Horse and Rider Jumping Over an Obstacle (1888) - Pferd und Reiter Springen über ein Hindernis

Director: Ottomar Anschütz
Production Company: Preußen Kriegsministerium
Country: Germany

Notes: “Ottomar Anschütz is an interesting and largely forgotten figure in the history of chronophotography and the invention of movies. Unlike the better-known chronophotographers Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey, whose concerns were artistic and scientific, respectively, Anschütz mainly photographed serial images with the intent to reproduce their motion for public entertainment and to do so on an industrial scale, which today’s authority on Anschütz, Deac Rossell, has made clear in various writings. In this regard, Anschütz’s career shared more with those of Thomas Edison and the Lumiére brothers. As Friedrich Tietjen has pointed out, however, the loop mode for the synthesis of Anschütz’s images, as well as Muybridge’s, demanded and created different experiences than celluloid films.
Horses, as with Muybridge and Marey, were a popular subject for Anschütz. All three men’s enthusiasm for horses was also borne of scientific inquiry: training for sport in the case of Muybridge, physiological analysis for Marey, and military training for Anschütz. Two of his surviving series are from his Hanover work of military riders on horses jumping over obstacles. Three other remaining series available on the web and elsewhere are of athletic feats. Contemporaries remarked on the superior quality of his dry-plate images compared to the work of Muybirdge and Marey. It’s somewhat odd, then, that historians have written much about the influence Muybridge and Marey had on art and have found no such connection with Anschütz. (See “Sallie Gardner at a Gallop” (1880) and “Falling Cat” (1894).) Lost scenes made by Anschütz, however, suggest a more direct influence on subsequent entertainment filmmaking. A scene of card players may have been the basis for remakes by the Lumière brothers (“Partie d’écarté”) and Georges Méliès (“Une partie de cartes”) (both 1896). His barbershop scene perhaps inspired the Kinetoscope film “The Barbershop” (1894) or been a remake of it. Others seem to have been similar to comic expression films that were a popular subject in early cinema.

Yet, unlike the celluloid films, the movies of Anschütz’s spinning discs and drums, as Tietjen has written, were circular—rather than the linear nature of film that allowed, eventually, for narratives. They lasted only a second or two, but would repeat on a loop so long as the disc or drum were turned and unchanged. Naturally repetitive motions such as galloping horses fit this loop mode well, whereas these lost scenes may have appeared unrealistic. Tietjen, however, mentions how a film such as the Lumières’ “La sortie des usines Lumière” (1895), with its opening and closing of the gates, could also conform to a loop.

Anschütz’s attempts to industrially commercialize his motion photographs as entertainment represent the pinnacle of the loop mode of movies—ending just as celluloid films were taking off. Despite the differences of these formats, the work of Anschütz was of significant influence on early filmmaking.” – THE ENTERTAINMENT OF CHRONOPHOTOGRAPHY by Cineanalyst

Main Sources: “Ottomar Anschütz and his Electrical Wonder”, “Living Pictures: The Origins of the Movies”, “Breaking the Black Box: A Reassessment of Chronophotography as a Medium for Moving Pictures” by Deac Rossell. “Loop and Life: A False Start into Protocinematic Photographic Representations of Movement” by Friedrich Tietjen.

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Genres: Genesis of Film, 1880's

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