First Flying Cinema

Source: E. Bacon (photographer) ‘First Flying Cinema’, 6 April 1925, Hulton Archive, courtesy of Getty Images, Editorial Photos #2666504

Comments: This photograph shows passengers on an Imperial Airways flight from London to Berlin, watching what is claimed to be the world’s first screening of a film in the air. The film they saw was The Lost World (USA 1925). The record for the photograph on the Getty Archive (originally from the Hulton Archive) is dated as 6 April 1925 with the caption “Passengers on a German airline watching the first ever in-flight film”. A live radio broadcast from Berlin supplied the music to accompany the film. However, apparently there was an earlier ‘in-flight movie’ in 1921 on an Aeromarine Airways plane circling the Navy Pier in Chicago, which showed a film called Howdy Chicago to the passengers.

Links: Paleofuture: ‘The First In-Flight Movies Had a Live Orchestra’

Movies and Conduct

Source: ‘Female, 19, white, college sophomore’, quoted in Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), p. 96

Text: Crying at a movie is my second nature. As soon as an event occurs which is the least bit sad my throat chokes up and very often I shed tears; I have never sobbed or made boisterous noises, thank goodness, for crying is a chief source of embarrassment with me; if I can get by with silent sorrow I feel all right. One of the saddest pictures I ever saw was Hardy’s novel “Tess of D’Urbervilles” dramatized on the screen. I took that so hard and lived through Tess’ part so real that I was embarrassed to go out on the street with my eyes all red and swollen. For that reason I do not enjoy a sad picture; it usually makes me miserable. Likewise “Way Down East,” “Ramona,” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” afforded me heartaches. I do not merely cry, but it seems I actually feel the pain as acutely as the actor himself. “Sorrel and Son” affected me so strangely that I cried over it the next day. Try as I might to control my tears I cannot, and I certainly do not find pleasure in crying.

Comments: American sociologist Herbert Blumer’s Movies and Conduct presents twelve studies of the influence of motion pictures upon the young, made by the Committee on Educational Research of the Payne Fund, at the request of the National Committee for the Study of Social Values in Motion Pictures. The study solicited autobiographical essays, mostly from undergraduate students of the University of Chicago, and presented extracts from this evidence in the text. This extract comes from the section ‘Emotional Possession: Sorrow and Pathos’. The films mentioned are Tess of the D’Urbervilles (USA 1924). Way Down East (USA 1920), Ramona (USA 1928) and Sorrell and Son (USA 1927).


Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Extract from interview with Helen Hanna, ‘C707/360/1-4, Thompson, P. and Lummis, T., Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, 1870-1973 [computer file]. 7th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], May 2009. SN: 2000,

Text: Q: When you were young did you go to theatres or concerts, music halls?

A: No. I – I was away in service and my sister was in service – when we used to go to something in Queen Street. It was like a cinematograph, but it wasnae a cinematograph. It was pictures you know. I can’t –

Q: A sort of magic lantern show would it be?

A: It wasnae a magic lan – that was no the name of it, it has a name. Mm hm. There – there were a – a – a man – a couple that stayed – on the same landing as us , and he was a waiter some place, and he used to go to get these tickets, complimentary tickets, and – he gave them my sister and I went. My own sister, and we went to this thing in Queen Street. And – I canna mind what you called it.

Q: What sort of thing would the pictures be about?

A: Well Rudyard Kipling I mind was on reciting something, and there were – oh just a lot of nonsense, I – I – I can’t – a cart and oranges full and – and you would think they was coming nearer you, on the picture, oh we was quite fascinated with it. But I – – there’s a name. Somebody told me the name of that no long since, and I canna mind it. Be before the really pictures – houses came in.

Comments: Mrs Helen Hanna (1885-?) was born in Aberlady, East Lothian and moved to Albert Place in Edinburgh, with one older sister and two step-sisters. Her father was at Edinburgh gas works as a despatch clerk then inspector. She worked in service until she married in 1913. She was one of 444 people interviewed by Paul Thompson and his team as part of a study of the Edwardian era which resulted in Thompson’s book The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975). It is unclear what sort of visual entertainment she is trying to recall (though there possibly a stereoscopic effect involved), nor what possible connection there could be with Rudyard Kipling. The memory seems to date from the early 1900s.

At the Palace

Source: Extract from ‘At the Palace’, Punch, 6 August 1898, p. 57

Text: Then comes “The American Biograph.” Wonderful!! But, my eyes! my head!! and the whizzing and the whirling and twittering of nerves, and blinkings and winkings that it causes in not a few among the spectators, who could not be content with half the show, or even a third of it. It is a night-mare! There’s a rattling, and a shattering, and there are sparks, and there are showers of quivering snow-flakes always falling, and amidst these appear children fighting in bed, a house on fire, with inmates saved by the arrival of fire engines, which, at some interval, are followed by warships pitching about at sea, sailors running up riggings and disappearing into space, train at full speed coming directly at you, and never getting there, but jumping out of the picture into outer darkness where the audience is, and the, the train having vanished, all the country round takes it into its head to follow as hard as ever it can, rocks, mountains, trees, towns, gateways, castles, rivers, landscapes, bridges, platforms, telegraph-poles, all whirling and squirling and racing against one another, as if to see which will get to the audience first, and then, suddenly … all disappear into space!! Phew! We breathe again!! But, O heads! O brandies and sodas! O Whiskies and waters! Restoratives, quick! It is wonderful, most wonderful! Nay, we had almost said, with the learned Dr. JOHNSON, that we wished “it were impossible,” But to wish this is to put the clock back, and the show is over in excellent time to allow of supper and refreshment where you will. Still, just a third of the American Biograph as invented by HERMAN CASLER, would suffice for this particular deponent, and for not a few others. Anyway, the Palace thoroughly deserves its present most evident popularity.

Comments: The American Biograph was the brand name given to the Biograph projector, invented by the American Herman Casler and marketed by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. The Biograph utilised 70mm film with exceptional image quality. It was showcased in London at the Palace Theatre of Varieties in Cambridge Circus, featuring as part of the programme between March 1897 and December 1902. The American Biograph appeared towards the end of the programme, and showed a selection of 15 or so films, mostly actualities, over a period of 30 minutes.

Links: Copy at the Internet Archive

Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Annie Whittle, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 134

Text: Mrs Annie Whittle, 40 Salisbury St (aged 65), regular cinema-goer (6 times per month), preference – American films

Comments: I go to the cinema primarily for relaxation and entertainment. A lot of American films are alright for Americans but not for us as the meaning is lost to us, i.e. various rackets. Like to see musicals but get fed up with that foot-tapping, a bit, alright, a lot, bored. Like to see films with good singers and beautiful natural scenery. Think films like Three Smart Girls are excellent, for their spontaneity and freshness. Think British musicals are excellent but the rest a long way of American. As yet waiting for the time to come when British films will portray ordinary people like the Americans do, not impossible if talent and something else is required.

Comments: Mass-Observation carried out a series of studies in 1930s and 1940s into how people in the UK lived, through a mixture of observation, diaries and invited comments. This comment comes from Mass-Observation’s research programme into cultural life in Bolton, Lancashire. The study began in 1938, and this comment is a response to a questionnaire issued in March 1938 asking Do you go to the cinema regularly? How many times a month do you go? Do you go regularly on the same day, if so which day? Do you think you see people on the screen who live like yourself? Which are the best films, British or American, or do you think both are the same? People were also asked to number the types of films they best, and to list what they would like to see more of in films. This respondee was a regular of the Odeon, Ashburner Street. Three Smart Girls (USA 1936) starred Deanna Durbin.

Come and see the pictures

Source: Donald McGill, ‘Come and see the pictures’, postcard posted from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, 1910s, from the Nicholas Hiley collection



Comments: Donald McGill (1875-1962) was a British postcard artist who became famous (and at times notorious) for his ‘saucy’ seaside postcards. Postcards in the 1910s commonly depicted the cinema as a place of sexual licence, where romantic scenes on the screen were reflected in the thoughts of those in the audience.

Electrical Wonders


The Electrical Schnellesher (from

Source: ‘Electrical Wonders’, The Daily News (London), 20 December 1892, p. 2

Text: Between five and six years ago Herr Anschütz, the scientific photographer of Berlin, showed the Crown Prince a certain picture of figures in motion. Besides the Crown Prince, there were present the King of Saxony and one or two German princes. What the Crown Prince saw, or thought he saw, was a drawing – painting – or photograph, the subject of which, instead of being in an overlastingly fixed attitude, was in active bodily motion. A spectator without an inkling of a knowledge of optics or photography or any science whatever would have been as much surprised at Herr Anschütz’s picture as he would have been at Mr. Gladstone’s in the National Liberal Club – supposing he had seen the latter raise its hand as if in the act of speaking, turn its head sharply, as if in rebuke of somebody, then sit down, cross its legs, lean forward, and turn its palm into an ear trumpet, in the attitude of listening to the next orator. ‘Herr Anschütz’, said the Crown Prince, “it is well for you that you were not born three centuries ago, for you would have been taken up as a sorcerer and burnt.’ And yet the whole thing is as plain as A B C. It was this same Herr Anschütz who some time ago took a photograph of a cannon ball at each of three separate points in its swift invisible flight. Herr Anschütz’s ‘Electrical Wonder’ has just been sent from Berlin to No. 425, Strand. Twelve pictures are ready. Eighteen or twenty more will be ready in a short time. It is the intention of the Wonder Company to take pictures of ‘local objects’. Science, rank, and fashion were pretty well represented at the opening day, yesterday, between the hours of eleven and three.

A picture in the Anschütz collection is one and indivisible only in the spectator’s consciousness. It is the resultant of twenty-five separate pictures, each of which differs slightly in attitude, &c., from its predecessor. If all the twenty-five pictures are passed before the eye, say in three-quarters of a second, none of them leaves a conscious impression of itself upon the observer’s mind. Each picture has only the thirtieth part of a second to do it in; in unscientific phraseology, the pace is to fast for the response of consciousness. What does happen in the short space of three-quarters of a second is the merging of the twenty-five separate pictures into one picture – a picture in which the person, or animal, or group is seen in motion. The idea has been familiarised on the much humbler scale of the toymaker in what is commonly called the zoetrope, or wheel of life. In its more scientific aspect it has been used in the thaumatrope and the phenakistoscope, which depend for their effect on the persistence of vision. Let us take, for an example, the picture of the huntsman leaping a brook. Twenty-five pictures were taken when the horse was in the act, and they were taken in less than a second. The first picture suppose showed the horse when about to spring, the second when the hind feet were leaving the ground, the thirteenth when the horse had just turned the point of its highest distance, and so on by minute gradations, until the twenty-fifth and last picture, when the horse was again on terra firma. Between one pictorial attitude and the next there intervened less than the twenty-fifth part of a second. The interval was too short for the eye to individualise any one attitude. If, then, these twenty-five separate pictures were arranged, consecutively, say on a revolving disc, and flashed one after the other upon the spectator’s eye within the second of time, the result would be a single picture – single image – of the entire act of leaping across a brook. That is what happens with the aid of the electric spark in each of the peep-show like boxes in 425 Strand.

You are looking at what might be an illustrated page in a book, but the action in this magical illustration is a continuous one. The effect is no less beautiful than wonderful. On the bluish page, as it seems to be, a page which might be fitted into an octavo volume, the picture develops itself from beginning to end. The sand is thrown up by the horse’s heels and falls down again. The horse’s tail and mane wave. His bitted mouth opens. Even his muscular contractions are visible; and the straining of the neck, the distension of the eager nostrils, the drawing up, bending and outstretching of the limbs. The huntsman’s coat-tails flap. Woodcuts and coloured plates in the books used by mortal men do bot behave in that singular fashion. But in No. 425, Strand, we are in the miracle shop of Herr Anschütz, the natural-supernaturalist. ‘I see a picture of life-in-movement’ says Consciousness. ‘It is all maya-illusion’, says Science, ‘the reality, the twenty-five pictures, you do not see; what you do see is a phantom born of them.’ And so with the octavo-sized picture of two girls dancing. If a Graphic artist draws two girls dancing in Drury Lane, he fixed them at a particular moment, in a particular attitude for ever and ever. But in Herr Anschütz’s picture, the girls trip on their light fantastic toes, they wave their arms, their dresses flutter into everchanging folds. The picture is, let us call it, the composite ghost of 25 real pictures each representing an attitude, or fraction of an attitude, in the total movement; and all electrically flashed in succession before the eye in about a second of time. And so again, with the picture of the boys at drill; of the lady riding at a slow, easy trot; of the athletes vaulting and flying head over heels; of the ‘professor’ making his dog take a six foot jump over a cane; of the boxing match; of the squad of Uhlans. It is as if the engravings on our octavo pages become alive and move like their prototypes in the flesh. The boys march in the stiff-legged Prussian fashion. The mounted lady trots most gracefully. Her horse is a fine stepper. The fellows in the Row would be sure to stare at her through their eyeglasses. In their octavo picture the athletes bound off their spring boards, and turn head over heels, as nicely as any young men do in any London gymnasium.

Perhaps the most amusing picture is that of the two boxers. You can watch the play of their bicepital muscles, heels, toes, legs, while they do their best to let each other’s ‘claret’ out. But the prettiest picture of all is the Uhlan squad — a wonderful little picture of the confused, twinkling swing of horse’s legs, the waving of manes and tails, the flutter of the pennons on the gently swaying lances, the steady, alert figures of the riders. In or about a second’s time 25 successive pictures were taken of a Uhlan squad in motion, each picture representing the attitudes of the whole during a particular fraction of a second. By flashing in equally rapid succession the twenty-five pictures before the observer’s eye, the image of the original squad is created. In size, as in other respects, the Anschütz is an astonishing apparatus. It contains twenty-five lenses. Four men on horseback may easily find room inside it. ‘What did this astonishing camera cost the Herr Anschütz?’ we asked. ‘£30,000.’

Comments: Ottomar Anschütz (1846-1907) was a German photographer whose various devices with sequential images on a cylinder or disc that showed fleeting motion sequences anticipated cinema. His coin-operated Electrical Schnellesher, or Electrical Wonder (which showed (24, not 25, images shown in a second), was exhibited in London from 19 December 1892. My thanks to Deac Rossell for bringing this article to my attention.

Three Soldiers

Source: John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers (New York: George Doran Company, 1920), pp. 25-27

Text: “Now, fellows, all together,” cried the “Y” man who stood with his arms stretched wide in front of the movie screen. The piano started jingling and the roomful of crowded soldiers roared out:

“Hail, Hail, the gang’s all here;
We’re going to get the Kaiser,
We’re going to get the Kaiser,
We’re going to get the Kaiser,

The rafters rang with their deep voices.

The “Y” man twisted his lean face into a facetious expression.

“Somebody tried to put one over on the ‘Y’ man and sing ‘What the hell do we care?’ But you do care, don’t you, Buddy?” he shouted.

There was a little rattle of laughter.

“Now, once more,” said the “Y” man again, “and lots of guts in the get and lots of kill in the Kaiser. Now all together. … ”

The moving pictures had begun. John Andrews looked furtively about him, at the face of the Indiana boy beside him intent on the screen, at the tanned faces and the close-cropped heads that rose above the mass of khaki-covered bodies about him. Here and there a pair of eyes glinted in the white flickering light from the screen. Waves of laughter or of little exclamations passed over them. They were all so alike, they seemed at moments to be but one organism. This was what he had sought when he had enlisted, he said to himself. It was in this that he would take refuge from the horror of the world that had fallen upon him. He was sick of revolt, of thought, of carrying his individuality like a banner above the turmoil. This was much better, to let everything go, to stamp out his maddening desire for music, to humble himself into the mud of common slavery. He was still tingling with sudden anger from the officer’s voice that morning: “Sergeant, who is this man?” The officer had stared in his face, as a man might stare at a piece of furniture.

“Ain’t this some film?” Chrisfield turned to him with a smile that drove his anger away in a pleasant feeling of comradeship.

“The part that’s comin’s fine. I seen it before out in Frisco,” said the man on the other side of Andrews. “Gee, it makes ye hate the Huns.”

The man at the piano jingled elaborately in the intermission between the two parts of the movie.

The Indiana boy leaned in front of John Andrews, putting an arm round his shoulders, and talked to the other man.

“You from Frisco?”


“That’s goddam funny. You’re from the Coast, this feller’s from New York, an’ Ah’m from ole Indiana, right in the middle.”

“What company you in?”

“Ah ain’t yet. This feller an me’s in Casuals.”

“That’s a hell of a place. … Say, my name’s Fuselli.”

“Mahn’s Chrisfield.”

“Mine’s Andrews.”

“How soon’s it take a feller to git out o’ this camp?”

“Dunno. Some guys says three weeks and some says six months. … Say, mebbe you’ll get into our company. They transferred a lot of men out the other day, an’ the corporal says they’re going to give us rookies instead.”

“Goddam it, though, but Ah want to git overseas.”

“It’s swell over there,” said Fuselli, “everything’s awful pretty-like. Picturesque, they call it. And the people wears peasant costumes. … I had an uncle who used to tell me about it. He came from near Torino.”

“Where’s that?”

“I dunno. He’s an Eyetalian.”

“Say, how long does it take to git overseas?”

“Oh, a week or two,” said Andrews.

“As long as that?” But the movie had begun again, unfolding scenes of soldiers in spiked helmets marching into Belgian cities full of little milk carts drawn by dogs and old women in peasant costume. There were hisses and catcalls when a German flag was seen, and as the troops were pictured advancing, bayonetting the civilians in wide Dutch pants, the old women with starched caps, the soldiers packed into the stuffy Y.M.C.A. hut shouted oaths at them. Andrews felt blind hatred stirring like something that had a life of its own in the young men about him. He was lost in it, carried away in it, as in a stampede of wild cattle. The terror of it was like ferocious hands clutching his throat. He glanced at the faces round him. They were all intent and flushed, glinting with sweat in the heat of the room.

As he was leaving the hut, pressed in a tight stream of soldiers moving towards the door, Andrews heard a man say:

“I never raped a woman in my life, but by God, I’m going to. I’d give a lot to rape some of those goddam German women.”

“I hate ’em too,” came another voice, “men, women, children and unborn children. They’re either jackasses or full of the lust for power like their rulers are, to let themselves be governed by a bunch of warlords like that.”

Comments: John Dos Passos (1896-1970) was an American modernist novelist. His second novel, Three Soldiers (1920) is an antiwar work which stresses the dehumanising effects of war. Dos Passos served as an ambulance driver during the First World War. The scene here takes place in an American town close to troop barracks.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive


Source: Dorothy Richardson, ‘Continuous Performance III: Captions’, Close Up vol. I no. 3, September 1927, pp. 52-56

Text: Experience has taught us to disregard placards. So we enter the hall in innocence and give ourselves to the preliminary entertainments. They are always very various, and whether good or bad we charm them, powerfully or feebly according to our condition, with the charm of our confident anticipation. A good mood will fling some sort of life even into the most tasteless of the local advertisements that immediately precede the real business of the evening, beginning when at last we are confronted with a title, set, like a greeting in a valentine, within an expressive device. We peer for clues. Sometimes there is no clue but the title, appearing alone in tall letters that fill the screen, fill the hall with a stentorian voice. Thrilling us. We know we are being got, but not yet at what vulnerable point and we sit in suspense while the names of author, adapter, producer, art-director, photographer and designer come on in curly lettering and singly, each lingering. Then there is a screenful of names, the parts and their players, also lingering and perhaps to be followed by further information. We do not desire it but may not now turn away from the screen. At any moment the censor’s permit will appear and whether lingering or not — usually by this time the operator has gone to sleep in his stride and it lingers — this last barrier must be faced for the length of its stay or we may miss the first caption. At one time we used to pay devout attention to the whole of these disclosures. They were a revelation of the size of the undertaking and our wondering gratitude went forth to the multitude of experts who had laboured together for our enterprise. But after a while the personal introduction of all these labourers became a torment. We grudged the suspense exacted by what might prove to be a record of wasted effort.

In due course and as if in awareness of our overtaxed patience the preliminaries were reduced to title, name of author, of a star or so, official permission, each hurrying by, hurrying us towards the caption that should launch us on our journey: a screenful of psychology, history, or description of period and locality. There is eager silence in the hall during the stay of the oblong of clear print whether beginning: “Throughout the ages mankind has — ” or “Avarice is the cruellest” — or “In a remote village of the Pyrenees, far from — “. When we have read we know where we are supposed to be going; we have grown accustomed to finding our places in the long procession of humanity, to going down into the dread depths of our single selves, to facing life in unfamiliar conditions. But we do not yet know whether our journey is to be good. Whether there is to be any journey at all. So we are wary. We remember films whose caption, appearing in instalments at regular intervals, has been the better part, presenting, bright and new, truths that in our keeping had grown a little dim, or telling us strange news of which within reason we can never have too much. We have come forth, time and place forgotten, surroundings vanished, and have been driven back. Very often by people whose one means of expressing emotion is a vexed frown, or people whose pulpy rouged mouths are forever at work pouting, folding, parting in a smile that laboriously reveals both rows of teeth. These people, interminably interfering with the scenery, drive us to despair. Sometimes we are too much upset to battle our way to indifference and see, missing what is supposed to be seen, anything and everything according to our mood; it is difficult to beat us altogether. We remember films damaged by their captions. Not fatally. For we can substitute our own, just as within limits we can remake a bad film as we go. With half a chance we are making all the time. Just a hint of any kind of beauty and if we are on the track, not waiting for everything to be done for us, not driven back by rouged pulp and fixed frown, we can manage very well. For the present we take captions for granted. But we are ready to try doing without them. Now and again a film gathers us in without any clear hint beyond the title. This we love. We love the challenge. We are prepared to go without a hint even in the title. We are prepared for anything. We trust the pictures. Somewhere sooner or later there will be a hint. Or something of which we can make one, each for himself. The absence of any hint is a hint we are ready to take.

Perhaps the truth about captions is just here: that somewhere, if not in any given place then all over the picture, is a hint. The artist can no more eliminate the caption than he can eliminate himself. Art and literature, Siamese twins making their first curtsey to the public in a script that was a series of pictures, have never yet been separated. In its uttermost abstraction art is still a word about life and literature never ceases to be pictorial. A work of pure fantasy bears its caption within. A narrative, whether novel, play or film, supplies the necessary facts directly, in the novel either by means of the author’s descriptive labels or through information given in the dialogue, in the play by means of that uncomfortable convention that allows characters to converse in anachronisms, in the film by means of the supply of interlarded words. And if the direct giving of information in captions is the mark of a weak film, the direct giving of information in a play or novel is the mark of a weak novel or play. There are masterpieces enough to flout the dogma.

Nevertheless the film has an unrivalled opportunity of presenting the life of the spirit directly, and needs only the minimum of informative accompaniment. The test of the film on whatever level is that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein, though each will take a different journey. The test of the caption is its relative invisibility. In the right place it is not seen as a caption; unless it lingers too long upon the screen.

Comments: Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957) was a British modernist novelist. Through 1927-1933 she wrote a column, ‘Continuous Performance’ for the film art journal Close Up. The column concentrates on film audiences rather than the films themselves.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

Scott's Last Expedition


Colour plate from Scott’s Last Expedition: ‘Mr Ponting Lecturing on Japan’

Source: Robert Falcon Scott, journal entries for 29 May 1911 and 22 August 1911, in Captain R.F. Scott, Scott’s Last Expedition (London: Smith, Elder, 1914), vol. 1, pp. 292, 387-388

Text: Monday, May 29. – … Lecture – Japan. To-night Ponting gave us a charming lecture on Japan with wonderful illustrations of his own. He is happiest in his descriptions of the artistic side of the people, with which he is in fullest sympathy. So he took us to see the flower pageants. The joyful festivals of the cherry blossom, the wistaria, the iris and chrysanthemum, the sombre colours of the beech blossom and the paths about the lotus gardens, where mankind meditated in solemn mood. We had pictures, too, of Nikko and its beauties, of Temples and great Buddhas. Then in more touristy strain of volcanoes and their craters, waterfalls and river gorges, tiny tree-clad islets, that feature of Japan – baths and their bathers, Ainos, and so on. His descriptions were well given and we all of us thoroughly enjoyed our evening.


Tuesday, August 22. – I am renewing study of glacier problems; the face of the ice cliff 300 yards east of the homestead is full of enigmas. Yesterday evening Ponting gave us a lecture on his Indian travels. He is very frank in acknowledging his debt to guide-books for information, nevertheless he tells his story well and his slides are wonderful. In personal reminiscence he is distinctly dramatic he thrilled us a good deal last night with a vivid description of a sunrise in the sacred city of Benares. In the first dim light the waiting, praying multitude of bathers, the wonderful ritual and its incessant performance; then, as the sun approaches, the hush – the effect of thousands of worshippers waiting in silence – a silence to be felt. Finally, as the first rays appear, the swelling roar of a single word from tens of thousands of throats: ‘Ambah!’ It was artistic to follow this picture of life with the gruesome horrors of the ghat. This impressionist style of lecturing is very attractive and must essentially cover a great deal of ground. So we saw Jeypore, Udaipore, Darjeeling, and a confusing number of places – temples, monuments and tombs in profusion, with remarkable pictures of the wonderful Taj Mahal – horses, elephants, alligators, wild boars, and flamingos – warriors, fakirs, and nautch girls – an impression here and an impression there.

It is worth remembering how attractive this style can be – in lecturing one is inclined to give too much attention to connecting links which join one episode to another. A lecture need not be a connected story; perhaps it is better it should not be.

Comments: Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) was a Royal Navy officer and explorer, who led the British Expedition to the South Pole on the Terra Nova and died on the return journey. The expedition included a photographer and cinematographer, Herbert Ponting (1870-1935). During the winter months when there was no sun at the Antarctic various entertainments were put on for the expedition members in their hut at Cape Evans. These included regular lectures given by Ponting, using a magic lantern and photographs taken by him from around the world (Ponting had been on photographic assignments to Burma, Korea, Java, China, India and Japan). Scott’s journal makes several references to these lectures, as well as to Ponting’s photographic and cinematographic work. Ponting did not exhibit his films to the expedition as he did not have a projector nor the mean to process prints from his negatives.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive