Theodor Reich

Austrian painter, printer, chronophotographer, inventor

Theodor Reich shared with many in his generation an inventive turn of mind, a momentary flirtation with the cinema, and an ability to forsee its possibilities. Born in Vienna and educated as a painter and printmaker, he worked in photography in the 1880s, and for the sports journalist Habnit sketched a chronophotographic camera for taking three or four pictures per second to analyse the motions of flight, but neither of the two friends could afford to make the apparatus. Moving to London, he worked as a photographic technician and printer, inventing and improving a method of photogravure printing widely used in Europe and America. Inspired again by the analysis of flight, in 1895 he commissioned the London mechanic Keppel to make a new chronophotographic apparatus using 42 mm wide film and a claw intermittent, capable of making about ten exposures per second with which he photographed pigeons in flight. He later claimed many private projections with the apparatus, unaware of other work in the field, beginning in May 1895, but an improved version was not patented until June 1896. The following year, a further patent was issued to Reich and John Henry Hill Duncan for a self-perforating combination projector and camera. In mid-1896, a company was formed to exploit Reich's machine, but all plans were abandoned after two consecutive fires caused by the lamphouse igniting the film. Reich remained in London until 1904 working as a printer and a photographic technician, then returned to Vienna to end his career as the head of the photogravure department of an illustrated magazine.

Deac Rossell