Gothenburg 1913: Get That Camera Out of My Face!

8 December 2012


Almost a hundred years ago an unknown filmmaker took to the streets of Gothenburg and just filmed the streets – upsetting at least one gentleman in the process. The city, founded in 1621 is the second largest in Sweden and so even a century ago its population was hardly what you could call provincial.  The Barber's Shop in the Village, the first-ever Swedish film drama had been released to acclaim in 1897 and by 1905 most Swedish towns had their own cinema.

Yet even though, when this found footage was made, eight years later – this was still new technology.  Although many Swedes were regular cinema goers they were not regular witnesses to filmmaking, particularly in the middle of a busy street.  So, the way that many of the men in this footage react (found by Anton Withagen), staring straight at the camera and engaging its operator in conversation, is not surprising: this would have been a huge novelty for them.

Most seem quite happy to be filmed but there is a point at 00:58 where one middle-aged gentleman (picture above), clearly unimpressed with the intrusion, pulls his tongue at the camera (it might even be that he is baring his false teeth, I’m not quite sure) while several youths happily wave their hats at the camera behind him.  What leaves a lasting impression on me, however, about this found footage is its incredible quality: it is after all almost 100 years old.  That, and just how dapper the people of Gothenburg were in 1913.


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