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Men at Work

4/10
Author: boblipton from New York City
21 August 2010

This 1901 actuality was shot by Robert K. Bonine, a now-obscure cameraman for Biograph whose career petered out in 1906. The set-up and composition are just fine, but for a 53-second piece, its repetitive action is obvious, even though briskly performed -- or perhaps it was just a trifle undercranked by Bonine.

American Mutoscope & Biograph shot a lot of these men at work items. Among the most famous were Billy Bitzer's innovative series at the Westinghouse factory three years after this. As a record of how they did things at the turn of the 20th century they are of some historical interest, but it's best to view them as items in the transition from photography composition to more dynamic film methods; with a still camera, they don't quite work for the modern viewer.

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