Friday, April 15, 2016

Most rural kids 1890s probably saw motion pictures before they saw a photo in the local paper

To be precise, we know that in 1888 a some lucky factory employees audience in Leeds England saw several motion picture performances, well before they or anyone else had ever seen a single (halftone) photo in even the biggest national newspapers, books or magazines.

And this in what was the richest and most advanced civilization on earth.

You might expect still photos in books and newspaper to be easier to achieve than motion film but you would be quite wrong.

Those films from over 125 years ago still look engrossing today.

The first well known periodical halftones came about a dozen years later and took another dozen years after that before run of the mill halftones on good coated paper looked almost as good as original black and white snapshots of the same era.

Many small rural weeklies never did have any halftones in their papers, right into the 1950s ---- unless a national advertiser sent a flexible rubber photoengraving for a special ad.

A small town boy like Henry Dawson, born into a middle class railway man's family an hour away from big city Halifax by dad's train, possibly saw a motion film there before he saw a memorable newspaper halftone.

Young Dawson certainly remembered his first films but probably gave the daily newspaper photos from far off Africa and India no mind - the hobby of snap photography was the rage all around him growing up and halftone photos must have seemed hum drum to him.

But it was not. It marked a dramatic break in human history.

For the very first time those vivid life-like half tones - and later the cinema newsreels ---- made 'the foreign' seem suddenly very close, over familiar and 'in your face'.

And to a great many - but not to Henry --- it was all sort of scary....

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