Travel films, such as those found in the Screen Archive South East collection, relate to a history of travellers using image-making technologies that began in the 1850s. This is a history of both professional and amateur production, first in photography and then in film, and the development of a market for the consumption of travel imagery.
The rise of photography in the 1850s marked the beginning of professional photographers taking pictures of both people and places. There was an obvious continuity between this new practice and the history of topographical watercolours and prints devoted to the representation of place. Photographers such as Francis Bedford, Francis Frith and John Thomson explored both Britain and the world and produced a photographic topography of the present. As single prints and as collections within book form, their contemporary ‘views’ of the exotic and the familiar were often romantic in nature and they became a significant part of commercial photographic practice.
This genre of travel photography also found its expression within the development of the stereoscope. Sets of stereoscopic cards devoted to a photographic tour of a particular place could be purchased for consumption on a home viewer. The magic lantern followed an identical pattern of commercial development through the sale of both photographic and lithographic sets of travel slides. Photographs, stereoscopic cards and lantern slides enabled the viewer to embark on a ‘virtual’ journey.
The appearance of what we still refer to as “holiday snaps” begins in the 1890s. The availability of cheaper cameras and faster film stock widened access to photography and therefore enabled this modern form of image-making to no longer be restricted to the professional. The amateur “could press the button and we do the rest”, as Kodak announced.
Moving pictures on 35mm - the cinematograph - made its appearance in the same decade and, like photography, this new recording medium would first be the preserve of the professional. Film companies toured the world and began to first sell and then rent moving image ‘views’ and travelogues. It was not until the mid-1920s and the arrival of the new gauges of 16mm and 9.5mm that film became easily available to the amateur.
Screen Archive South East’s collection of travel films begins with this moment. Like the travel genre as a whole, it presents the tourist’s and the traveller’s gaze. As a collection, it represents both people and places that are usually different from the observer in terms of race, ethnicity and class. To position this work in terms of ‘difference’, ‘otherness’ and ‘stereotyping’ provides us with a framework for the analysis of these representational practices.
A great deal of the collection consists of holiday films, primarily to Europe. For instance in Scotland, June 1929, three chauffeur-driven cars take a Sussex family on a tour through the Highlands. It features the landscape of lochs and villages and the arrival of fishing boats at Oban. Joseph Emberton’s film, Christmas Cruise – Trip to Africa (ca. 1935), illustrates the cruise he shared with his wife and friends to the Mediterranean. Travelling on a German passenger ship that flies a Nazi flag, the film juxtaposes life on board with a visit to Morocco.
Trips beyond Eurpoe to Africa and Asia, acquire a more pronounced ethnographic character. Java Tour. Christmas 1929. Batavia to Soerabaya en Voiture(1929) is an amateur record of a motor-holiday around the Indonesian island of Java. Made by Dr Catherine Burne, a medical doctor from Sussex, her 16mm camera records her family’s trip through scenes of village life, temples, work in paddy and tobacco fields, a funeral procession, children dancing in a street and the physical landscape of forests, waterfalls and a volcano. The 16mm colour film, [Outing to a Zoo; Trip to Germany; African Village] (ca. 1947), concentrates on bare-breasted African women with a rural setting as they pose in arranged compositions. This objectification draws our attention to the contrived nature of this film, as the film-maker literally frames and ‘captures’ the exotic ‘other’. Unlike other films that identify the specificity of place and people through inter-titles, this film presents the generalised, generic African within Africa.
Colour films of Indonesia, China, Korea and Japan in the late 1930s by Tor H. Wistrand, a Swedish diplomat, explore this wide area of Asia just before the Japanese invasions of Korea and China and the start of the Second World War. At a time when colour film was still a rarity, this work draws attention to the contrasts between tradition and modernity as represented by dress, industry and tourism.
Today travel films continue to be made but on the modern format of digital video. This genre as a whole, from the Screen Archive South East perspective, is largely a history of the white middle class with a film camera either on holiday or on a tour. Like the holiday photograph, work of this genre will always serve as a personal memento of being away from home, triggering memories when viewed after the event. From a cultural perspective, it also becomes associated with the phenomena of travel and tourism, and, in particular instances, with “the spectacle of the other”.
S. Hall, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Open University, 1997.
Films in this theme:
Showing 1 to 15 of 249 results.
An excursion on the English Riviera
This short professionally made film features the south coast towns of Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne. With the inclusion of intertitles, the film takes the form of a fictional journey made on the Brighton Belle from London to Brighton. Places of interest to the visitor are featured in each town, including the Royal Pavilion, Hastings Castle and Eastbourne Pier.
[Marrakech; Flight to Rabat]
Amateur film-maker, and airline pilot, Captain William Armstrong records a trip to Marrakech. He films images of other White-European travellers taking tea in the garden of their hotel, of the city's walls, and of an elderly local man carving wood. There is also footage of the coastline, the sea and settlements taken during a flight to Rabat.
[Aerial Views and Local Scenes of Marrakech]
Amateur footage of a trip to Marrakech taken by airline pilot Captain William Armstrong.
[Family Scenes; Holidays; At Stonelands]
|Date||[1927 - 1930?]||ID||726|
Rudd family scenes from the late 1920s and early 1930s, filmed by Mr. and Mrs. Rudd in their garden at Stonelands in Bramley and while on holidays to Brighton, Arundel, Scotland and Cornwall [?] to visit friends and relatives.
[Canton; The Lion Steamer and Friends]
This film follows Mrs Simpson boarding a steamer, touring the rural countryside and visiting the bustling city of Canton with friends.
[Violette Cordery Motoring World Tour]
This multi-reel film shows a series of stops on a World Tour by Miss Violette (Violet) Cordery, an English female motorist travelling in an Invicta car travelling 10.266 miles, by road and sea. The tour includes UK; France; North Africa; India, Australia; USA, and Canada. [Only Reel 1 is shown in the online clip].
[Seaside Views; North Foreland House; Camera Tricks; Ice Skating]
A compilation filmed by Enid Briggs in the late 1920s, including seaside scenes, sequences shot in North Foreland House gardens using stop frame and reverse action camera techniques, and ice skaters in Switzerland.
[A Winter Cruise; SS Avoceta 3500 tons]
|Date||26 October 1929 - 18 November 1929||ID||3214|
A detailed film by Ralph Staley of a cruise with his wife Nellie aboard the SS Avoceta; sailing from Liverpool and visiting Portugal, Madeira and the Canary Islands. Mrs Staley is filmed amongst other passengers and crew on deck. They take in the main tourist sights at all the stop off points and film some of the local people and customs they encounter. This film has intertitles throughout.
Java Tour; Christmas 1929; Batavia to Soerabaya en Voiture
This amateur film with intertitles charts the motor holiday of a British couple to the Indonesian island of Jawa (Java). Whilst there they film the people, the landscape and excursions with other Europeans.
Holiday to Switzerland and North Germany
Rudd family scenes filmed by Mr. and Mrs. Rudd while on holiday in Switzerland in 1929, edited and compiled with intertitles. The holidayers learn to ski, watch a luge race and a ski jump, and film from from a river boat in Germany.
Scotland June 1929
Two reels of amateur film with intertitles which chronicle a motoring holiday through the Highlands of Scotland. The holidaymakers explore the rugged landscape in three chauffeur-driven cars, stopping to watch the herring catch being unloaded at Oban and ending their trip in Edinburgh.
[Tour: Aboard Ship]
This very short sequence shows a group of men gathered on the deck of a ship with a motorcar (continued from TID: 6462 & 6463) as filmed by Ernest Shippam in the 1930s. Part of the Motorcycle and car club trip.
This film shows scenes onboard a cruise ship, with men and women on deck, sitting together and stretching out on deck chairs. Panoramic views of the sea follow showing another cruise ship at sea, as captured from the deck. The group take a smaller motor boat excursion to the shore, later followed by a scenes of the group on land sitting on a bridge and capturing views of several street scenes, before returning to ship.
[Trip to Switzerland; Visit to London Zoo]
A trip to the mountains in Switzerland is followed by a day out in London, where the group of friends visit the zoo.
[Miscellaneous Topics: Gardens, Boating, Holidays, Family]
Scenes of family outings, river dredging, ice-skating, boat trips and a fiction film, in which a bird speaks to the audience through intertitles, filmed in the 1930s.
Showing 1 to 15 of 249 results.