We are proud to introduce the utterly mesmerising Richard Balzer Collection, a warped world of animated 19th century phenakistoscopes, thaumatropes and zoetropes, available as gifs and video files exclusively from Bridgeman Footage.
There is no decisive point at which the concept of the moving image first came to light. It is an ancient human obsession – even in the Ice Age, people were entertained by moving shadows on cave walls. But in the early 19th century, a series of devices were invented that paved the way for future motion picture – the ancestors of cinema if you will!
The zoeptrope may sound familiar to you, but what about the phenakistoscope or the thaumatrope… no? Then roll up and let us introduce you to the magical Richard Balzer Collection.
Richard Balzer, devoted collector of early motion picture imagery and ephemera, has lovingly breathed new life into his compendium of phenakistoscopes, thaumatropes, magic lanterns and zoetropes, by digitising and animating them, creating beautiful, funny, psychedelic and often disturbing gifs.
Relying on the principle of Persistence of vision, these trickily named devices were designed to offer the viewer an illusion of movement. To operate a phenakistoscope, you’d hold a slotted spinning disc up to your eye with its illustrated side pointing away from you, into a mirror. Looking through the slots, you would see the illustration come to life in the mirror.
A thaumatrope was a disk with a picture on each side, attached to two pieces of string. When the strings were twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures would appear to blend into one.
The collection is also home to various animated zoetrope images, which move when spied through a spinning cylinder.
Tell the story of early motion picture through the weird and wonderful – and exclusive – Richard Balzer Collection, alongside our selection of animated Muybridge slates and the world’s first films from Thomas Edison.