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 16 to 30 of 257 results.
[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.
[Miscellaneous Topics: Boating, Ice-hockey, Holidays, Amateur Drama]
Holiday scenes off the coast of Madeira, on outings, a cruise, and a boat trip down the Norfolk Broads, filmed in the 1930s.
[Colonists in East Africa]
Various scenes of colonists in East Africa during the 1930s. The film features scenes of the landscape and some of the local people. The film also shows scenes of the colonists houses and aerial shots taken from planes.
[Journey to North Africa]
Amateur footage of a journey by boat to North Africa and of holiday excursions once there.
'Travel.' Memories of a Journey from India to England
An amateur film-maker records the people and places on his journey from Calcutta to Pompeii, travelling by rail and by motor ship.
[Tour: Departure at Folkestone [?]]
This short film shows a ship moving into port slowly passing the camera, followed by shots of several men standing on boat deck dressed in hats and leather driving coats. A motorcar is lifted off the harbour and hoisted onto the deck of a ship. A group of men then crowd another man holding a sheet of paper, possibly awaiting further instructions. The film ends with a close up of several older men talking then turning to look at the camera (continues on TID: 6463).
[Tour: Loading Car on Board]
This short film (continued from TID: 6462) shows several men standing on deck dressed in hats and leather driving coats talking to each other as two motorcars are hoisted onto the deck of a ship by a crane (additional ship deck shots on TID: 6481). The film closes with shots of several cars driving off the ship, once it has moored in a port.
[Tour: Australia Bridge]
This short film shows views of a city harbour (Sydney?) with workers constructing a bridge, seen from an elevated position. The camera pans across two men, talking on the bridge, to capture views of the landscape; showing boats, industrial structures, cranes and workers, against a backdrop of built up residential areas along the water.
[Holiday to Belgium]
This film shows a series of market and street scenes filmed outside Brussels Town Hall by Ernest Shippam during a holiday in 1931. Several women in traditional national dress pass the camera carrying their shopping, accompanied by young children.
[Journey Through the Mountains]
This film shows a couple travelling through the Swiss Alps towards Italy in an open top car. The couple visit a harbour and the Middle Bridge (Mittlere Brucke) in Basel over the Rhine. Shots of a mountain range near St Moritz, and a hotel surrounded by a snowy landscape are followed by a tour of Italy visiting Bologna and Florence.
[London to Australia]
|Date||22-23 May 1930||ID||9328|
An intertitled travelogue film of a trip to Australia starts with a map showing the journey from London to Australia, followed by views at different stages of the route: a bus; arrival at a train station; a sea voyage; the crew and other passengers aboard ship. The ship docks in Melbourne showing several streets scenes. On to Sydney, with the Harbour Bridge, still under construction. A title reads: "Manley Beach" (sic) with footage of surfers and soldier crabs; closing with views over Brisbane.
This black and white film, taken while on holiday in Asia, combines family scenes aboard a boat and swimming at the beach, with views of the local fishermen hauling in their catch.
[Street Scenes in Shanghai]
Views of street scenes in Shanghai and surrounding countryside include street performers, acrobats and men at work amongst scaffolding. A dragon dance passes through the streets and various people are filmed in parks and gardens. This is followed by a river cruise and scenes of water transport.
Views of Rome filmed by Ernest Shippam in 1931, followed by portraits of a nun - Sister Joachim in a chapel garden walking with several children and a younger man.
Showing 16 to 30 of 257 results.