Moving Picture

Colin Low, director

keen interest in the view camera

Before our movie began, Ed Warner had a surprise showing of a wooden field camera of the British pancake style that he restored for Robert Gutteridge.

Robert, whose interest is in movies and optical toys, picked it up in a lot from the James family. The bellows was still usable and free of holes and cracks, but the wood was in poor condition. The restored camera is an attractive piece of work just waiting for a suitable lens. See the E-mail newsletter 4-10 for more details.

A selection of early 1900s images by William James are on the City of Toronto Archives website's beautiful Playing by the Rules exhibition along with images by other Toronto photographers of the early 1900s.

view camera from rear
view camera from side

Moving Picture (2000)

Moving Picture is the last movie by Canadian director Colin Low of the National Film Board.

Low was co-director of Labyrinth, Expo 67's famous multi-media film. Labyrinth, utilizing both 35mm and 70mm stock, was a precursor to the popular IMAX large screen productions. Over the years, Low was nominated nine times for Oscars. He is part of the group of innovators who made the NFB world famous. You can learn more about this remarkable Canadian director by visiting the following sites:

National Film Board     Culture Canada
Northern Stars          The Oscar Site
Montreal Quebec

NFB Director Colin Low

I found this to be a very unusual film. A Montreal review states that in the movie "The horrors of war, the art of producing pictures, the autobiography of a filmmaker and the parallels between the mass production of weapons and violent media images all come together in a rich documentary." 

Moving Picture was shot on 35mm stock using micro close-ups and pans of still images interspersed with short clips. Low introduces the origin of the art of engraving with the work of French artist Jacques Callot. He ties the art of engraving to war through the practice of engraving ornamentation on suits of armour.  

Etchings led to producing illustrations in books, in turn allowing the mass dissemination of information. This included instruction in making gunpowder and weapons. With the right book any reader could make a flintlock gun -- even today. In his film, Low peeks at ancient book pages then he moves to a film clip of a modern flintlock rifle being assembled from the book's instructions in modern day New England. 

The film notes that Champlain, a contemporary of Callot, brought guns to the new world (as a child, I remember C.W. Jeffereys' sketches of Champlain with his arquebus). He used his armament against the Iroquois. Later along with other tribes, the Iroquois adopted the use of guns and used them in turn to block and slow the European progress across North America. Guns and horses - also introduced by the Europeans - transformed Indian life.  Illustrations on Indian garments show this integration of European ways. 

Moving on to the US civil war, Low notes that the availability of metal working machines and standardized parts for guns affected the course of the civil war. The bloodiest battle of the war resulted in 23,000 casualties over a three day period. Illustrated newspapers brought the impact of war to the public. Harper's Weekly bought images by the thousands. Sketch artists like Alfred Waud showed the action during battles while photographers showed the aftermath with texture and detail.         

 Low depicts the escalation of violence and its portrayal in the media over the centuries as technological innovation is applied to both communications and the tools of war. Guns replace the knight in armour, tanks replace horses, and are in turn augmented by aircraft and increasingly powerful bombs culminating  in the modern era of atomic weapons and missiles. 

Through out the story, Low weaves in his family history, his love of horses, and his appreciation for the Canadian west and its people. 

Members who missed the showing and are interested in Colin Low's work in general and the 'Moving Pictures' in particular can arrange to borrow the society's copy on VHS tape by contacting Mark Singer.

The following images are in chronological order through the movie:


the Low homestead in Alberta
a young colin Low on horse-back modern engraving
building a cannon old book on gun construction old flintlock mechanism painting showing Indians with horses and rifles modern flintlock made following an old book
Indian history drawn on clothing
Canadian war-time field hospital I caught a fade between airmen and aircraft Canadian soldier in WW2 - actually a half-tone image

The images shown on this page were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 and adjusted and sized in Photoshop CS. Hovering over an image will show its title. Clicking one of the view camera images brings up an enlarged version. I did not include enlarged images from the movie.

All images from the movie and of Colin Low are copyright the NFB. The other images are copyright the PHSC and may be freely used if the source is credited to the PHSC. Questions? Please contact me at

Robert Carter

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