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Children Digging for Clams (1896)

Enfants pêchant des crevettes (original title)

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One toddler and about ten children, not yet adolescents, use a shovel, rakes, and nets to scour an eddy by the sea as fully-dressed women (hats and all) and a few men look on and give ... See full summary »
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One toddler and about ten children, not yet adolescents, use a shovel, rakes, and nets to scour an eddy by the sea as fully-dressed women (hats and all) and a few men look on and give advice. The boys are in short pants; the girls have pulled up their skirts and petticoats and stuck in their sashes. Not a clam is to be seen, although one lass checks her net a couple of times. The children's outfits (trim hats on each child and lace on each girl) suggest wealth and high society. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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1896 (France)  »

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Children Digging for Clams  »

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Featured in Lumiere's First Picture Shows (2013) See more »

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Complex and charming actuality
29 March 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This is an approximately 45-second long Lumiere Brothers actuality of children digging for clams in a tidal pool on a broad beach, with adults behind them. A donkey cart moves across the middle ground before exiting the right hand side of the frame. Far in the distance, you can see other scattered people on the beach, and beyond that, mountains. This is also known as "Lumiere No. 45".

It is interesting to note the similarity in visual composition between this short and the Lumiere Brothers' Swimming in the Sea (Baignade en mer, 1895). They use the same oblique angle here, only this time it is slightly more complex, being suggested by the tidal pool (and subsequently the children traipsing up and down looking for clams), the two pairs of adults standing along one side of the tidal pool, and the mountains. As in Swimming in the Sea, the oblique exaggerates perspective, providing great depth of field, which is further enhanced by the aerial perspective of the mountains in the distance. This technique appears continually in the Lumiere Brothers actualities.

Another recurrent compositional technique is the Lumiere Brothers' fondness for cyclical action, provided in Children Digging for Clams by the titular youngsters. The action is made even more complex here by the donkey cart and the layering--there are at least four layers of visual interest, counting the mountains, five if we count the expanse of sand between the second layer of adults and the scattered people in the distance.

Unlike many actualities, this short gives a charming, "homey" feeling for the era, putting the viewer right in the middle of this recreational outing. You wish you could pick up a net and participate.


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