The Projectionists

Inside out: eight images of the industry that underpinned old-school movie magic, from a series by Richard Nicholson.

Nick Bradshaw , Richard Nicholson

Alexa Raisbeck and Peter Bell, NFT1, BFI Southbank, London

Alexa Raisbeck and Peter Bell, NFT1, BFI Southbank, London
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Between 2010 and 2012 approximately 90 per cent of film projectionists in Britain were made redundant. This unremarked sacrifice of yet another profession in the dash to digital, alongside the renunciation of 115 years of film technology and all its hallmarks – its flickering lights and swirling grains, its hairs in the gate and occasional burnouts – may have been a predictable extension of the logic of mechanised entertainment, but it also marks a rationalisation of a world of sometime wonder and magic, as if Oz had decided to automate its Wizard. 

Since 2014 the Projection Project at the University of Warwick has been conducting a major, four-year survey of the history of UK projectionists, spanning memories, artefacts, transformations and present-day practices. As part of the project, the photographer Richard Nicholson was invited to document some of our remaining celluloid projectionists, in arthouse cinemas around the country; the photographs below are part of a set he exhibited at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as part of the Flatpack Film Festival in April.

Peter Bell and Alexa Raisbeck, NFT1, BFI Southbank, London

Peter Bell and Alexa Raisbeck, NFT1, BFI Southbank, London
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Amanda Ireland, Prince Charles Cinema, London

Amanda Ireland, Prince Charles Cinema, London
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Sam Bishop, The Electric, Birmingham

Sam Bishop, The Electric, Birmingham
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Peter Howden, Rio Cinema, Dalston, London

Peter Howden, Rio Cinema, Dalston, London
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Ewen MacLeod, Arnolfini, Bristol

Ewen MacLeod, Arnolfini, Bristol
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Phil Fawke, Odeon Queensway, Birmingham

Phil Fawke, Odeon Queensway, Birmingham
Credit: Richard Nicholson

Umit Mesut, Umit and Son, London

Umit Mesut, Umit and Son, London
Credit: Richard Nicholson

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