Often, we need only look at an image to be transported to a different time or place. Our memories and imaginations are powerful en
Advertising brochure for Poole's Myriorama, about 1901. Credit: NMPFT
ough to shut out the ‘real’ world and carry us away. Sometimes, however, we can do with a little help.Our sense of engagement with the virtual world is heightened if we feel that we are a ‘part of the picture’. This can be done by ‘immersing’ us in the image and excluding all outside distractions. Typically, immersive technologies rely on creating images which fill our entire field of vision or which have an illusion of ‘depth’.
In the early nineteenth century, ‘Panoramas’ were popular forms of public entertainment in which spectators viewed huge, 360-degree, scenic pai
This can be done by ‘immersing’ us in the image
ntings hung around the walls of specially designed cylindrical buildings or ‘rotunda’. Within months of photography’s invention in 1839, panoramic photographs were being produced – the direct forerunners of the 360-degree virtual tours that one can now view on the web. Today, the concept of the panorama still thrives in the cinema, where widescreen films make us feel as if we are part of the action on screen. For television images, too, widescreen format receivers are becoming increasingly popular.
Stereoscopic, or three-dimensional (3D), images have also been around since the early nineteenth century. Stereo photographs were enormously popular in the 1860s and 1890s, and in the 1950s 3D cinema enjoyed a brief vogue with films such as Bwana Devil, with its wonderful advertising tagline: ‘A lion in your lap! A lover in your arms!’ Today, 3D IMAX films combine the very latest panoramic and stereo techniques with spectacular effect.
Holmes Stereoscope, about 1905. Credit: NMPFT
Sometimes, however, images alone are regarded as insufficient to create the realistic illusion of travel. In the quest for greater realism, images have been combined with sound, movement and even smell in an attempt to recreate the physical sensation of travel. In 1906, Hale’s Tours opened in London’s Oxford Str
The wider picture: a detail of a panoramic picture of Lowestoft, 1905. Credit: NMPFT
eet. For sixpence a time, would-be travellers could sit in a jolting replica of a railway carriage and, through the carriage windows, watch films taken from moving trains.
To add to the sense of realism, smoke and steam were wafted through the audience, making it the precursor of all of today’s flight simulators and theme-park virtual rides. The development of computer-generated imagery and interactive technologies now allows us to experience not merely a journey but to choose actively how and where we wish to travel in both the real and imagined worlds.
Photography, film and television shape our vision of the world. From its beginnings, photography has shaped our perception of the world and of travel. In turn, travel is one of the main reasons why people take photographs. > more
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