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(March 15–21, 2006)

Jerry J. Astary

Sham and Fact

Bryant Arnett

Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" 1931-2006

Los Angeles, California, USA

Wednesday, March 15th, 2:30PM

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© 2006 Bryant Arnett, All Rights Reserved.


A Border Between Then and Now

In the film City Lights (1931) by Charlie Chaplin, the Little Tramp character has made friends with a drunk millionaire. They spend the night “Out on the Town” dancing and drinking and having a wild time. Early in the morning, they drive home together in the millionaire’s Rolls-Royce, careening through the streets, crossing over sidewalks and narrowly missing other cars. The Tramp tells the Millionaire, “Be careful how you’re driving” to which the Millionaire responds, “Am I driving?”

I have always enjoyed "Then and Now" photography. In my own attempts, I try to match as closely as possible the exact location of the original camera. This allows the two images to be aligned accurately. I feel this gives a strange sensation of the passage of Time. We are always crossing the border of Then and Now, into a land we know nothing of, from a land to which we can never return.

The shot of the Rolls-Royce cutting the corner in front of Coulter's Dry Goods only lasts a few seconds. It is part of a series of 5 shots which make up this scene from the film. I managed to locate all five locations (this particular one purely by chance) and created Then and Now images which can be found here.

Film historian and author John Bengtson has written a book about early Hollywood as seen through the films of Chaplin (the book, Silent Traces, can be ordered at Amazon), and he plans to include some of my discoveries and photos in the book. He asked if I would get another "Now" shot of this location at 7th and Olive so on Wednesday, the first day of the WWP event, I zipped quickly downtown. I was more intent on getting the shot for John's book than trying to grab my WWP submission, but I went ahead and set up to grab a VR version as well. Then the idea hit me of blending the two together. It seemed like a cool idea.

As I was in the process of taking my round of pictures, a nice fellow walked up to me and with a slightly intoxicated slur asked "Hey, buddy! Is that a camera?" I replied, "Yes, it is." He took a step back and said, "Well, take a picture of this!" He then stuck a quarter between his lips, grabbed his trusty cane, and with his other hand flashed the international gesture for world peace. I took the picture. With a nod of contentment, the tramp turned and wandered away down the street.
Minolta Dimage Z1 (3.2 megapixel camera with a 28mm equivalent wide angle adaptor) sitting on a custom made pano bracket which sits on my 30 year old Vivitar 2200 tripod which has a broken foot. PTgui used for stitching, Photoshop 6 used for tweaking, CubicConverter used for conversion to QTVR.

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