In 1983, the city of Charleroi acquired the private collection of R.R. Belot, an enthusiast who had built up a diverse collection of roughly 600 pieces. The city loaned the collection to the Museum of Photography in 1987 and the decision was taken to exhibit a selection of cameras alongside the photographic prints. Since then, the collection has continued to grow, thanks in large part to private and public donations (such as Japy & Co’s “Le Pascal” from 1899 - Newman & Guardia’s “Special Sibyl” from 1913, donated by the town of Soignies) but also to one-off acquisitions (such as Photoret’s watch camera from 1893 - Compagnie française de photographie’s Photosphère from 1888), and today includes nearly 4,000 items of photographic equipment. Eager to make the most of such a varied collection, we decided to permanently exhibit a selection of the most important or representative items. The exhibition has two main strands. Firstly, it offers a historical perspective, as the way in which the language of images developed is inextricably linked with the development of techniques. From this perspective, the journey through the permanent collections has a dual structure: on the one hand we have ambrotypes, daguerreotypes and ferrotypes and on the other a showcase of the history of photographic techniques from the first magic lanterns in the 19th century. Secondly, it was important to group the items by type to cater for interest in the cameras themselves. Snapshots, tropicals, detectives, stereos, folding cameras, box cameras – each display cabinet around the cloister exhibits a single type of camera and shows how it developed over time.
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