One of the most innovative exponents of sound location shooting, Peter Handford, died last month at the age of 88. His work on British New Wave films such as Room at the Top and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning established him as a master of his craft which was eventually recognised in semi-retirement with an Academy Award in 1985 for his work on Out of Africa. Tony Sloman has written far more fully about his life and career in today’s Independent which also mentions his numerous sound recordings of steam trains. This collection now resides in the National Railway Museum in York.
Archive for November, 2007
An area that is often pushed to the periphery in discussions of moving image artefacts is that of art works and installations. The irony here is that this material is usually at the cutting edge in the production and presentation of screen related media and perhaps should be more at the forefront of our minds. The National Portrait Gallery possesses a number of examples of which this portrait of Susan Greenfield is one.
NPG 6526 Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield
by Tom Phillips courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London
This portrait is composed of computer-processed drawings and video and uses moving image to re-interpret portraiture for the twenty-first century. Other ‘time-based’ portraits in the collection include Sam Taylor-Wood’s digital film of David Beckham. Other ‘objects’ relating to these works, such as documentation are also retained by the Gallery as part of the collection.
The deadline for the Screen Heritage Network’s survey of moving image and screen-related artefacts in UK collections has been extended by one week to Friday 7 December 2007. The survey is open to any UK collection with artefacts relating to the moving image and screen-related media which may be accessible to the public or researchers. All organisations who submit a completed survey will be entered into a draw to win a 16GB Apple iTouch, the revolutionary touch-screen iPod with web browser – the screen heritage of tomorrow.
Organisations that have already submitted a complete survey will be included in the draw. Only one entry per organisation will be accepted. Organisations must be from the UK. Current member organisations of the Screen Heritage Network are not eligible.
Brian Coe (Stephen Herbert collection)
Sadly, last month saw the death of Brian Coe, one of the most important figures in the preservation and documentation of the UK’s screen heritage in the last century. Brian was Curator of the Kodak Museum 1969-1984, then Curator at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, before joining the Museum of the Moving Image in 1989 as its special events co-ordinator. He instituted several important exhibitions on photography and cinematography, and his many publications in the field have remained standard works. In particular his book The History of Movie Photography (1981) is the indispensible guide to its subject. It is a clear and authoritative guide to optical toys, magic lanterns, chronophotograph, professional and sub-standard film formats, colour cinematography, home movies, sound recording etc. Published twenty-six years ago, it is much relied upon by archivists and museum curators, and strongly recommended to anyone seeking a reliable, single guide to cinema technology before the digital age.
Model of the Palaceum cinema, from http://www.twickenham-museum.org.uk
Twickenham Museum is a model example of a small museum which has used its website to display more materials and bzackground texts on local history than it can within the small space of its actual building. The site has an excellent section on the cinemas of Twickenham, from 1911 to 1981, including models of the Lyric Palace (opened 1911), the Palaceum (opened 1912), and the Gaiety (opened 1912).
A good source of information on early London cinemas is the London Project site, which has a database of all film venues in London before the First World War.
Hoare biunial (two-lens) magic lantern, National Media Museum collection
There’s a thoughtful article (‘Shapes of things to come’) by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post, reviewing a recreation of a nineteenth-century magic lantern show, which is relevant to the broad concept of screen heritage.
Kennicott went to see a lantern show present by the Belgian Herman Bollaert and musicians, at the French Embassy in Washington. He starts by taking note of the efforts required to operate this ancient technology:
Watching Herman Bollaert and his crew of projectionists manipulate his 19th-century magic lantern is a bit like watching a very old and finicky sailboat being steered into the wind. There is a lot of fussing and fiddling, turning and cranking, all in the service of a charmingly antiquated technology.
However, he detects in the magic lantern a thread of moving image and visual technologies which share a common heritage and cater for a common need. He sees in the magic lantern an inheritance now to be found in anything from PowerPoint presentations to the Xbox. Specifically, he sees how the cinema came out of the magic lantern’s way of getting over a narrative:
And yet, even in the rudimentary gestures of the magic lantern, you see the beginnings of montage, the language of editing images that is now so familiar we can hardly see its operation. In a series of slides depicting the Greek cynic Diogenes being tormented by two malicious little boys, we see the philosopher being rolled in his barrel in multiple slides from various angles, the kind of visual prolongation and elaboration that would become essential to cinematic storytelling.
He then notes how the magic lantern served as a powerful metaphor for writers such as Marcel Proust and Arthur Schopenhauer. His final paragraph brings the magic lantern into that overall vision of a multi-faceted screen heritage:
It’s difficult to coax the contemporary mind into the position of someone of two or three centuries ago, who found the basic images projected by lanterns to be amazingly lifelike (aesthetically), emotionally powerful (artistically) and profoundly troubling (philosophically). But like the water wheel set turning by Bollaert’s expert hand, things will come full circle. With the rise of ever more complex virtual realities, once again the philosophical mind is set puzzling over the nature of the real. But now, in our world of Xboxes and Wii consoles, one is hardly aware of the machine that creates the representation, there is no tactile connection between the image and its master, and the boat of illusions sails forth with no hands on deck.
Read the full article on the Washington Post site, or learn more about the magic lantern on these sites:
- Magic Lantern Society of Great Britain
- Museo del precinema (Italian site with English section)
- Bill Douglas Centre
- Herman Bollaert’s own beautifully designed Laterna Magica site