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Orlov's Magic Lanterns


  • Courtesy Anton Orlov

Anton Orlov owns a darkroom on wheels, in the form of his Photo Palace Bus, a unique gallery that will be parked in Occidental on Feb. 22. Since emigrating from Russia, Orlov has pursued his love of analog photography to several historic discoveries—glass slides depicting scenes from WWI and the Russian Revolution.

The Slavic stills from 1917 were colored and converted into Magic Lantern slides by their original creator, an American missionary named John Wells Rahill. They show soldiers in gas masks and great coats, as well as what appears to be peaceful rural life, undisturbed by war.

The Magic Lantern is an instrument with a checkered and bizarre history. Though perfect for displaying brightly colored miniatures now, it was once used by clergymen and magicians alike to conjure floating images of saints, demons and ghosts. The strange instrument began to fall out of use in the '60s, Orlov writes, and "currently there are only a few Magic Lantern shows in the world."

Why not go to one, then, in a bus parked in Occidental?

Orlov's Magic Lantern Experience comes to town on Friday, Feb. 22, at 7pm, hosted by Rahill's granddaughter, Barbara Hoffman, at a private residence in Occidental. To reserve a spot, call 707.874.2787.

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