Fotoplastikon in Warsaw. A very rare attraction.
The following article provides a detailed description of the fotoplastikon in Warsaw. This type of attraction is extremely rare and perhaps that’s why it’s so interesting. Often tourists and guests from around the world are unaware of the existence of the fotoplastikon. We aim to change that and encourage our readers to explore the roots of the cinematic world during their next visit to Warsaw
If you’re only interested in a brief touristic overview, we recommend the following link. There, you’ll find all the information in a compact format.Tourist Overview
The fotoplastikon in Warsaw is located at Aleje Jerozolimskie 51 in the city center. In the vicinity is the 237 m high Palace of Science and Culture. Nearby landmarks include the Central Station and major hotels such as Novotel, Marriott, or Polonia Palace.
The entrance is challenging to find because it is located in the courtyard of a 19th-century townhouse. There are no signs on the street indicating the existence of such a rarity. This is not only unfortunate for tourists but also for locals who would never know about the fotoplastikon without the world of the internet.
What is a fotoplastikon?
In Theodor Fontane’s novel “Der Stechlin,” written between 1895-1897, the Captain von Czako mentions an auction in Ostrowo where a red box with double pictures and an opera glass (which was not really an opera glass) was auctioned. This box was bought by his mother, and through stereoscopes, he learned about Italian art. Stereoscopes were a gateway to the world for those who couldn’t personally admire Italian cities and artworks, much like the internet today but in a smaller format. Therefore, it’s not surprising that stereoscopy gained popularity from the 60s onwards. Fotoplastikons also utilized this technology, allowing people to explore the world without significant financial expenses.
Alois Polanecky was one of the first to introduce this technological marvel to the public in 1866. His device had 25 stereoscopes available, and the shared viewing experience began. Alois traveled through countries and was very successful. In the German-speaking world, this entertainment medium is also called Kaiserpanorama. The construction consisted of a mostly wooden cylindrical building where up to 25 people could sit. Each seat had a peephole showing continuously changing images. Such a series of images could last up to half an hour.
Physicist and entrepreneur August Fuhrmann advanced Kaiserpanoramas in various cities. They had a fixed location, similar to today’s cinemas, which were their successors in a way. He opened the first fotoplastikon in 1880 in Breslau (polish Wroclaw) and relocated it to Berlin in 1883. In the following years, more Kaiserpanoramas were opened under a licensing agreement. Around the turn of the century, 250 cities had such an entertainment medium.
The uniqueness of the fotoplastikon in Warsaw
The special thing about the fotoplastikon in Warsaw is that it has been continuously standing in the same building and room since 1905. It survived World War I, the almost complete destruction of the city after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, and even the Communists left it unchanged. It is a meeting place where one can marvel at the world with a different perspective. Once you enter the fotoplastikon salon, you are immediately transported to the time before World War II. The journey is worth it!
The operators of the fotoplastikon now have over 7000 images in their collection. The range of themes is broad, starting from travel photos around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, photos of Warsaw from all eras, to current photos by well-known authors. The exhibited photos are changed at least once a month.
Every Sunday, there is a permanent exhibition featuring pictures of old Warsaw from the time before World War II.
The working principle of stereoscopy is quite simple. Two photos are initially taken from two perspectives. The observer looks with the right eye at an image from the perspective of the right eye and with the left eye at the same image from the perspective of the left eye. This creates a perceived three-dimensionality of a space with various people and objects, even though they don’t physically exist. It remains a two-dimensional representation.
Since there are always two images, they are called stereopairs.