rapid succession to produce the illusion of movement when assembled in sequence.

“They had a lot of fun experimenting together and their use of this device led them to create a series of other cameras between 1888 and 1891.

“That was until Friese-Greene realized that using glass plates for taking pictures, which was a popular technique in the Victorian era, would never be a practical way to capture life quickly. , because it was difficult to apply the plates to the mechanical devices.

“So he started experimenting with paper made transparent with castor oil, before deciding to take pictures with celluloid film, which was revolutionary at the time. ”

Eventually, Friese-Green invented a camera capable of producing images on celluloid film at around ten frames per second, which was a big step forward in creating a compelling illusion of moving images. .

Thurrock Gazette: William Friese-GreeneWilliam Friese Greene

Today movies run at 24 frames per second, but that was the start.

The exhibition, which will be on display at the Arts and Heritage Center in Harwich until September 22, will explain how the technique allowed him to create snippets of moving images in London, like street life on King’s Road in Chelsea.

Richard Oxborrow, of the Harwich Society, is also fascinated by his connection to Guglielmo Marconi, during this period, which is of course at the origin of the invention of radio in Chelmsford.

“At the time, Marconi was experimenting with the idea of ​​creating wireless technology to cross the Atlantic at the Cliff Hotel in Dovercourt, where he erected a 120-foot mast as part of his plan to eventually establish communications. radio with the United States.

“The two inventors met one evening at the hotel for dinner and it would have been fascinating to listen to their conversation.

“Among themselves, they almost imagined the idea of ​​creating television for the first time, as they discussed how it might be possible to transmit moving images by radio waves.”

This exhibition will be an opportunity to hear all these fascinating stories about the life of Friese-Greene, including the ups and downs that led to him going bankrupt three times and going to jail because of his debts.

However, people will also learn how much he is now held in such high regard in the world as a movie hero. The exhibition will include his photographs, patents and valuable printed materials of his work.

Although he did not direct any official feature films himself, his son Claude continued to make a few films after being inspired by his father.

Other events in the exhibition will include a free lecture by Peter Domankiewicz, who is studying for a doctorate on the inventions of Friese-Greene, a guided tour of Dovercourt’s Victorian era created and led by historian David Whittle, as well as a day of free activities for young people. (with parents and guardians) making and learning Victorian optical toys.

The exhibition is a partnership between the Harwich Festival, the Electric Palace, the National Science and Media Museum, the Harwich Society and Essex 2020.

To find out more about the upcoming events and the 1951 film about his life, visit

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