homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about Queen Victoria

High-Def Queen Victoria

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2019

In the 1890s and 1900s, the Biograph Company sent film crews around the world to capture moving images to bring them to audiences that, up until this point, had no access to seeing what life was like outside of their own locales. This footage was acquired by MoMA in 1939 but not analyzed until recently.

This footage is astoundingly crisp and clear — one of the highlights is a short clip of Queen Victoria shot on a visit to Ireland in 1900, just a year before her death. In a shot starting at 1:45, the queen is seen sitting in a carriage, exchanging greetings with well-wishers, and wearing a pair of now-trendy tiny sunglasses.

In the moving image, you get so much more — even in something as brief as this — of the personality, the presence of this woman. This is the embodiment of the British Empire, here she is, an immediate connection with a figure that everyone would have known. She’d certainly been photographed but only when you see her like this, when she’s moving, when she’s alive, when she’s in the middle of a scene, do you get the sense of being in the same world with her and really connecting to that living being that was Queen Victoria.

The film images are so incredibly clear because Biograph shot them in 68mm at 30fps, aka “the IMAX of the 1890s”.

To avoid violating Edison’s motion picture patents, Biograph cameras from 1895-1902 used a large-format film, measuring 2-23/32 inches (68 mm) wide, with an image area of 2x2½ inches, four times that of Edison’s 35mm format. The camera used friction feed instead of Edison’s sprocket feed to guide the film to the aperture. The camera itself punched a sprocket hole on each side of the frame as the film was exposed at 30 frames per second. A patent case victory in March 1902 allowed Biograph and other producers and distributors to use the less expensive 35 mm format without an Edison license, although Biograph did not completely phase out 68 mm production until autumn of 1903.

Compare the Victoria clip above with one shot by British Pathé around the same time:

More than a century after the invention of moving images, I think we still somehow underestimate the power and impact of the connection of film & video. Even now, we thrill when we open up Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat and “get the sense of being in the same world” (or even the same room) with people from around the world, living lives very different from our own. We may not experience the impact that early film audiences must have felt seeing their monarch in motion for the first time, but every video clip we see today is still a minor miracle, a time machine that brings far flung places, past & future, into our presence at the push of a button.

Victoria & Abdul

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2017

Judi Dench playing a British monarch? I’m there. Victoria & Abdul is based on the true story of the friendship that developed between Queen Victoria and a young Indian named Abdul Karim during the Queen’s later years.

When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.

Karim was also Muslim, which makes this movie all the more relevant today. In 2012, Channel 4 aired a short documentary about the relationship called Queen Victoria’s Last Love:

(thx, meg)

London traffic scenes from the 1890s

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2014

Film shot of London street scenes, mostly from the 1890s and 1900s.

There’s also a brief shot of Paris in 1900 right at the end. See also the extremely rare footage of Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900. The Victorian era seems so long ago (and indeed she began her reign in 1837) but there she is on the modern medium of film. Yet another example of the Great Span.