I was recently lent a great documentary film about Lancashire based film duo Mitchell and Kenyon. The pair were active in the early 1900s and shot Edwardian life to use as entertainment in the traveling shows. For example they would set up their camera to take footage of factory workers coming out of the gates at the end of the day- they would encourage people to get in shot and people smiled and waved and stuff and then the film would be shown the following evening as part of a nights entertainment and people would come and watch themselves on the screen.
It's fascinating to historians as it provides a valuable insight into life then and specifically in and around the North West of the country. But I think it's more interesting when you start to consider spectacle and documentary and home video. It's also really interesting as when you see footage of these people from a hundred years ago (which normally you see as static photographs) you quickly understand what a short time ago it was and, we always consider people back then to be juddery (thanks to different frame rates on many cameras and stuff ) or stiff (as in the smart photographs) but when you see people moving around freely and normally (and I know it sounds stupid, but as you or I would) the anachronistic clothing and cars and stuff is forgotten a human connection emerges which I hadn't expected. You do get a real sense for the people in the images- smiling and being excited about this new technology. I wish I could have that novelty of being filmed and watching myself on screen in such an innocent way as they did. Sadly it will never be- I've grown up with cameras and video and the spectacle of cinema and the unreal on screen, not to mention the fact that any city dweller has to give into the fact that they are probably filmed 50 times a day (or whatever the scaremongers tell us).
A really interesting and worth watching artifact.