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Christopher Pugsley’s 'The Camera in the Crowd'

Christopher Pugsley’s The Camera in the Crowd - Filming in New Zealand Peace and War 1895-1920.

The possibilities of film as a documentary record immediately captured the Kiwi imagination when the first reels of silver nitrate stock reached New Zealand in 1895. The Camera in the Crowd brings to life twenty-five exhilarating years of film making and picture screening in a sumptuously illustrated hardback published by Oratia that tells the story through surviving footage unearthed from the national film archives.

The Auckland commercial traveller AH Whitehouse was the first to show films by Edison's peepshow Kinetoscope and to direct the filming of scenes at the the opening of the Auckland Industrial and Mining Exhibition in December 1898. The pair made nine other films, but their output was soon overtaken by the Salvation Army, which became the largest film producer in Australasia by the turn of the century. New Zealand quickly developed a small corps of professional cameramen to feed the country's insatiable appetite for movies.

Pugsley has documented the history of those pioneering cinematographers and theatre owners such as Henry Hayward and John Fuller who screened their films. He has painstakingly researched not only domestic film production, but also the Kiwi 'Diggers' of WWI. As he explains in his Introduction: "Film is made to be seen on screen and this book reflects this by providing stills from the films discussed. Titles of surviving films are also identified by a small projector in the margin that allows you to access the film online and have a look at what you are reading about ... Each page also includes a still from the 1914 film Auckland's Expeditionary Force ... You can enjoy watching the volunteers march past by flipping through the pages in the manner of the once very popular flip books."

Pugsley is one of New Zealand's leading military historians who has also nurtured a long-standing passion for film. Told in his characteristically straightforward and engaging style, he combines these twin interests in The Camera in the Crowd, which brilliantly brings to life the first years of film-making in New Zealand through war and peace.


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