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Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography
Author: David S. Shields

Available on Amazon in Hard Cover and Kindle versions: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CV1TVRE/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

TCM's Book Corner Selection, May 2013: http://www.tcm.com/this-month/book-corner/628959/Still-American-Silent-Motion-Picture-Photography.html

"Recent movies like The Artist and Hugo (both 2011) have recreated the wonder and magic of silent film for modern audiences, many of whom might never have experienced a movie without sound. 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 80 percent of silent films have disappeared. We now know about many of these cinematic masterpieces only from collections of still portraits and production photographs that were originally created for publicity and reference. Still:  (The University of Chicago Press), by David S. Shields, is the first history of still camera work generated by the American silent motion picture industry. Exploring the work of over 60 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--over 150 of them--and details how still photographs changed the film industry."

LA Times Book Review, July 25, 2013: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-silent-motion-picture-photography-20130728,0,7357945.story

Jacket Copy
Books, authors and all things bookish
BOOK REVIEW
By Steve Appleford
July 25, 2013

Early cinematographers, still photographers get their due

David S. Shields' 'Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography' examines the work of early cinematographers and still photographers who helped create celebrity.

Silent Motion Picture Photography

Celebrity was a fresh concept at the beginning of the last century, as the movies introduced the world to a new kind of famous person: pretend heroes and ingénues glamorized on the big screen and the pages of movie fan magazines. In the silent era, image became everything.

In his richly illustrated "Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography," David S. Shields examines the groundbreaking work of the early cinematographers and still photographers who created that phenomenon. Shields is both scholarly and deeply passionate about the pictures (some from his own collection), gathering rare images from the sets of epic costume dramas and the kind of celebrity portraiture that would reach its ultimate expression generations later in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.

The once-monumental fame of Clara Bow, Mary Pickford and William S. Hart has faded to obscurity, but the pictures retain a lasting elegance and power. Milton Brown's portrait of a crouching Lillian Gish in character from 1928's "The Wind" suggests an entire melodrama in a single frame, as do Ray Smallwood's stills from the outdoor locations of the violent westerns "Blazing the Trail" and "The Invaders" (both from 1912).

PHOTOS: The glamorous silent film world in "Still"

Hollywood even recruited Edward S. Curtis, famous for his historic portrait series of Native Americans and who became especially valued for his ability to create carefully composed images on location. He soon settled into a studio in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and was hired by Cecil B. DeMille as co-cinematographer and still photographer for 1923's "The Ten Commandments."

D.W. Griffith drafted still photographer Hendrick Sartov into a filmmaker mainly for his lighting mastery, which had the effect of melting away the years on already-sensitive talent. Sartov worked as cinematographer on that era's "La Boheme" and "The Scarlet Letter" and became Gish's favorite; she took him with her to MGM in 1925. As Gish understood, a gifted photographer could make or remake a performer's image: a frustrated Norma Shearer turned to the great glamour portraitist George Hurrell to depict her as an alluring, sexual figure after being typecast as buttoned-up society women.

Some publicity stills from the era were simply lifted directly from the motion picture film stock, but the best were shot independently with still cameras, capturing something of the moment. Shields recounts the making of these essential cultural artifacts with great depth, documenting the rise of a new superpower in the world: the image-makers of Hollywood.

Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography, David S. Shields, University of Chicago Press

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    @ Profdash : Glad to hear that, David. Sarahjane at Grapefruitmoon is insanely busy and hasn't stopped by the site recently so I emailed the info to her. She'd already bought a copy and loves it. Best, jane
  • Profdash - 1Reply
    Years in the making & now finally out for all to read. So far it has been selling well. David
  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    Can't wait to receive my copy, David. Thanks so much!

    Best,
    jane
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