Tuesday, August 24, 2010
A friend on facebook posted this video today, and I was mesmerized. They’re 1922 color tests for film by Kodak. This is 13 years before the first Technicolor process. I’ve written before about Andreyev’s photos from turn of the century Russia before (see the main blog photo – that was in color about 1913).
It’s an interesting time period, but more so I’m fascinated by how close it makes the past. We see ourselves so much through film, more than any other art I think – at least it’s become our main historical record for how people actually looked and behaved, even if it’s fictional. So seeing these women mug for the camera, or just talk in between, is hypnotizing. They seem just like us, not women from nearly 100 years ago. The color palette makes perfect sense – it reminds me of the color glazes you see on pottery of the period, or in a Mucha painting.
At the core, though, is just the immediacy of them seeming like you’d see on the street. We’re humans – we haven’t changed that much. Like that Joni Mitchell line – “Everything comes and goes/marked by lovers and styles of clothes”. Who knows if these women would be movie stars today, but they’re fascinating, with their translucent skin made up, and their hair coiffed perfectly. They seem innocent, too – it’s tempting to think that this is 20 years before the Holocaust so they would not have experienced that particular horror, though it was waiting for them—but they would have just come out of World War I and the horrors and loss of that one, though unaware of the grinding Depression a few years away. They’re so sweet, though. The woman and boy hug in a way that looks very familiar, and somehow the color makes it feel like it is happening today.
I don’t know why I’m so touched by these things – I just am. It’s beautiful to see that we don’t really change, and history is happening now. Through these images, I can pull it a little closer.