Australian cinematographers of the silent period
The "silent cin'ers".
(And yes – the exhibition of "silent" films was anything but silent.)
This is only a start: there is much more to be done. I have more information on most of the persons named below. Contact me if you would like or can provide further details.
Following is an index to information on most of the cinematographers who worked in Australia in the three and a half decades prior to the introduction of sound to motion pictures. It includes details of persons who lived all or much of their lives in Australia as well as of those who only visited the country.
There is a cut-off date of about 1930; i.e. anyone who shot motion picture film before the end of that year is likely to be included. Amateur filmmakers (e.g. those making "home movies") are eligible for listing, though in general they are harder to identify.
All those listed were men. Whether there were any women who shot films in Australia in this period is not known; two possibilities are Senora Spencer [Mary Stuart SPENCER née HUNTLY] (wife of Cosens SPENCER) and Rita PUGLIESE: as both were projectionists they would also have been able to take motion pictures. (Mary S. Spencer even said that she had filmed a bullfight in Spain – see 2 July 1906, Theatre (Sydney), pp.8, 9a – but there are various dubious claims in this article.)
A link to an entry in the online edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography is indicated by "[ADB]".
|Cinematographer||Date of birth||Date of death|
|Franklyn BARRETT [ADB]|
|John Watt BEATTIE [ADB]||1859-08-15||1930-06-24|
[Alfred Ernest BENSON?]
[Jean Antoine Maurice BERTEL]
|Francis BIRTLES [ADB]|
[Francis Edwin BIRTLES]
[Ernest Gustav Brandon CREMER]
[John Aylwin Seves BRUCE]
[Alfred William BURNE]
[Claud Callaghan CARTER]
[William Montague CARTY]
[Henry John Leonard CORRICK]
[Arthur Ernest CROSS]
[Theodore Wesley Garland DAWSON]
|Herbert Vere EVATT [ADB]||1894-04-30||1965-11-02|
[Herbert Cecil FINLAY]
[John Smethurst FLETCHER]
= Arthur Charles TINSDALE
|William Alfred GIBSON [ADB]||1869||1929-10-06|
[Georges Louis DE GOUDAY]
|Alfred Cort HADDON [ADB]||1855-05-24||1940-04-20|
|Arthur Embery HIGGINS [ADB]||1891-10-25||1963-09-22|
|Ernest Henry HIGGINS [ADB]||1871-10-09||1945-11-28|
|Tasman George HIGGINS [ADB]||1888-04-08||1953-06-04|
|Frank HURLEY [ADB]|
[James Francis HURLEY]
[Albert Sewell IVE]
[Herbert Dominic Patrick KIRWAN]
|Harry KRISCHOCK [ADB]|
[Henry Ludwig Frank KRISCHOCK]
[George Austin BREWSTER?]
[Charles Robert Montague LUKE]
[Charles Frank MARDEN]
|Henry William MOBSBY [ADB]||1860-08-17||1933-04-09|
[Alfred John MOULTON]
[Frederick Edwin MURPHY]
[Albert Stanley PENTREATH]
[Edgar Charles Lacey PERCIVAL]
[Albert James PERIER]
|Joseph Henry PERRY [ADB]||1863-08-05||1943-04-29|
|Orrie PERRY [ADB]|
[Orizaba George PERRY]
[Richard Henry Charles PRIMMER]
[Leonard Hally ROOS]
[Edgar Thomas SACRE]
[Albert Oscar SEGERBERG]
[Marius Ely Joseph SESTIER]
|Cosens SPENCER [ADB]|
|Walter Baldwin SPENCER [ADB]||1860-06-23||1929-07-14|
[Walter Harold Blennerhassett SULLY]
[Arthur Charles FROST]
[René Raoul Marie TOURNOUËR]
[John William TRERISE]
[George Raymond P. VAUGHAN]
[Thomas James WEST]
|George Hubert WILKINS [ADB]||1888-10-31||1958-11-30|
|Frederick Charles WILLS [ADB]||1870-11-14||1955-08-08|
[Herbert Arthur WADHAM]
The following list is of the names of persons who applied for, or wrote regarding, the position of Commonwealth Photographer and Cinematograph Operator, which was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette of 30 September 1911, the appointment being made to James Pinkerton CAMPBELL. It is not known if the named persons ever shot motion pictures.
Some of the writing in the original document is unclear so some spelling errors are likely.
The list below is of the names of persons who applied for the position of Commonwealth Photographer and Cinematograph Operator, advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette of 12 April 1913, which went to Bert IVE. This time there was more stress laid on the need for experience in cinematography, so it is likely these persons could operate a movie camera.
Again, the spelling of some of the names may not be accurate.
Filming the filmers
The early cinematographers at work were sometimes caught on camera by their confederates (or rivals) or even themselves. Some known instances are listed below.
- 1910: in the scene in Thunderbolt (NFSA title number 66261), when John Gavin gets out of the water after his character's escape from Cockatoo Island, the shadow of the cameraman, presumably Alf MOULTON, is visible both on the shoreline and on Gavin himself.
- 1 November 1910: at the finish of the 1910 Melbourne Cup horse race (won by "Comedy King"), as seen in NFSA title number 747, at least 3 cranking cin'ers are visible closer to the racetrack.
- 1 November 1910: in NFSA title number 33069 there is a view of the Melbourne Cup itself in a glass case, and the reflection of the cameraman is just visible.
- 12 March 1913: James Pinkerton CAMPBELL, official Commonwealth Government cinematographer, can be seen cranking in the background in three of the scenes of Naming the Federal Capital of Australia, March 12th, 1913: The Ceremony (NFSA title number 9382).
- 26 March 1927: Wally SULLY appears briefly from behind his (motor-driven) camera in The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York: Sydney, 26 March 1927 (NFSA title number 793).
- 26 March 1927: other cameramen appear in films of the landing of the Duke and Duchess of York in Sydney; e.g. The Duke and Duchess of York Arrive at Farm Cove (NFSA title number 669167).
- 9 May 1927: several cinecameramen can be seen at work in Canberra The Capital of the Commonwealth of Australia (NFSA title number 6224), The Official Opening of Canberra by His Royal Highness the Duke of York; May 9th 1927 (NFSA title number 56926), and other films of this event.
Martha Ansara has written Shadowcatchers, a profusely illustrated, large-format coffee table book with information about and superb photographs of some of the cinematographers identified above. It is not limited to the filmers of the silent period and includes details of those working up to current times.
|Copyright © 2013 - 2019 Tony Martin-Jones||FILM HISTORY INDEX||Edition 3·5 (2019-08-30)|