What is AV?

Historical Background

Audio Visual (AV) is the art form of dissolving two images with sound accompaniment, which goes back to 1822 when this was achieved by the early magic lanternists, using two magic lanterns. This evolved with lanternists using lanterns with up to three complete optical systems in one (triunial), with music and stories told by the lanternist. These lanterns were used until the 1920s when with the advent of movies and cinema, magic lanterns lost their popularity.

In the early 1970s this art form was rediscovered and reborn with the accessibility of 35mm transparencies. Simple mechanical devices were made to create dissolves. Later, electronic units became available to control the projectors. Music and stories as told by the lanternists became more advanced and were recorded so the shows could be reproduced electronically.

The Audio Visual Group

It was in 1971 that Sir George Pollock HonFRPS, former President of the Royal Photographic Society, suggested the creation of Associateship and Fellowship distinctions in the art form of Audio Visual, which was approved by the Society. Recently, AV distinctions became part of the newly created Multimedia and Narrative category. In 1976 Lady Doreen Pollock FRPS produced an AV Newsletter generating considerable interest, which led to the formation of the Audio Visual Special Interest Group. At its first meeting in 1977, the Group’s aims were agreed. These were to encourage the study and practice of the art and technique of Audio Visual presentations, especially those using still photography and recorded sound. And today meetings are still held throughout the UK where advice is given, skills and knowledge exchanged and distinction applications encouraged.

With modern technology and the digital age, the programmes as they are called, are now created entirely digitally, and can include video, but the skills of telling the story still remain unaltered.

There are some people who see AV as a way of showing their images to music, but the real art form of the early lanternists, combining showmanship, storytelling, education, and entertainment, with photography is still central to today’s AV productions and distinctions.

Every other year the RPS AV Group holds the RPS International Audio Visual Festival, alternating with the RPS National AV Festival in the intervening years. The creativity of both International and National AV workers, experienced at these prestigious events, can be most inspirational. The ability to blend two images and create a third image originated from the “dissolving views” of the early lanternists, and is still magical today. The art form of AV is a medium that can communicate a message, as well as making audiences experience an emotion such as laughter or sadness.

If you are interested in the art form of Audio Visual please:

  • Visit us on the RPS website;
  • Look on YouTube where you can see examples;
  • Subscribe to the Group’s magazine AV News;
  • Join the Audio Visual Group;
  • Come along to one of the meetings, where you will be made most welcome.

RPS AV Group Committee

Chair – Howard Bagshaw ARPS MPAGB; Vice Chair – Edgar Gibbs FRPS MPAGB AV-AFIAP; Treasurer – David Neal FRPS; Secretary – Alan Tyrer LRPS; Committee member – Martin Fry FRPS EFIAP AV-AFIAP BPE4 APAGB