The space between photography and film : an object study from the Warner Bros.-First National Keybook collection
thesisposted on 08.06.2021, 09:24 by Frances Cullen
Historically and conceptually, film stills occupy a precarious position between two academic disciplines: cinema studies and the history of photography. They are overshadowed in collections by more prominent and "valuable" cinematic or photographic objects competing for the same space and money; and they have received relatively little attention in scholarship, exhibitions and publications. The film still is a unique and distinctive genre of object, possessing its own history, physicality, and aesthetic. After establishing a historical and descriptive context for understanding the film still as an object with multiple incarnations - commercial, nostalgic, historical, educational, artistic - this thesis transitions into an analysis of actual stills. By examining the physical and aesthetic characteristics of a small selection of stills from George Eastman House's "Warner Bros.-First National Keybook Collection," drawn from the keybooks of Other Women's Husbands (1926), Lights of New York, and 42nd Street, an argument emerges for the establishment of the film still as a genre of photographic object distinguishable by its physical and aesthetic characteristics as much as by its origin.