A NEW exhibition has been launched to celebrate the life of William Friese-Greene, one of the first people to create moving images which 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 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 US and the Lumière brothers in France, which eventually led to the creation of the first ever film camera projector.

However, without Friese-Greene’s early tests, this might never have been possible.

For example, despite not hearing back from Edison after sharing his secrets, Friese-Greene is credited for planting the seeds which led to Edison developing a motion picture system with a peephole viewer, later called the Kinetoscope.

Friese-Greene did go on to patent an early two-colour filming process in 1905 and while he was in Dovercourt, he also registered more than 20 other patents.

Additionally, he experimented with the creation of 3D imagery, which was way ahead of his time.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Laura Ager and Richard Oxborrow at the preview of the exhibitionLaura Ager and Richard Oxborrow at the preview of the exhibition

Friese-Greene died in London 100 years ago, 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 Harwich-based heritage organisations have joined together to celebrate the centenary of his death and make sure his legacy lives on in Dovercourt.

Laura Ager, the education officer for the Electric Palace cinema in Harwich, who is one of the main organisers of the free exhibition, said she is proud the people of Harwich and Dovercourt will have an opportunity to honour one of the greatest icons in their history.

“I thoroughly enjoyed researching into his life’s work and was fascinated with what I found,” she said.

Chelmsford Weekly News: The hotel on the sea front, where Marconi set-up his 120 foot radio mast. Picture: Harwich SocietyThe hotel on the sea front, where Marconi set-up his 120 foot radio mast. Picture: Harwich Society

“When he lived on Cliff Road in Dovercourt, he thrived on it being the height of the Victorian period, when everyone was inventing new technologies.

“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, that could display seven photographic slides in rapid succession to produce the illusion of movement when put together in a sequence.

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

“This was until Friese-Greene realised that using glass plates to take pictures, which was a popular technique during the Victorian era, was never going to be a practical way to capture life quickly as it happens because it was awkward applying the plates to mechanical devices.

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

Eventually, Friese-Green invented a camera which could produce images on celluloid film at about ten frames per second, which was a major step forward on the road to creating a convincing illusion of pictures in motion.

Chelmsford Weekly News: William Friese-GreeneWilliam Friese-Greene

Today, movies operate at 24 frames per second but it was start.

The exhibition, which will be shown at the Arts and Heritage Centre in Harwich until September 22, will explain how this technique enabled him to create snippets of images which were animated in London, such as street life on the King’s Road in Chelsea.

Richard Oxborrow, from the Harwich Society, is also fascinated with his connection with Guglielmo Marconi, during this period, who is, of course, responsible for inventing radio in Chelmsford.

“At the time, Marconi was experimenting with the idea of creating wireless technology to travel across the Atlantic at the Cliff Hotel in Dovercourt, where he erected a 120-foot mast as part of his plan to eventually set up radio communications with the US.

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

“Between them, they came close to thinking up the idea of creating television for the first time, as they discussed how it could be possible to transmit moving images over radio waves.”

This exhibition will be a chance to hear all of these fascinating stories about Friese-Greene’s life, including the ups and downs which led to him becoming bankrupt three times and going to prison due to being in so much debt.

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

Although he did not make any official movies of length himself, his son Claude went on to make some films after being inspired by his father.

Other events at the exhibition will include a free talk by Peter Domankiewicz, who is studying a PhD on Friese-Greene’s inventions, a guided tour of Victorian Dovercourt created and led by historian David Whittle plus a drop-in day of free activities for young people (with parents and guardians) making and learning about 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 planned events, and the film made in 1951 about his life, go to www.heritageopendays.org.uk.