In 1901, the British photographer James Williamson, a key member of what is known as the ‘Brighton School’ of film pioneers (to learn more about early cinema, click here), released his comedy The Big Swallow (AKA: A Photographic Contortion). According to Michael Brooke of the British Film Institute’s Screenonline website, the film is “one of the most important early British films in that it was one of the first to deliberately exploit the contrast between the eye of the camera and of the audience watching the final film.”
Just a minute and few seconds long, The Big Swallow features a petulant man who ends up swallowing the cameraman himself as the latter zooms into his face.
Watch the film below:
Here’s how Williamson described his plot:
‘I won’t! I won’t! I’ll eat the camera first.’ Gentleman reading, finds a camera fiend with his head under a cloth, focusing him up. He orders him off, approaching nearer and nearer, gesticulating and ordering the photographer off, until his head fills the picture, and finally his mouth only occupies the screen. He opens it, and first the camera, and then the operator disappear inside. He retires munching him up and expressing his great satisfaction.
~ As mentioned in 100 Silent Films (2011) by Byrony Dixon
Featured: Screenshot from The Big Swallow, Williamson Kinematograph Company. Used for illustrative purposes only. No Copyright Infringement intended.