Sunday, September 28, 2008

Exposition Universelle of 1900, Paris

People Strolling Towards Pont Alexandre III and L'Exposition Universelle, Paris 1900

L'Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900 - Champs de Mars

Well, here he goes again with all that old film footage stuff! Remember the 'Brighton Beach 1898' post?

So what IS it all about?!

Look, I think it's the window-into-the-past thing, mainly. And when it's everyday life captured, I identify - there's real connection. And I can truly enter into the world of, say, 1900. A distant world where there is only horse drawn traffic. And women are in long dresses and very big hats. With the almost ubiquitous parasol. And things seem more leisurely.

And it's also seeing what's familiar ... but 100 years ago. La Tour Eiffel, Place de l'Opera, Le Palais Garnier, Pont Alexandre III, Le Champ de Mars, and so on.

I particularly love the way people react so excitedly when being recorded by the new fangled contraption - waving, pulling funny faces, doing little quirky dances, walking backwards to keep in view!

What surprised me about this clip is the sophisticated use of the panning technique - for example, following say a carriage, and then picking up on something going in the opposite direction - to give an arresting dynamic rhythm.



  1. I watched it, then I watched it again, and I will watch it some more. Did I tell you that I majored in history in college? Thanks again. Wit.

  2. hello again! good you've come back. history is a passion of mine too! i've watched the clip more times than i'd like to admit. it's really like going back in time - nearly time travel. there's a point where a horse-drawn bus goes by - and it's so close you can actually look inside and see people talking and gesturing - for some reason this fascinates me. a moment long gone by but retrieved! i did fine art in my first degree - it was approached as the history of styles (impressionism, gothic, etc) but also as revealing social structures and so on - so i was involved with history. what kind did you study?

  3. At last proof that the past existed. Now can we prove history was real?

    Alan down in Florida

  4. and whose history? there are so many ways of constructing it. and after the theory that we never went to the moon but simple had some hollywood-esque studio fantasy, the past sometimes needs to be proved! and worse and worse in the blogosphere - reality and illusion and inextricably mixed! but i love the clip for its time-travel qualities! take care. nick

  5. And where did you get that jewel of a film? This is stuff I would love to be able to show my history classes...

  6. hey anon. i captured it from a documentary on Henri Toulouse Lautrec - tried to locate it just now but didn't find it - i'll continue looking and comment again if i find it.

  7. hey again anon

    there's an even better (and longer) cut of this footage on YouTube:

    i can't stop looking at it - it's like real time travel, apart from it's educational uses (as an academic, i'm too aware of these)

    and, apart from anything else, it is so innovatively shot - with the varied types of panning, for example.

    take care


  8. Thanks for the link. Indeed, it is an amazing piece of footage. I'll probably use it in my modern history classes next semester (as another academic, I also appreciate a lot of it). (Yes, I'm the anon above)

  9. hey doreus,

    nice to put a name to an anon - thanks!

    yes, it's interesting on so many levels

    i find there so much uploaded onto YouTube - footage of Puyi, last emperor of china, in history documentaries about the 'middle kindom' coming out of the PRC, colour footage of Tibet prior to the invasion in the 50's by the Chinese, of La Goulue, the famed danseuse of La Moulin Rouge further immortalised by Toulouse Lactrec, ... it goes on. only limited by one's ability to search.

    as i mentioned, the film technique is rather beyond what i imagined was widely used at the time

    i used a similar piece of film with my masters degree students - my filed is semiotic theory - made the points in the most arresting and entertaining way - boring students is the greatest crime!!!



  10. Following your link has made me discover interesting footage of the Chicago Exhibit of 1893 (not film, but "slideshow"). I've been doing research about the representations of deaf education at that Exposition... Indeed, I will be mining YouTube more. And I'll probably make a trip to Chicago not too far in the future to dig the archives... but I gotta get classes ready here.

  11. interesting focus for the exposition - i used to give a lecture that explored (among other things) auslan, the australian sign language for the deaf. as a semiotic system - to examine how such systems are organised. are you examining representations of minority groups and using deaf education as an example, or looking at minority education in some way?

  12. Somehow, I get the feeling we should be having this discussion elsewhere than in the comments on your blog... Oh well, we're playing with the "organ between our ears". Indeed. My dissertation was all about deaf education in the Canadian context, and that has remained the focus of my research. My interest is in the deaf as a minority allowing us, like Douglas Baynton showed for the US, to discern the kinds of social values that inform mainstream society.

  13. hey doreus, hope you got my email - looking forward to being in touch!