London (1926 and 2013)

In 1926 Claude Friese-Greene shot some of the first-ever colour film footage around London. 87 years later, in 2013, Simon Smith did the same and shot for shot, recreated Friese-Greene's film.

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Article · City of London · EC4R ·
JANUARY
15
2014

In 1926 Claude Friese-Greene shot some of the first-ever colour film footage around London. 87 years later, in 2013, Simon Smith did the same and shot for shot, recreated Friese-Greene's film.

Video by Vimeo user Simon Smith/BFI.
Credit: vimeo
In the 1920s, cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene travelled across the London with his new colour film camera, capturing everyday life in the city with a technique innovated by his father, called Biocolour.

Claude, born Claude Harrison Greene was the son of colour film pioneer, William Friese-Greene.

After William's death in 1921, Claude Friese-Greene continued to develop the Biocolour system during the 1920s and renamed the process Friese-Greene Natural Colour. Claude was cinematographer on more than 60 films from 1923 to 1943.

Friese-Greene’s film captures London in striking detail, as if putting the whole city in a time capsule. The people pass before us like ghosts.

Biocolour produced the illusion of true colour by exposing each alternate frame of ordinary black-and-white film stock through a two different coloured filters. Each alternate frame of the monochrome print was then stained red or green. Although the projection of Biocolour prints did provide a tolerable illusion of true colour, it suffered from noticeable flickering and red-and-green fringing when the subject was in rapid motion. In an attempt to overcome the colour fringing problem, a faster-than-usual frame rate was used.

His trip produced some stunning images of the capital which were revived and restored by the British Film Institute on the South Bank. The British Film Institute used computer enhancement to reduce the flickering effect of the original Biocolour. Friese-Greene’s technique captures London in striking detail.

Simon Smith, a London filmmaker, retraced Friese-Greene’s steps and captured every one of his shots, standing in his footsteps, and using modern equivalents of his camera and lenses.

His personal study is surprising - revealing how little has really changed in London.

Citations and sources

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My grandparents lived in Kerbela Street many years ago when they were terraced houses. My memory of the street is one long street with these strange wrought iron things outside - which I now know as boot scrapers. The house inside was fairly large, but I was a child. Loo was outside. Shame they knocked the terraces down and build a huge housing estate, but that?s progress I suppose. Does anyone know the origin of the name Kerbela?

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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1800s
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1830s
The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1860s
The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1900s
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The City of London constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the conurbation has since grown far beyond its borders.

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