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Collection The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906

Pioneer Cameramen

Thomas Edison's great pioneer cameraman and film-maker was Edwin S. Porter, creator of The Life of an American Fireman (1902-1903) and The Great Train Robbery (1903). Porter shot four of the films included in this collection (as well as eight of the McKinley films). Another Edison cameraman, James B. Smith, photographed seven. Of the Biograph films, Billy Bitzer, famous for his camera work with D. W. Griffith, shot nine, and Frederick Armitage made five. Other cameramen whose films appear on the disk are Alfred Abadie, Wallace McCutcheon, Arthur Marvin, Robert Bonine, A. E. Weed, James Congdon, and Fred Dobson. In the very early years of cinema, cameramen had to be inventors, electricians, projectionists, and directors, in addition to cinematographers. Some, like Bonine, had been professional still photographers; Porter and Bitzer were gifted electrical mechanics. W. K. L. Dickson, Edison's first motion picture expert and eventual rival as a founding partner of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, was both a still photographer and a brilliant engineer.