"Bolex Artists" : Bolex cameras, Amateurism, and New York avant-garde film
Is part ofExposing the film apparatus : the film archive as a research laboratory ; pp. 153-162.
Publisher(s)Amsterdam University Press
Designed by Jacques Bogopolsky in 1928, the Bolex camera was first commercialized by the Swiss firm Paillard-Bolex in 1935. The model shown here is an H16, the firm’s emblematic 16mm model, from 1952. The camera measures 8.5 x 5.9 x 2.3 inches (21.6 x 15 x 7.6 cm) and weighs about 12 lbs (5.5 kg). Known for its robustness and versatility, the Bolex uses a spring motor mechanism, is equipped with a reflex viewfinder, and allows for a large range of speed variations—capturing from 8 to 64 frames per second—as well as single frame exposures. Bolex cameras were used by American avant-garde and documentary filmmakers from the late 1940s to the 1970s and beyond, alongside a wide array of users, which included television reporters, people in the educational and business worlds, and non-professionals. This chapter explores the role of the Bolex in the history and aesthetics of avant-garde cinema and its American “renaissance” after World War II. The role that substandard formats played in the construction of an artistic ethos based on the figure of the amateur is also examined, exemplifying technology’s place and meaning in the culture of the time.