chapter  2
19 Pages

Early cinema and the emergence of the sports film

In the late nineteenth century, when the first flickering cinematographic images appeared on screens in New York, Paris and London, film was viewed by many, including one of its pioneers Louis Lumière, as ‘an invention without a future’ (cited in Wolz, 2004, p. 3). Indeed, the beginnings of moving image technology were as much a product of scientific curiosity as of cultural advancement, a curiosity that had an important sporting significance. In 1870s France, the pioneering gymnast Georges Demenÿ assisted French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey in his early experiments at capturing movement photographically, including serving as the subject for Marey’s work (Braun, 1992, pp. 66-67). In the same period in the United States, attempts to capture motion in photography, in the work of English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, were also focused on sport, including images featuring members of the Olympic Athletic Club based in San Francisco engaged in various athletic activities from boxing to jumping (Clegg, 2007, p. 137).