Black Magic

Juliet Clark

Edison, Muybridge, Lumière, and … Black?

A contemporary of those better-known moving-image innovators, Alexander Black is a film forefather who deserves to be rediscovered. In the 1890s, when most films lasted only a few moments, Black enthralled the American intelligentsia with his “picture plays”—elaborate multi-act magic lantern performances in which glass slides were carefully synchronized to suggest movement.

By the late 1920s, Black had retired from the picture-play biz and moved on to experimenting with 16mm film—including the brand-new Kodachrome—in travelogues, home movies, and imaginative film fantasies. In a special presentation November 22 at PFA, scholar Kaveh Askari will show a selection of these short films, preserved by PFA, as well as scenes from Black’s magic lantern performances.
For more on Black and his work, download the program brochure.