Stepping into Photography’s Past Through a Virtual Reality Project from Artist Mat Collinshaw - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Stepping into Photography’s Past Through a Virtual Reality Project from Artist Mat Collinshaw


In the age of cellphone cameras and Instagram feeds, we’ve become jaded with the marvel of the photographic technology.

Recently funded through a Kickstarter campaign, British artist Mat Collinshaw is creating an exhibition titled Threshold VR that will transport visitors back to the world’s first photography exhibition held in 1839. One look at the exhibition plans will prove underwhelming if not baffling—a neutral gray room lined with gray tables that don’t at all match the opulence of a mid-19th Century English art exhibition.

To create the illusion of time travel, exhibition-goers will be fitted with virtual reality headsets that plaster the walls with paintings of dignitaries wearing powdered wigs and transform the dull tables into glass display cases housing the first photographs available for public viewing. Since those original photographs, taken by Henry Fox Talbot, are no longer available to view due to light damage, Thresholds VR is not only a unique way to experience the artifacts, but the only way.

Mat, in collaboration with experts in CG and virtual reality, faithfully created a 3D render of the exhibition, originally held at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. The deceptively plain room will be specially designed to allow viewers to interact with the space, including a crackling fireplace that gets warmer as they get closer to it and even a gang of protesting Chartists that are rioting outside of the windows.

If you’d like to be transported back, the exhibition will be touring, debuting at Photo London at Somerset House in May, then Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in June, Lacock Abbey in September, and the National Media Museum, Bradford in November.

For more information regarding Thresholds VR including tour dates, visit the Kickstarter page.

For photography related stories from this century, click here to check out the FvF photo essays from around the world.

Text:Kevin Chow
Photography: Daniel Müller