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Manhatta (1921)

pseudonym1964 | December 04, 2010

‘Manhatta (1921) is a short documentary film which revels in the haze rising from city smoke stacks. With the city as subject, it consists of 65 shots sequenced in a loose non-narrative structure, beginning with a ferry approaching Manhattan and ending with a sunset view from a sky scraper. The primary objective of the film is to explore the relationship between photography and film; camera movement is kept to a minimum, as is incidental motion within each shot. Each frame provides a view of the city that has been carefully arranged into abstract compositions.

It was an attempt to show the film makers’ love for the city of New York. Manhatta was a collaboration between painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand. The interspersed title cards include excerpts from Walt Whitman.’ (Text from Wikipedia)

‘Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), an American Precisionist artist, was better known as a painter than as a photographer. He began photographing in 1912 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he developed an Americana Shaker style. He also did advertising and publicity photography for Vogue. In 1927 and into the 1930s, Sheeler was commissioned to photograph Ford Motor Works at River Rouge, work that made his reputation as an architectural photographer. His photographs are abstract, geometrically precise, and capture an elegance of proportions. They are, in effect, cultural artifacts as they depict the industrial might of America. Sheeler often exhibited his paintings and photographs together. Charles Sheeler also collaborated with other photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen. In 1920 he worked with Paul Strand on Manhatta, a short expressive film about New York City based on portions of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” The six-minute film spans an imaginary day in the life of New York City, beginning with footage of Staten Island ferry commuters and culminating with the sun setting over the Hudson River. It has been described as the first avant-garde film made in America. Its many brief shots and dramatic camera angles emphasize New York’s photographic nature. Sheeler exhibited Manhatta as both projected film (as seen in this section) as well as prints made from the film strips that he used like photographic negatives.

The Photography of Charles Sheeler provides a unique opportunity to explore Sheeler’s innovative technique.’ (Text from http://www.metmuseum.org/)

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