Long before camera phones, the 1923 introduction of small-gauge film stock heralded the unofficial birth of affordable home moviemaking. Over the subsequent decades, many thousands of reels of amateur film shot around the world amounted to one of the largest and most significant bodies of moving-image work produced in the 20th century.
Artists, celebrities, world travelers, and the public at large, using 16- and 8-millimeter equipment, employed this unregulated, democratic form of personal filmmaking to produce work that is by turns vigorous, sentimental, frank, and sometimes transgressive. Sadly, these films were also rarely preserved and commonly abandoned, often ending up as flea market curios or stock footage as more consumer-friendly video formats arrived in the 1980s. Private Lives Public Spaces, the Museum’s first gallery installation of home movies and amateur films drawn exclusively from its collection, shines a light on a seldom-recognized cinematic revolution.
This 100-screen presentation of virtually unseen, homemade works dating from 1907 to 1991 explores the connections between artist’s cinema, amateur movies, and family filmmaking as alternatives to commercial film production. Staged as an immersive video experience, the exhibition reveals an overlooked history of film from the Museum’s archives, providing fresh perspectives on a remarkably rich precursor to the social media of today.
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Katie Trainor, Collections Manager, Peter Williamson, Preservation Officer, and Ashley Swinnerton, Collection Specialist, Department of Film.