Still. Photography and Movement
The technological advances that in the 19th century allowed a sequence of still photographs to fool our minds and simulate movement evolved in a few years until they reached such a perfection that turned all of us viewers into characters in plots where feelings erupt with an intensity that we wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for the movies: hatred, resentment, love, terror, tenderness, passion, anguish, lust...
(Left). Photographic experimentation on equine movement. (Right). From slides like this, cinematographers determined the correct development for each scene in a movie.
(Left). Redes (Fred Zinnemann, 1933) was filmed in Alvarado, Veracruz. After this first experience in the cinema, Ned Scott traveled to Hollywood where he stood out as a stillman and star photographer for more than a decade. (Right). New York photographer Paul Strand took this portrait while filming Redes.
In 1948, Emilio Fernández directed Maclovia, the second version of Janitzio (Carlos Navarro, 1934), a story written by the photographer Luis Márquez. Emilio Fernández was the protagonist of the first version, and Márquez took the stills in both versions.
Despite the obvious —we all recognize a film strip with its perforations on the sides to travel the path from one reel to another and through the beam of light that does magic—, it is difficult to think that this static object (a photograph) be the cause of such disturbances.
Raíces (Benito Alazraki, 1954) is a film based on four stories by Francisco Rojas González. Hans Beimler was the cinematographer for one of these stories: “Nuestra señora”, while Walter Reuter was in charge of the movie camera in the other three stories as well as responsible for the stills of the four stories.
(Left). The proposal in which the protagonist would wear a thin mustache was finally rejected. (Right). This design was the one that was finally used in the movie Macario (Roberto Gavaldón, 1959).
(Left). Blind musician photographed by the Aragonese director in 1949 when he toured the poor neighborhoods of Mexico City looking for locations for his film Los Olvidados (1950). Don Carmelo, the character played by Miguel Inclán, was based on this portrait.
On the contrary, when we see the image of a scene published, we immediately assume that it comes directly from the filming, even though it is not. The cinema is made of visual tricks created by different types of images, the film is only its most finished version.
Scene in which chief Pedro Páramo (John Gavin) leaves his pregnant wife Doloritas Preciado (Claudia Millán). This film is an adaptation of the novel by Juan Rulfo directed in 1966 by Carlos Velo.
(Left). Photograph taken during the shooting of a film produced by the Mutual Film Co., a company that hired Pancho Villa as one of its exclusive stars. (Right). Scene from Río Escondido (Emilio Fernández, 1947), in which the cacique Regino Sandoval (Carlos López Moctezuma) tries to take a portrait imitating the famous photograph of Villa with his horse in front of the camera.
Films directed by Juan Ibáñez (1970) and Byron Haskin (1958).
Since the early twenties, Hollywood incorporated the most talented photographers into its ranks to carry out the publicity of the films (the stills). The enormous size of the cameras, for photography and for film, prevented both from working simultaneously, so the stills were captured during rehearsals or in repeated scenes exclusively by the stillman, generating similar images but independent of the moment we see on the screen.
Film shot in black and white by cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, under the direction of director Luis Buñuel.
In 1971, Juan López Moctezuma directed this film set in a 19th century psychiatric hospital. The artist Leonora Carrington, art supervisor for this film, designed the atmosphere and characters.
(Left). Contact sheets were used by producers, distributors and advertisers to review photographic material. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fando y Lis was shot in black and white by cinematographers Rafael Corkidi and Antonio Reynoso.
Films directed by Luis Buñuel (1961) and Paul Leduc (1983).
In those same years, in Californian photo studios, a new style of portraiture began to take shape, glamorous and excessively artificial, which invited the veneration of the nascent star system. The star portrait.
(Right). Gabriel Figueroa Flores attributes the authorship of these still photographs to his father —who was the cinematographer of Un alma pura (Juan Ibáñez, 1965).
Film directed by Rubén Gámez in 1992.
(Left). Jorge Fernández designed the scenery for Camelia (Roberto Gavaldón, 1953) at the San Ángel studios. (Right). On stage, the pianist Fernando Aibar (Arturo de Córdova) gives a recital in a scene from El valor de vivir (Tito Davison, 1953).
In Mexico, the still developed its own characteristics by mixing with a powerful nationalist imagery that emerged from the Revolution. The most important photographers of the thirties, attracted by the moving image, ventured into an industry that was taking its first steps in that decade: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Gabriel Figueroa, Agustín Jiménez, Luis Márquez, Rafael García and the Gilberto brothers, Raúl and Agustín Martínez Solares, among others.
(Left). Scene that takes place in Death's hideout in the movie Macario. (Right). Gabriel Figueroa and photographer Luis Márquez took advantage of the traditional Day of the Dead on the island of Janitzio, in Michoacán, to take some scenes in the middle of the celebration.
In the same way, photo studios emerged and specialized in the portrait of national stars, such as SEMO, Tufic Yazbek, Armando Herrera or Pascual Espinosa.
In 1945, Julio Bracho directed this film and the set designer Jorge Fernández designed and recreated a 13th-century Italian village at the CLASA studios.
(Left). Scene from El señor fotógrafo (Miguel M. Delgado, 1952), in which the photographer Cantinflas prepares the portrait of a deputy (Víctor Alcocer) in the Chapultepec city park. (Right). Image inspired by this scene.
Contact sheet that shows the photo that served as the basis for the designer Germán Horacio for the poster of the movie Sonatas (Juan Antonio Bardem, 1959).
The fantasy that surrounds these images is not unrelated to their usefulness as historical documents. Titles now lost due to the passage of time or due to human and institutional negligence have left traces of their ephemeral existence in these photographs, just like some censored scenes or simply discarded in the final cut of a film.
(Left). The material, made with photos by the stillman Antonio Jiménez, shows the cropped title used to promote the film Rocambole vs. las mujeres arpías (Emilio Gómez Muriel, 1965). (Right). This dummy of El 7 de copas (Roberto Gavaldón, 1960) was made from photographs taken by the stillman Alfredo Ruvalcaba.
(Left). This print advertisement of La Reina del Mambo (Ramón Pereda, 1950) was made from the illustrations of the designer Leopoldo Mendoza.
Films directed by Miguel Zacarías in 1946 and 1943.
Thanks to these records, we have been able to get to know the faces of directors, cinematographers, set designers and other creators who worked behind the camera, as well as to look at processes prior to filming, such as casting (search for actors), scouting (search for locations) or makeup and costume tests. The 216,000 still frames that make up a feature film on average are only part of the thousands of images that accompany the life of a film.
Films directed by Miguel M. Delgado (1942) and Tito Davison (1953).
(Left). In this still in which Jorge Negrete appears, a portrait of Carlos López Moctezuma was placed, who was not part of the cast of El rapto (Emilio Fernández, 1953). The actors Andrés Soler and José Elías Moreno were removed from the image. (Right). This image shows the actress who worked as a stuntwoman for María Félix in the action scenes of Juana Gallo (Miguel Zacarías, 1960).
Film directed by José Díaz Morales en 1956.
With Still. Photography and Movement, we want to pay tribute to those film professionals who have documented our film history. In this exhibition, some rarities and jewels protected by the Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive are shown, which we want to share to celebrate together a double anniversary, the twenty years of the Morelia International Film Festival and the twenty years of Fundación Televisa. Congratulations to all those who love Mexican cinema!
(Left). Germán Valdés, Marcelo Chávez, Katy Jurado, Carlos López Moctezuma, Joaquín Pardavé, Rita Macedo, Manuel Palacios, Estanislao Schillinsky. (Right). Fernando, Andrés and Domingo Soler, Miguel Inclán, Pedro Armendáriz, Prudencia Grifell, Roberto Cobo and Marga López.
The exhibition Still. Photography and Movement is presented at the 20th edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), October 2022.
Research, curatorship and texts: Héctor Orozco.
Archive: Gustavo Fuentes.
Digital exhibition: Cecilia Absalón Huízar.
Digitization and image editing: Omar Espinoza y Saúl Ruelas.