Collection of Signed Lantern Slides from Photographer Fredrick Evans

Monday, May 8, 2017


Chris Harris

In February, Otto Luna, a Visual Resource Librarian at UNH, contacted UNHI about an unusual copyright inquiry. Otto is responsible for the management of the Visual Resources Center (VRC) within the Department of Art and Art History. Otto began working at UNH in May of 2016 and quickly discovered that his department possessed something really special – a collection of original signed lantern slides from noted British photographer Frederick Evans.

Frederick Evans was born in London in 1853. He started his career as a bookseller but began experimenting with photography in the early 1880s. Around 1890, Evans began photographing the English and French cathedrals that he would become best known for, and for which he would become regarded as one of the finest architectural photographers of his, or any, era. Evans is known for his platinum prints, a process that uses a deposit of platinum absorbed into paper to produce a photographic print. But throughout his career he made it well known that he felt paper prints lacked visual depth. His preferred medium was the lantern slide.

When crafting his photographs, Evans would spend weeks studying the quality of the light in and around his architectural subjects at various times throughout the day. He took great care in capturing the play of light and shadows in his images and felt the luminosity of the lantern slide conveyed the truest representation of his artwork. Measuring 3 ¼” square, the lantern slides could be placed in a viewer and the images projected onto a wall or other vertical surface. He used the slides for the private lectures he gave to classes, camera clubs, and photographic societies. Unfortunately for Evans, the method he used to produce the lantern slides required strong sunlight, and he was eventually forced to stop making them as his eyesight began to deteriorate from the process.

The VRC has thousands of lantern slides in its collection featuring artwork from around the world which were used by professors for their lectures before the rise of the 35mm slide. The 232 slides in the Evans collection are beautiful and have image descriptions, dates, and signatures written in Evans’ own hand along the framed edges. Otto’s predecessor found the Evans collection among the other lantern slides and recognized them as special.  When she left UNH in February 2016, she left a note to Otto informing him of their existence. Nobody knows where the slides came from or why UNH is in possession of them.

Otto spent several months in 2016 working with undergraduate students to digitize and catalog the collection. After learning about the work UNHI has done to protect and commercialize the Lotte Jacobi images, he contacted our office to see if we could help him understand the status of the images’ copyrights.  Evans died in 1943, so his images are in the public domain, unlike the Jacobi photographs, but UNHI will continue to work with Otto to protect and disseminate the VRC’s work on the collection.

Chris Harris
Licensing Manager, Creative Works