Archive for the 'Other' Category

A Chaplin Centennial

Posted by on Feb 02 2014 | Motion Pictures, Other

February 2, 2014 is a significant date in the history of cinema. One hundred years ago on this date, a face that was to become one of the most recognized faces in the world was first illuminated on movie screens. That face was Charlie Chaplin’s, and on February 2, 1914, his first film was released in the United States.

Chaplin’s character of “the Little Tramp” didn’t spring forth on that day fully formed in baggy pants and bowler hat.  Almost, but not quite! The film was Making a Living and Chaplin donned a long frock coat, top hat, and sinister mustache.

Making a Living frame

A mere five days later, though, on February 7, 1914, Chaplin’s second film was released, and in Kid Auto Races at Venice, audiences first saw the character of the Tramp. Filmed at Venice Beach, the Keystone Film Company made use of a local event happening there – kiddy car races – and set up their cameras as if to film the races. The comedy resulted when Chaplin, in character, became a camera hog, wandering into the frame at every opportunity, and angering the director at every turn of the camera crank.

Kid Auto Races frame

Although Kid Auto Races at Venice was the first film in which audiences saw Chaplin in what would become his trademark tramp costume, it was actually for Mabel’s Strange Predicament that he assembled and wore the costume in front of the camera. Mabel’s Strange Predicament was filmed before Kid Auto Races at Venice, but not released until February 9, 1914. Legend has it that Chaplin improvised the costume by selecting various pieces worn by other Keystone contract players, attempting to achieve a costume of contrasts – large pants and small jacket, large shoes and small hat.

Mabel's Strange Predicament

Chaplin worked for the Keystone Film Company for one year, from December 1913 to December 1914. His short films for Keystone were released at a slapstick speed of 3-4 per month, so audiences never had to wait long to see the tramp appear in a new film. (Although it should be noted that Chaplin’s costume still varied from time to time from the tramp costume, depending on his role, whether working in a bakery in Dough and Dynamite or appearing as a woman in A Busy Day.) Chaplin’s popularity gained momentum while at Keystone, and he skyrocketed to cultural phenomenon the following year after he left Keystone to work for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.

The Stills, Posters and Paper Collections in the Moving Image Department include some rare and unique items of note related to Charlie Chaplin. The Theodore Huff Collection, which consists of thousands of stills, posters, lobby cards, and music scores and cue sheets for silent films, includes a wealth of Chaplin material. Huff was the author of one of the earliest biographies of Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin, published in 1951) and his collection offers insight into his research and study of Chaplin, such as the research notes and papers he used in writing his book. Pictured here are pages from a small notebook of photo reproductions of frames from Chaplin’s Keystone films that Huff created as a reference in writing about Chaplin’s films. The three frames above were reproduced from this notebook.

Huff notebook

Also in the Moving Image Department is the Douglas Fairbanks Nitrate Still Negatives Collection. This collection includes the original negatives produced by Fairbanks’ production company for his major feature films in the 1920’s such as Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), and The Black Pirate (1926). In addition to the stills shot for specific films, the collection include publicity stills taken around Fairbanks’ studio, showing him posed with notable visitors such as his good friend Chaplin. Their high-spirited friendship is especially evident here as they demonstrate for the camera just how much fun they had together:

Fairbanks-Chaplin 1

Fairbanks-Chaplin 2

Fairbanks-Chaplin 3

Finally, the Moving Image Department has in its collection a rather rare self-caricature, drawn and signed by Chaplin himself:

Autographed caricature

For further study of Chaplin and his films, I highly recommend:

Chaplin at Keystone (dvd set of all of Chaplin’s surviving Keystone films, released by Flicker Alley)
My Life in Pictures by Charles Chaplin
Chaplin by David Robinson
Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema by Jeffrey Vance

Click here to view rare autochromes by Charles C. Zoller on Eastman House’s Tumblr blog Dodge & Burn.

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What is a Digital Negative?

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Behind The Scenes, Other, Photography, Tutorials

We’re excited about a new workshop at George Eastman House in February: Digital Negative Making. For years we have taught a growing number of photographers how to make their own photographic negatives on glass using historic processes. Realizing that not everyone is interested in going that route, we decided to look into a new approach for the rest of the world: the “digital” negative.
 
But what is a digital negative? A digital negative is a negative image printed onto a transparency film using an inkjet printer. Once the original image is in your computer it can be edited “to taste” and prepared for lots of really interesting alternative photographic printing processes. The digital negative bridges the gap between 19th and 21st century photographic processes. You can use old glass plate or film negatives, that last bit of type 55 Polariod film you love so much, or even a digital capture from a smart phone.
 
Once you’ve decided on a printing process, like salted paper, platinum, or gum printing, a series of test prints are made to create a “printing curve.” This curve will be applied to the file before printing to help optimize the negative for the selected processes. The printing curve is a layer in Photoshop that has been adjusted for the specific paper printing process you’ve chosen. The curve allows the print to have smooth continuous mid tones while still keeping strong black tones and clean white tones. Once these tests are completed you never have to look back as the final steps are a check list of settings which once set, can be saved and applied the same way every time.
 
Here are some examples of Digital Negative Making in action:
 

Two hand made salted paper prints. The negative used to print these were created from Instagram files from a smart phone.

Two hand made salted paper prints. The negative used to print these were created from Instagram files from a smart phone.


 
A digital negative printing on ink press transparency film, the green cast is added to help give the negative spectral density.

A digital negative printing on ink press transparency film, the green cast is added to help give the negative spectral density.


 
An albumen print from a digital negative. The original 4x5 negative was created using a hand made gelatin dry plate.

An albumen print from a digital negative. The original 4×5 negative was created using a hand made gelatin dry plate.


 
 Two hand made salted paper prints and the original digital file on the phone that captured it.

Two hand made salted paper prints and the original digital file on the phone that captured it.

Digital Negative Making is a technique that photographers could have only dreamed of in the past. Now we can easily combine the precision editing and tonal control of digital with the beauty and magic of alternative photographic printing processes. All this and more will be covered in our very first digital negative making workshop at the George Eastman House Museum next month. Sign up today! Hope to see you there!
 

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Évocateur Film Premiere // Dryden Trivia

Posted by on Jan 16 2014 | contest, Motion Pictures, Other

Win this poster!

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 5.59.13 PM

Before shock jocks, Jerry Springer, and Fox News, one man ravaged the talk show format and delivered his own brand of confrontation and in-your-face antics. His name was Morton Downey Jr., and he turned political debate into shouting matches, occasional fistfights, and downright mayhem.

Featuring interviews with Herman Cain, Pat Buchanan, Chris Elliot, and Gloria Allred, the new documentary Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie probes the methods and motivations of not only Downey’s controversial television persona, but the man he was when the cameras were turned off.



The Dryden Theatre will be host to the Rochester Premiere of Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie on Saturday, January 18 at 8 p.m., and we’re thrilled to welcome the Director of the film, Seth Kramer, as our special guest for the evening.

How well do you know your Morton Downey Jr. trivia? For each correct answer your name will be entered to win a pair of tickets to the screening and one lucky person will win a signed poster! Winners announced Friday, January 17 at 4 p.m. ET.

1. Which of these guests did not appear on the Morton Downey Jr. Show? A. Timothy Leary B. Abbey Hoffman C. Meir Kahane D. Yasser Arafat.

2. What famous surf tune is Morton Downey Jr. incorrectly credited with writing?

3. What talk show guest guest was at the center violent outbreaks on both the Morton Downey Jr. Show and the Geraldo Rivera Show?

Leave your answers in the comment section.

 
 

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Instagram Takeover

Posted by on Dec 11 2013 | Other

Last week, we decided to change things up a bit on Instagram. Taking a break from our own behind-the-scenes photos from around the museum, we handed over the keys to visiting artists Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman for our first Instagram Takeover.

A few days before their lecture as part of our Wish You Were Here series, the takeover week began with Larson and Shindelman posting photos and videos related to trending hashtags.

Eastman House Instagram

Eastman House Instagram

As the week went on, Larson and Shindelman used our Instagram account to document their travels to Eastman House for their lecture on December 5.

Eastman House Instagram

Eastman House Instagram

And when they arrived at the museum, they captured many scenes from deep inside the Department of Photography.

Eastman House Instagram

Eastman House Instagram

In the end, the takeover was a great success! It gave our followers an opportunity not only to engage with contemporary artists connected to the museum, but also to experience a unique view of Eastman House! To see all of their photos, follow us on Instagram at instagram.com/EastmanHouse

Thanks to Nate and Marni for testing out this new concept. Stay tuned in January for our next takeover by a photographer currently featured in our exhibition Astro-Visions.

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Too Much Johnson U.S. Premiere Preview

Posted by on Oct 16 2013 | Motion Pictures, Other

Last Wednesday, October 9, staged the long awaited world premiere of Too Much Johnson at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto Silent Film Festival in Pordenone, northern Italy. As a long time attendee of the festival, fan of the work of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre, and having had the honor to work at the preservation of Too Much Johnson, it was hard for me to stay away from Le Giornate this year. So I took the opportunity to travel to my native Italy and enjoy the event.

It is difficult to think about a better venue for the first screening of this long-believed- to-be-lost 1938 slapstick silent film. Not only is Pordenone  the city hosting the world’s leading international silent film festival, defined by its aficionados as “the best film festival in the world,” but it is the very same place where a nitrate print of Too Much Johnson was recently discovered and brought out of the shadows. The inventive pen of a novelist could have hardly created a happier – and more surprising – ending.

When lights went off on Wednesday evening in a packed Teatro Giuseppe Verdi, an international audience of film scholars, historians, archivists, and simply film lovers, joined for the occasion by a varied crowd of journalists and Welles enthusiasts, was finally able to enjoy the explosion of vitality brought on the screen by the whole group of the Mercury Theatre and in particular by the stunning performance of young and extremely promising Joseph Cotten.

TMJ-Pordenone-11

Images on screen were accompanied by an English live commentary by Paolo Cherchi Usai, Senior Curator of George Eastman House Motion Picture Department, introducing the audience to the world of Too Much Johnson. The commentary, integrating research conducted by the Motion Picture Department during the past few months, seems to pave the way for a new mode of presenting images that have reached us in a somewhat raw state, and consequently might need to be contextualized to be fully appreciated by an audience. And the audience of the festival was well aware of the privilege of being the first ever seeing Too Much Johnson, since the film was never completed by Orson Welles and shown in public before.

TMJ Pordenone 4

No wonder that request for tickets was so high that the festival organizers had to add to the calendar two extra screenings with Italian live commentary provided by Paolo Cherchi Usai and myself. All three screenings of Too Much Johnson have been accompanied at the piano by Phil Carli, with music especially composed for the film.

Tonight’s U.S. Premiere at George Eastman House will bring again on stage a unique combination of images, music and expert commentary. Something to definitely be looking forward to.

 

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