Dec 28, 2015

Filmmaker Sasha Waters Freyer receives 2016 Helen Hill Award

For the 10th Orphan Film Symposium, NYU Cinema Studies and the University of South Carolina Film and Media Studies Program, present the 2016 Helen Hill Award to independent filmmaker Sasha Waters Freyer.

The biennial award honors the legacy of artist Helen Hill and her accomplishments as a filmmaker, educator, and animator. Named in honor of the South Carolina-born artist and citizen of the world who inspired many, the juried award supports independent media artists of exceptional talent whose work embodies Helen Hill’s creative spirit, passion, and activism.

The jury found Sasha's body of self-described work "about outsiders, misfits, and everyday radicals" deeply engaging in style and content. Her films resonate with Helen's in several ways, including their desire to involve children in filmmaking and theater as well as their simultaneous devotion to both social justice and lyrical modes of expression. Sasha's productions also share interests of the orphan film movement, often, as she puts it, "remixing images and sound culled from home movies, educational, and medical films." And they do this while self-aware of how 16mm film and early home video formats work as "dead and dying analog media." (See her website, pieshake.com.)

A maker of more than a dozen film, video, and audio pieces, both experimental and documentary, she chairs the Department of Photography & Film at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sasha Waters Freyer will introduce and screen a selection of her works for the Orphan Film Symposium's international audience of more than 200 artists, archivists, scholars, students, curators, collectors, producers, distributors, and others devoted to saving and screening neglected media. The symposium convenes April 6-9, 2016, at the Library of Congress National Center for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia.

Registration is open to all.  Read more about the dozens of films and their presenters here and here.




New!  Please chip in.

Since 2008, the Helen Hill Award Fund has allowed us to host 8 deserving awardees during the four-day Orphan Film Symposium. Help us continue to bring independent filmmakers and media artists to screen their work at this biennial forum for artists, archivists, scholars, students, curators, collectors, critics, technologists, preservationists, programmers, producers, distributors, and others devoted to neglected media. All funds go only to support travel, accommodations, and meals for award recipients.

Give by visiting this web page for the Helen Hill Award Fund.


Thank you.



Nov 25, 2015

Orphans at MoMA: Animation and Activism. The final program looked likethis.

Orphans at MoMA: Animation and Activism
Ten Rediscoveries from the Orphan Film Symposium
To Save and Project
The 13th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation
Museum of Modern Art,  11 W. 53rd St. NYC
November 24, 2015, 7:00 pm


Katie Trainor (MoMA) Welcome

Dan Streible (NYU Cinema Studies, Moving Image Archiving and Preservation)
1. Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, Jan. 7, 1894 (W. K-L. Dickson, 1894) aka Fred Ott’s Sneeze, 10 sec., si., b/w, DCP. Restored by the Library of Congress.
2. [Fred Ott Holding a Bird] (Dickson, Edison, 1894) 8 sec., si., b/w, MOV
            Lobster Films (Paris) made a 2K scan of the 16mm negative held at the Academy Film Archive in the Blackhawk Film Collection. Merci Serge Bromberg et David Shepard.

John Canemaker (NYU Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, Animation Area)
3. [Roaring Richard logo] (John McIntyre, ca. 1985) 8 sec. color, MOV

Canemaker offered the following about "Roaring Richard" in his Orphans at MoMA tribute: "The little film recalls the great affection and admiration that students and colleagues of Richard held for him, his films, and the animation program, which he established in the late 1970s at NYU. The short was screened at NYU’s annual Spring Animation Showcase in June 1985.  Six years later, Richard Protovin succumbed to AIDS at the tragically young age of 46."

The whereabouts of the original film is unknown. (John McIntyre verified it is not in his garage.) At some point the 16mm film was transferred to Beta SP or 3/4" U-matic videotape, which was dubbed to a VHS cassette ("Richard Protovin Animation Retrospective  5/4/1993") which Canemaker donated to the NYU George Amberg Memorial Film Study Center in 2015). The Study Center digitized the VHS and created a DVD-R copy, from which I ripped an MPEG-4 file, used to create the QuickTime movie seen here.  4. Straw Pib (Richard Protovin, 1979) 8 min. 16mm, color, NYPL for the Performing Arts 5. Fan Film (Richard Protovin, 1985) 12 min. 35mm, color, MoMA Film Study Center Kimberly Tarr (NYU Libraries) & Kate Donovan (Tamiment Library)
6. [Photographic Unit of the 15th International Brigade] (Harry Randall, 1937–38) 12 min., 16mm, silent, b/w; with audio interview of Randall, 2002.
Three reels of 16mm film were preserved with the support of Rickard Jorgensen and Carol-Jeanette Jorgensen. The Harry Randall: Fifteenth International Brigade Films and Photographs Collection is part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at NYU. Charles Musser (Yale) & Walter Forsberg (Smithsonian NMAAHC)
7. Count Us In (Union Films, 1948) 10 min. 16mm, b/w
The Pearl Bowser Collection, National Museum of African American History and Culture             A Young Progressives of America presentation of a Union Films Production. Produced by Carl Marzani. Directed by Max Glandbard. Written and music by Bob Claiborne and Adrienne Claiborne. Camera: Vic Komow, Jack Gottlieb, Leroy Silvers. Sound: Richard Patton [Andy Cusick?]. With Bob Claiborne, Henry Wallace, Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson.

            
Henry Wallace’s presidential campaign on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 included a series of films produced by Marzani. Several were filmed in Philadelphia during the party convention. Bob Claiborne’s on-camera introduction was shot in New York, at the Union Films studio on West 88th Street.
Walter Forsberg (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
8. [Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth In Action] (unknown, 1967) 6 min. 16mm, silent, b/w
            Amateur footage from the Pearl Bowser Collection, preserved in 16mm. Associated with filmmaking workshops by Brooklyn-based Hortense "Tee" Sie Beveridge (1924-1993), the unedited footage has recently been found to have companions. About an hour of silent 16mm film, much of it in color, documenting Youth in Action, also resides in the Bowser Collection. Tee Beveridge attended NYU School of Film in the early 1950s, became a professional editor and the first woman of color to join the cinema technicians' union. (Her husband Pete joined us at the MoMA screening. See his memoir about their life together: Lowell P. Beveridge Jr., Domestic Diversity and Other Subversive ActivitiesMill City Press, 2009.)
Tee & Pete, in Domestic Diversity
Blake McDowell (Smithsonian NMAAHC / NYU MIAP)
9. Venus and Adonis (Harry Dunham & Jules Bucher, 1935) 10 min. MOV, b/w Cast: Anne Miracle, Victor Kraft, Eric[k] Hawkins. Music: Paul Bowles.
Victor Kraft and Erick Hawkins. Movie Makers magazine, Aug.1935.
            An amateur production by two filmmakers who went on to significant careers in documentary. For this screening, the Library of Congress made a 2K scan of MoMA’s 16mm sound print.  The next step in the restoration of Venus and Adonis involves the Library scanning a silent print from its Aaron Copland Collection, which has superior visual qualities, and marrying that to the MoMA soundtrack.            Joining us at the screening was Mr. Van Bucher, son of two filmmakers, Jules Bucher and Miriam Bell Bucher. 
Tanya Goldman (NYU Cinema Studies) 10. Men and Dust (Lee Dick, Inc. 1940) 16 min. 35mm, b/w Direction: Lee Dick and Sheldon Dick. Commentary and photography: Sheldon Dick. Narration: Storrs Haynes, Will Geer, Eric Walz, Robert Porterfield. Music: Fred Stewart. Editing and Montage: Jules V. D. Bucher. Assoc. Editor: Edward Anhalt. Based on the findings of the Tri-State Survey Committee, this aesthetically ambitious labor advocacy film exposes the plight of lead and zinc miners afflicted with silicosis in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Although seldom scene, it was added to the National Film Registry in 2013. Preserved in 35mm by the National Archives and Records Administration.  
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NYU hosts the 10th Orphan Film Symposium at the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center April 6-9, 2016. Register at www.nyu.edu/orphanfilm.

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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Nov 23, 2015

Orphans at MoMA: bonus film -- "Fred Ott Holding a Bird"!

New addition to the Orphans at MoMA screening, Tuesday, November 24, 7:00 p.m.


Ott with owlet. West Orange, New Jersey, 1894.





Orphans at MoMA: bonus film -- "Fred Ott Holding a Bird"!

New addition to the Orphans at MoMA screening, Tuesday, November 24, 7:00 p.m.


Ott with owlet. West Orange, New Jersey, 1894.




Nov 20, 2015

Updates to the 10th Orphan Film Symposium

NYU and LOC convene 
Orphans X : Sound
April 6-9, 2016 at the Library of Congress
Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation
Culpeper, Virginia

New York University Cinema Studies and its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program join with the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center for the tenth international gathering of archivists, scholars, preservationists, curators, technical experts, and media artists devoted to orphan films -- an eclectic variety of neglected moving images and sounds. The theme of “Orphans X” is SOUND, broadly conceived.

Among the many presentations:

Anke Mebold (Deutsches Filminstitut) Tonbilder from the Neumayer Collection, 1908-09: Synchronizing Discs and Films from Deutsche Bioscop and Alfred Duskes

Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française) Restoration of Premier nocturne en fa dièse majeur de Chopin (Gaumont-Petersen-Poulsen, 1928) with pianist Victor Gille

Hilde D'haeyere (University College Ghent, Belgium) "Cannibals of the Deep”: Mack Sennett's The Trail of the Swordfish (1931)

Stephen Bottomore (independent researcher) The Selsior System Dance Films: [Ernest Belcher/Dorothy Edwards dancing] (Boris Sagal, 1913-14)

Margaret A. Compton (U of Georgia) A Mute Talkie Meets the Digital Humanities: Wedding on the Volga (1929) Yiddish theater star Mark Schweid’s directorial debut

Gregory Zinman (Georgia Tech) The Archival Silences of Nam June Paik’s Etude (1967-68), "one of the earliest digital artworks ever created by an artist who was not first trained as a computer engineer." + a screening of Paik's Electronic Opera #1 (1969)

Viviana García Besné, Paulina Suárez-Hesketh, & Michael Ramos Araizaga, Morelos Mezcla: The collective of Permanencia Voluntaria Archivo Cinematográfico presents fragments of Mexican cinema (1930s-70s)

Sound and Color: Parallels and Intersections, Technology and Aesthetics
Joshua Yumibe (Michigan State U) Color Film and the Coming of Sound
Ulrich Ruedel (U of Applied Sciences, Berlin) Film Sound and Color since 1929
Heather Heckman (U of South Carolina) Continuous Monochrome: The Problem of the Soundtrack in Chromogenic Color Printing

The Radio Preservation Task Force: New Histories of Radio
Josh Shepperd (Catholic U), Stephanie Sapienza (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities), Shawn VanCour (NYU), Jenny Doctor (Syracuse U), Alan Gevinson (American Archive of Public Broadcasting), Brian DeShazor and Joseph Gallucci (Pacifica Radio Archives)

Nico de Klerk, Joachim Schätz, & Katalin Teller (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society, Vienna) Travel Lecture Films of Colin Ross ‘mit ohne Sound’. Screenings to include Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelkontinent des Ostens (Attention Australia! Attention Asia! The Twin Continents of the East, 1930)

Genevieve Havemeyer-King (Wildlife Conservation Society, NDSR) and Pamela Vizner Oyarce (Second Run Media Preservation, Santiago) Audio Reconstruction for Andrea Callard's Super 8 Film Some Food May Be Found in the Desert (1977)

Bill Brand (BB Optics) Preserving Reflections (Madeline Tourtelot, 1955; music by Ed Bland) for the Flaherty Film Seminar, Chicago Film Archives, and NYU MIAP Program

Jeff Martin (New Art Trust) Recorded Voice of Lt. Edward W. Stewart (1943): Amateur Recordings Short-Wave Broadcasts from Japanese POW Camps
&
Matt Barton (LOC) U.S. Marine Corps Combat Recordings, 1943-1945
&
Melissa Dollman (Media Research Archivist) Listening to 175 Rosies: Audio from the Records of The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter Project, 1974-1980

Dan Einstein & Mark Quigley (UCLA Film & Television Archive) Preserving (presumably lost episodes of) The Goldbergs: 600 original vinyl transcription disks

Walter Forsberg (Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture) & Charles Musser (Yale U) Music in the Henry Wallace Campaign of ’48: Count Us In (Union Films, 1948)

Blake McDowell (Smithsonian NMAAHC) Paul Bowles Film Scores; and the amateur film, Venus and Adonis (Harry Dunham and Jules V. D. Bucher, 1935)

David Gibson (LOC) The Question of Abandonware in Video Game Preservation

Rick Prelinger (UC Santa Cruz) Silences within Moving Image Archival Practice

Josephine McRobbie (NCSU) with Andy Uhrich (Indiana U) New Sounds for Old Films about Sound, video remix and live performance of educational films about sound

Mona Jimenez (NYU APEX Ghana) Seprewa Discoveries - Access In Action (2015, Seth Paris and Fidelia Serwaa Ametewee) music from the JH.K. Nketia Archives, U of Ghana

Academy Film Archive, The Sound Man (1950) and Walter Damrosch Visits Schenectady and Sees Picture of Sound (1929)

EYE Film Museum, Guy Sherwin, Optical Sound Films (1971-2007)

+ the filmmaker receiving the 2016 Helen Hill Award, TBA

+ the state of and stakes in Orphan Works legislation and copyright reform.

Nov 7, 2015

NOV. 24: "Orphans at MoMA" 2015: 9 film redisccoveries, 9 rediscoverers, in 99 minutes.

Orphans at MoMA: Animation & Activism
Screening at the Museum of Modern Art (11 W 53rd St. NYC)
Tuesday, November 24, 7:00 pm, Titus 2 Theater


“Orphans at MoMA” is the affectionate name for the NYU Orphan Film Symposium screening the Museum includes in its film preservation festival, To Save and Project. The 13th edition of TSAP runs now through November 25, 2015. 

This year the annual collaboration between the Museum and the Symposium also celebrates the 50th anniversary of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Several Tisch programs -- Cinema Studies, Film & TV, Animation, and Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) -- are represented by alumni, students, and faculty. 


Academy Award–winning filmmaker John Canemaker, who heads NYU's Animation


Caricature of Richard Protovin,
courtesy of Tisch alum John McIntyre.
program introduces two films by his unit's founder, Richard Protovin (1945-1991): Straw Pib (1979), preserved in 16mm by the New York Public Library, and Fan Film (1985), a 35mm print from MoMA's collection. 

Kimberly Tarr* (NYU Libraries, Media Preservation Unit) and Kate Donovan (Tamiment Library) present photos and newly-preserved 16mm films (1937-38) shot behind the lines during the Spanish Civil War by Sgt. Harry W. Randall Jr., an American volunteer in the storied Abraham Lincoln Battalion and head of the photographic unit for the anti-fascist 15th International Brigade. The remarkable footage was preserved with the support of Rickard Jorgensen and Carol-Jeanette Jorgensen. The collection of Harry Randall: Fifteenth International Brigade Films and Photographs is part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) at NYU. 


Harry Randall, standing, left.
15th International Brigade Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU.

The Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture premieres two 16mm restorations. Eminent film historian and NYU Cinema Studies alumnus Charles Musser (Yale) and Walter Forsberg* (NMAAHC media archivist) introduce the recently uncovered Count Us In (1948), a presidential campaign short for the Progressive Party, produced by Carl Marzani's leftist collective Union Films. (The Marzani Papers are housed at NYU, but Count Us In comes from the Pearl Bowser Collection at NMAAHC.)
filmmaker unknown. Frame courtesy of NMAAHC.

Also from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Rhea L. Combs (curator of film and photography) presents amateur film footage documenting the Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth in Action community workshop, ca. 1965. 

Blake McDowell* (Smithsonian) introduces a rare amateur surrealist erotic film, Venus and Adonis (1935), shot around New York City by young filmmakers Harry Dunham and Jules Bucher. While researching his NYU MIAP master's thesis on Bucher, McDowell found that the Museum of Modern Art possessed a 16mm print, which includes the soundtrack Paul Bowles composed for the work. The Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center digitized the material for this Orphans at MoMA screening, perhaps the first time Venus and Adonis has been seen in nearly 80 years. Co-director Harry Dunham went on to make China Strikes Back (1937, edited by Jay Leyda, later an NYU Cinema Studies professor, and mentor to Charles Musser), and to shoot Too Much Johnson (1938) for Orson Welles. 

The program concludes with a second film edited by Jules (J. V. D.) Bucher. Men and Dust (1940) is a stylistically fascinating labor exposé made by the wife and husband team of Lee and Sheldon Dick. Named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2013, Men and Dust has had few screenings, but the National Archives and Records Administration has preserved the film and provides a 35mm print for this Orphans at MoMA show. NYU Cinema Studies PhD student Tanya Goldman, who has researched the career of the elusive pioneer woman documentarian Lee Dick, introduces Men and Dust. 

Dan Streible, director of the Orphan Film Symposium, hosts the program with Katie Trainor (MoMA Film Collections Manager) and also presents the recent Library of Congress reconstruction of the oldest surviving copyrighted motion picture, Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, Jan. 7, 1894. 




*Tarr ('09), Forsberg ('10), and McDowell ('14) are all graduates of NYU's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program.  




Oct 17, 2015

Preliminary program: the 10th Orphan Film Symposium

Orphans X, the 10th Orphan Film Symposium, takes place April 6 - 9, 2016, at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, in Culpeper, Virigina (on Mount Pony). Evening screenings and performances unfold down on Main Street in the historic State Theatre.  Registration is open

Much more to add, soon, but for now, among the planned presentations are 

Hilde D'haeyere (University College Ghent, Belgium) "Cannibals of the Deep”: Mack Sennett's The Trail of the Swordfish (1931)

Stephen Bottomore (independent) The Selsior System Dance Films: [Ernest Belcher/Dorothy Edwards dancing] (Boris Sagal, 1913-14)

Margaret A. Compton 
(U of Georgia) A Mute Talkie Meets the Digital Humanities: A Lost Film Found, 
Wedding on the Volga (Mark Schweid, 1929)

Anke Mebold (Deutsches Filminstitut) Tonbilder from the DIF Neumayer Collection, ca. 1908-09: Synchronizing Shellac Discs and Films from Deutsche Bioscop and Alfred Duskes Kinematographen Fabrik. A program of arias and songs.

Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française) Restoration of the optical sound film Premier nocturne en fa dièse majeur de Chopin (Gaumont-Petersen-Poulsen, 1928) with pianist Victor Gille


Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive
Gregory Zinman (Georgia Tech) The Archival Silences of Nam June Paik’s Etude 1 (1967-68), "one of the earliest digital artworks ever created by an artist who was not first trained as a computer engineer." + a screening of Paik's Electronic Opera #1 (1969)


Viviana García Besné, Paulina Suárez-Hesketh, & Michael Ramos Araizaga (Permanencia Voluntaria) Morelos Mezcla: The collective of Permanencia Voluntaria Archivo Cinematográfico in Tepoztlán presents sound and picture tracks from fragments (1930s-70s) of Mexican cinema assembled from across Mexico, the U.S., and Spain


Sound and Color: Parallels and Intersections, Technology and Aesthetics

  • Joshua Yumibe (Michigan State U) Color Film and the Coming of Sound
  • Ulrich Ruedel (U of Applied Sciences, Berlin) Film Sound and Color since 1929
  • Heather Heckman (U of South Carolina) Continuous Monochrome: The Problem of the Soundtrack in Chromogenic Color Printing







Preserving Radio History
  • Josh Shepperd (Catholic University)
  • Shawn VanCour (New York University)
  • Jenny Doctor (Syracuse University)
  • Brian DeShazor and Joseph Gallucci (Pacifica Radio Archives)
  • Alan Gevinson (LOC American Archive of Public Broadcasting)
  • Stephanie Sapienza (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities)





Dan Einstein & Mark Quigley (UCLA Film & Television Archive) Preserving (presumably lost episodes of) The Goldbergs: 600 original vinyl transcription disks, including the episode "Sammy Goes to the Army" (1942) 



Nico de KlerkJoachim Schätz, Katalin Teller (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society, Vienna) Travel Lecture Films of Colin Ross ‘mit ohne Sound’. Screenings to include Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelkontinent des Ostens (Attention Australia! Attention Asia! The Twin Continents of the East, 1930)

Genevieve Havemeyer-King (Wildlife Conservation Society, NDSR) and Pamela Vizner Oyarce (Second Run Media Preservation) Audio Reconstruction for Andrea Callard's Super 8 Film Some Food May Be Found In The Desert  (1977)

Bill Brand (BB Optics) Preserving Reflections (Madeline Tourtelot, 1955; music by Ed Bland) A project of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Chicago Film Archvies, and the NYU MIAP Program


Erick Hawkins and Victor_Kraft in Venus and Adonis
Blake McDowell (Smithsonian NMAAHC) Paul Bowles Film Scores; and a rediscovered amateur-surrealist sound film, Venus and Adonis (Harry Dunham and Jules V. D. Bucher, 1935), restoration by the Library of Congress with the Museum of Modern Art


Jeff Martin (indy) Recorded Voice of Lt. Edward W. Stewart (1943): Recording Short-Wave Broadcasts from Japanese POW Camps



Matt Barton (LOC) U.S. Marine Corps Combat Recordings, 1943-1945

Walter Forsberg (Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture) & Charles Musser (Yale U) Music, the Henry Wallace Campaign of ’48 and Union Films.  Screening: Count Us In (aka Young People’s Convention, aka The Young People Meet, 1948) rediscovered in the Pearl Bowser Collection

David Gibson (LOC) Video Game Preservation 

Rick Prelinger (UC Santa Cruz) Silences within Moving Image Archival Practice 



Josephine McRobbie (NCSU) and musicians, with Andy Uhrich (Indiana University) New Sounds for Old Films about Sound, live music performance and video remix of educational films about sound, such as Hearing and Noise (Oregon State Board of Health, 1972), Fundamentals of Acoustics (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1950), Ultra Sounds (Paul F. Moss, 1952), Sound Waves and Their Sources (ERPI, 1933), and Sound and Story (Jam Handy, 1956). 


+ a report on the state of and stakes in Orphan Works legislation and copyright reform.





Register now for the symposium in Culpeper, Virginia, April 6 - 9, 2016. 




NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Cinema Studies, and its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program thank our partners at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Gregory Lukow, Mike Mashon, Rob Stone, George Willeman, Gene Deanna, Matt Barton, and others. 

Sep 15, 2015

Kinetoscopic Records, 1894-2015: A Quiz

Match the image to its creator and title.


All on display at UnionDocs (322 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY). September 18-November 12, 2015Peephole Cinema's newest installation, "Kinetoscopic Records," programmed by Dan Streible. www.uniondocs.org/event/2015-09-18-kinetoscopic-records



Ash, Danielle. Creature of the Gowanus
Brand, Bill. Ornithology 4
Callard, Andrea. Something Medical
Dickson, W. K.-L. Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze
Mack, Jodie. All Stars
Meaney, Evan. Re_Sneeze
Mono No Aware, Sneezes
Morrison, Bill. Dancing Decay
Schlemowitz, Joel. The Invention of the Gramophone
Whiteside, Tom & Anna Kipervaser. Ott Gotcha






































Sep 11, 2015

Kinetoscopic Records, for Peephole Cinema, at UnionDocs, in Brooklyn, on September 18



A new exhibition for the Peephole Cinema series (created by curator Laurie O'Brienopens September 18 at UnionDocs Center for Documentary Arts in Brooklyn, New York. The opening reception is 5:00 to 7:00 pm. 

"Kinetoscopic Records" features ten very short moving-image works programmed by Dan Streible (keeper of this blog).

The exhibition, viewable only through the peephole on the door at 322 Union Avenue in Brooklyn, will run 24 hours a day for nearly two months.


See looping DV of ten works in five mintues.

• W. K.-L. Dickson, Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, Jan. 7, 1894  
• Evan Meaney, Re_Sneeze  
• Jodie Mack, All Stars   
• Joel Schlemowitz, The Invention of the Gramophone
• Danielle Ash, Creature of the Gowanus 
• Tom Whiteside & Anna Kipervaser, Ott Gotcha 
• Andrea Callard, Something Medical 
• Bill Brand, Ornithology 4 
• Mono No Aware, Sneezes
• Bill Morrison, Dancing Decay 


Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, better known as Fred Ott's Sneeze, was shot on 35mm in January 1894 -- one of the first movies ever made. But it was only seen as still photos on paper until 1953, when Kemp Niver rephotographed the paper frames on 16mm film, part of the Paper Print project conducted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in cooperation with the keepers of the Paper Print Collection, Library of Congress Motion Picture Division. That black-and-white 16mm film was the basis for all subsequent copies of The Sneeze that we have seen, including every version currently on the Internet.

However, the Peephole Cinema exhibit features the Library of Congress's newer and longer version, which uses all 81 surviving frames of Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, not just the 45 frames that Niver used. Combining the 45 sepia-color frames from the January 1894 copyright deposit photograph with the additional 36 frames (half-tone, black-and-white) published in Harper's Weekly in March 1894, the new Library of Congress digital composite version runs approximately 7 seconds. 

It reveals that the single continuous take recorded Fred Ott sneezing twice! 

Go to the Peephole Cinema at UnionDocs to see it.


Aug 4, 2015

Identifying an 1897 flip book with fight pictures

The University of Iowa Special Collections & University Archives has an excellent Tumblr site, on which it regularly posts animated GIFs made from objects in its collections. This one -- a second of moving-image photography showing a boxing sequence from 1897 -- caught my eye.

The animated Graphics Interchange Format suits flip book content very well.
http://uispeccoll.tumblr.com/post/121636217497/uispeccoll-miniature-monday-imagine-the

The object in question is identified by an assigned descriptive title, Living Photograph Flip Book, Novelty Export Co, 1897. With the added description (from where?) "James Corbett and Robert Fitzsimmons championship boxing match." 

Having never seen these images before in my research on fight pictures and early cinema (and having thought I'd "seen it all"), I wanted to know more. Was this actually a film ["film"] heretofore unregistered in any history of cinema? I also recollected the rich discussion that ignited in 2013 among historians of early cinema (particularly on the Domitor listserv) when Variety magazine ran a report that a lost film by Georges Méliès might have been rediscovered from a surviving flip book. 

These photographs in the Iowa GIF are definitely not of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons championship fight of 1897. Nor are they from the Veriscope motion picture recording of that event. Nor are the boxing performers Jim Corbett and / or Bob Fitzsimmons. Nor do these pictures come from the Lubin company’s 1897 film “Fac Simile of the Great Fight.” (See below.) It’s clear the performers are meant to represent the pompadoured Corbett, the balding Fitzimmons, and the vested referee at the actual fight, George Siler. But the framing and mise-en-scene in this GIF of Living Photograph Flip Book match no films of the famed Corbett-Fitzimmons fight, nor any related films. 

Here are two more images from Living Photograph Flip Book the Iowa Spec Coll Tumblr posted after I inquired about the mystery. 




There's not yet a University of Iowa Libraries catalog record per se for the wee thing, but it is listed as one of seventeen "Miniature Artifacts and Objects" in Iowa's Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books. Most of the other flip books named are from the 1930s or 40s (or undated) and are juvenilia related to Hollywood animation (Walter Lantz, Disney). The only other metadata about Living Photograph Flip Book reads: "Front wrapper and maybe one page missing. Buckram container at base has been taped together." And "Descriptions for U.S. items published before 1901 have been checked against Robert C. Bradbury’s Antique United States Miniature Books 1690-1900 (No. Clarendon, Vermont: The Microbibliophile, 2001)."

Worldcat.org reveals that this flip book is held in at least three other libraries, although none use Living Photograph Flip Book as a title of the work. 

• The University of Virginia Library Special Collections catalogs it

as A Story without Words (Buffalo, NY: Gies & Co., 1897). Like the Iowa item, it’s printed with the notice “Copyright, M. Kingsland, 1897.” 95 leaves, 47 x 64 mm.

• University of California Santa Barbara Library’s Special Collections, uses the same metadata for its edition of A Story without Words.

• The Notre Dame Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections catalogs its item as A Story without Words: The Fight (variant title Fight: A Story without Words). Same publisher credits, but only 85 leaves; 39 x 58 mm. 

• Outside of Worldcat records, a Web search reveals that the Museum of the History of Science (in Oxford, UK)  holds a different edition of what appears to be the same (or nearly same) set of images, judging from the still image on its website. The museum assigns the title Pocket Kinetoscope ‘Series C’ Flip Book (London: American Jubilee Company, date “end 19th century”). 81 leaves (”photographic sheets”), 52 x 37 x 15mm. 


Left, Pocket Kinetoscope ‘Series C’ Flip Book.  Center and right, The Yankee Cop. Photos from Museum of the History of Science, whose website includes an excellent history of the flip book.








• A second museum item bears a title similar to Iowa Spec Coll’s -- ‘Living Photograph’ Flip Book -- and lists the same publisher, Gies & Co. ("USA c. 1897"). This one contains 84 photographic images and measures 60 x 40 x 22 mm, but shows a different subject. It’s inscribed with the title The Yankee Cop, also credited to M. Kingsland. It does show “two men fighting,” but they are not boxers. A policeman arrived "to hit the first man while the second man laughs.”

• Also, a private auction site sold a flip book it described as Story Without Words, The Fight - Finish [sic]. Despite the variant title, it too was from M. Kingsland and Gies & Co., “from their Living Photographs Series, 1897.” The "Finish" suggests the images showed an imitation of the punch with which Fitzsimmons knocked out defending heavyweight champion Corbett. The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum includes a listing for a "flick book" of the same title and Kingsland authorship (but simultaneously describes it as a mutoscope[?]). 

The Iowa version, then, appears to be unique in its description of “James Corbett and Robert Fitzsimmons championship boxing match.” And also unique with its inscription from “Novelty Export Co.” A Wisconsin dealer once listed something on eBay as "Vintage Flip Book The Fight, Corbett/Fitzsimmons, Copyright 1897 M. Kingsland." However, I suspect that the Corbett-Fitzsimmons names were added after the seller saw the Iowa Spec Coll Tumblr. One of the earlier comments on the Tumblr was an inquiry from someone who said s/he owned a flip book entitle The Fight from 1897 and asked what the value of the item might be. (No one ventured a guess. The eBay book sold for $60.)

On a related note, the Iowa special collections library has the only record I can find for the rare book entitled The Greatest Fight of the Age between Robert Fitzsimmons and James J. Corbett for the World’s Championship at Carson City, Nevada, March 17, 1897. Giving each round in detail, also a full description of every legitimate hit, together with other valuable information in connection with the prize ring, written by Colonel William Thompson (n.p., 1897?). 

I still have no leads on who “M. Kingsland” was, but presumably a photographer working for the publishing and printing house Gies & Co. As I’m learning, Charles Gies’s company was among the best and largest multipurpose printing operations in the U.S., lasting from about 1871 to 1922. Mark Strong’s account says Gies & Co. operations in Buffalo, and later Pittsburgh, were “lithographers, engravers, printers, publishers, general book printers, wood engravers, electrotypers, blank book manufacturers, catalogue & pamphlet printers, job & commercial printers, and bookbinders.”

Both Gies & Co. and Novelty Export Co. appear in advertisements in The Phonoscope, a trade journal published from 1896 to 1900. 


High-resolution, searchable scanned copies of the Library of Congress run (through 1899) are available at the Internet Archive. However the final months (January - June 1900) are currently only searchable via Google Books, which offers low-resolution copies scanned from Stanford University Libraries. 
Consistent with the Iowa library catalog record, March and April 1897 ads in Phonoscope have the Novelty Export Co. (at 1270 Broadway NYC, near 33rd Street, to be specific) selling “Gies & Co.’s ‘Living Photographs.’” The ads did not tell prospective amusement vendors exactly what these things were, but say “Objects move and people act as if alive.” Comedy and novelty are emphasized. “New scenes” were promised weekly, including one ad teasing “The Bedroom Scene.” All on par with, for example, the American Mutoscope Company’s subjects for its flip-card peep-show devices.



But the novelties being exported here were not, near as I can tell, done as cinematography per se. Something more like Muybridge serial photography, very short sequences of action. Some editions of the Gies fight flip book say: “Pictures are taken by special photographic machinery invented by us.“ We don’t know much more about that machinery, although Gies promised high quality “pictures from first original plates.”


The revealing detail comes from an ad on the back cover of the March 1897 edition of The Phonoscope. Here again the vocabulary of sight and sound technologies is hybrid and confusing. “Living Photographs” are here identified as “a miniature kinetoscope.” The Kinetoscope was the Edison company’s well-known brand name for its peep-show viewing device, which showed loops of 35mm celluloid motion-picture film, marketed throughout 1894-96. By 1897, theatrical projection displaced peep shows and the brand name was used for the “Edison Projecting Kinetoscope.” Edison of course was also the inventor and seller of phonographs, which were also the focus of The Phonoscope monthly.

These March and April 1897 ads, however, do yield a definitive clue, making it clear how these flip books were connected to the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight alluded to in the Iowa description. Novelty Export Co. reproduced 4 still images from 4 different titles in its 12 newest scenes. The first is entitled The Great Fight and includes a photo/frame with what are surely the same three figures in the all-important Iowa GIF.  



The text is artful enough to not explicitly claim these are pictures of or from the actual championship fight between Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, recorded by the Veriscope Company on 63mm motion-picture film, March 17, 1897, in Carson City, Nevada. That event was a sensation in all media that year. There were many attempts to cash in on its topicality. Veriscope’s was the first feature-length film in history and was widely seen for many months. Periodicals carried Corbett-Fitzsimmons news and pictures (photographs, drawings, engravings, lithos, cartoons) in abundance. Some were derived from frames of movies, such as this one (which bears more than a little similarity to "The Great Fight" image above). 


In another artful and confusing advertisement, adjacent to the Novelty Export ads were pitches for “The Big Corbett Fight.” “We positively guarantee to our customers that this is the only Miniature Kinetoscope published showing James J. Corbett in the ring as a participant in an actual fight.” The advertiser was “the Edison Phonograph Company.” However the address listed to which prospective buyers were to mail ten cents for a sample was 23 South Eighth Street, Philadelphia – next door to the Lubin film company’s headquarters at 21 S. 8th. The same Lubin that marketed a 35mm movie “fac simile” of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight, a notorious fake. 

Screenshot from the ACLS Humanities e-book version of 
Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema (2008). 
The Phonoscope ad’s claim to have pictures of Corbett in the ring in an actual fight indicates that the “Edison Phonograph Company” was using the 1894 motion picture Corbett and Courtney before the Kinetograph as its source. That six-film set of Kinetoscope productions was Edison’s most popular early title and was also sold for film projection in 1896-97, as the Fitzimmons fight approached. 

Two frames from a seldom-seen round of Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph (1894), including a moment when the boxers drift nearly off screen. These screenshots are low-resolution, but they're derived from a first-generation nitrate film fragment in the Library of Congress collection. They differ from the rounds most often seen from the Museum of Modern Art Edison collection or the Library of Congress's online versions (which derive from the Gordon Hendricks Collection previously held by the Smithsonian). For a good approximation of how vivid and sharp the various nitrate fragment of Corbett-Courtney look, see the two seconds or so included in the final montage sequence in Martin Scorsese's Hugo (2011). 
It’s a marvelous confusion of media archaeology. If this “Big Corbett Fight” “miniature kinetoscope” was ever actually produced, it must have been an attempt at a flip book like those being made by Gies & Co. and distributed by Export Novelty Co. In fact, the website devoted entirely to the form -- flipbook.info -- begins its illustrated history of flip books with this small JPG, whose imprint indeed is from the Edison Phonograph Co., although it bears only the title Prize Fight. What images follow that cover? Who printed it? Gies & Co.? Were paper copies printed of frames from Edison's three-year-old 35mm film of Corbett-Courtney in the Black Maria? Or was the upstart film producer and "manufacturing optician" S. Lubin of Philadelphia involved? 

If its press is to be believed, the New York-based company Export Novelty was well capitalized and truly did business internationally. Its “Kinetoscope” was a paper booklet. It sold phonograph and gramophone records too. But Phonoscope also reported that Export Novelty made “the Automatic Photograph Machine, which produces a perfect picture in one minute.” ("Novelties Up to Date," The Phonoscope, April 1897, p. 7.) Was that perfect picture a still photo? Was that Automatic Photograph Machine the same as that sold by Mills Novelty Co. in 1905? 


Automatic Photograph Machine (ca. 1905).
Photo from Greg McLemore, via the International Arcade Museum website.  

Or perhaps it was more like this "Auto-Muto Picture Machine" manufactured by Caille Bros. Co. in that magic year of 1897? 
Auto-Muto Picture Machine.
Photo from Greg McLemore.
via the International Arcade Museum website.  

For media archaeologists to consider: this museum is not simply a creature of collectors of vintage mechanical devices. It is also part of a network that includes video games and contemporary media. Although McLemore, for example, is a collector antique coin-operated machines, he is also founder of toys.com and pets.com. The museum's interconnected websites at www.arcade-museum.com include searchable databases, shared inventories, and histories from a few thousand affiliates. The organization is a museum, a library, and an archive -- all devoted to many strands of what we now call media archaeology. 


-- Dan Streible



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