Still : American Silent Motion Picture Photography

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While the American silent movie was one of the most significant popular art forms of the modern age, it is also one that is largely lost to us, as more than eighty percent of silent films have disappeared, the victims of age, disaster, and neglect. We now know about many of these cinematic masterpieces only from the collections of still portraits and production photographs that were originally created for publicity and reference. Capturing the beauty, horror, and moodiness of silent motion pictures, these images are remarkable pieces of art in their own right. In the first history of still camera work generated by the American silent motion picture industry, David S. Shields chronicles the evolution of silent film aesthetics, glamour, and publicity, and provides unparalleled insight into this influential body of popular imagery. Exploring the work of over sixty camera artists, "Still" recovers the stories of the photographers who descended on early Hollywood and the stars and starlets who sat for them between 1908 and 1928. Focusing on the most culturally influential types of photographs - the performer portrait and the scene still - Shields follows photographers such as Albert Witzel and W. F. Seely as they devised the poses that newspapers and magazines would bring to Americans, who mimicked the sultry stares and dangerous glances of silent stars. He uncovers scene shots of unprecedented splendor - visions that would ignite the popular imagination. And he details how still photographs changed the film industry, whose growing preoccupation with artistry in imagery caused directors and stars to hire celebrated stage photographers and transformed cameramen into bankable names. Reproducing over 150 of these gorgeous black-and-white photographs, "Still" brings to life an entire long-lost visual culture that a century later still has the power to enchant.

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  • Hardback | 440 pages
  • 186 x 260 x 30mm | 1,319.98g
  • The University of Chicago Press
  • University of Chicago Press
  • Chicago, ILUnited States
  • English
  • 022601326X
  • 9780226013268
  • 535,856

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"Still is not just a labor of love or the fruit of a personal passion. It's not just an astonishing album of 'beauty' and beauty. In the process it amounts to one of the most radical reappreciations of the origins of film we have ever had. For what starts as a collector's rapture turns into a surprising and creative evocation of what silent movies looked and felt like. This is a piece of history, lavishly illustrated, but it is a serious contribution to the history of film, too." (David Thomson, author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film)"

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About David S. Shields

David S. Shields is the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina and chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation. His books include Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America and Oracles of Empire: Poetry, Politics, and Commerce in British America, 1690-1750, the latter also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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