Not too long ago I viewed old footage as nothing that was worth giving my time to. Fast moving black and white images of people fumbling about on New York streets in 1911, explosions in the distance with grainy images of soldiers running by faster than a normal human would during World War 1–everything about these pieces of history caught on camera seemed strange. Something was off about watching footage where people didn't seem real because of how the footage looked and people moved, but it's amazing how quick a few adjustments can change your perspective.
Recently I was surfing YouTube during this time of quarantine that we're all going through and came across a video that fascinated me. For eight minutes my eyes were glued to the screen as I witnessed a restored video of New York City during 1911. People were going about their lives as a hand cranked film camera captured their daily routines. Everyday life didn't look that much different from ours besides horse drawn carriages for vehicles and three piece suits and full length dresses as everyday attire. The video I mention is below:
After watching the video don't you get an eerie sense? It's almost as if we're peering into a window of the past, seeing images of people going about with their lives, never realizing that what they were doing in that very moment was captured for anyone to see over one hundred years later. Random thoughts would pop into my head as I watched the footage play out, wondering where these people were going, what were they thinking. But the sad reality of watching this was realizing that every one of them were no longer here. Every person within the frame had died long ago and it's a dark reminder that one day people will look back on us the same way one hundred years from now.
I noticed lately that a lot of people have been restoring footage, even making documentary films like Peter Jackson's The Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary that restores the old footage taken during World War 1. The documentary does a great job pulling you into these people's lives who fought for their countries, some of them at just the age of fifteen. It's incredible the detail and the time it took to bring these images back to life with audio taken from the soldier's who had lived through it.
Another great documentary that everyone should watch at least once is Apollo 11, a story that everyone knows but told through the lens of a camera, every shot upgraded to a clarity you've never seen before. The picture was so crisp and clean you could have sworn it was filmed yesterday with a 4k camera.
It's important that we keep history alive by restoring these films, to show how a generation once lived before the boom of the modern era, footage that showed the good and the bad that very much parallel's today's generation in many ways, but with the little we have in common with them, this footage also shows how far we've advanced in terms of technology and fashion. Check out the trailers for The Shall Not Grow Old and Apollo 11 below: