Reel Families

9780253209443: Paperback
Release Date: 22nd July 1995

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 208

Series Arts and Politics of the Everyday

Indiana University Press

Reel Families

A Social History of Amateur Film

Paperback / £16.99

Amateur film has been seen as the junkheap of private culture. Yet music videos recycle home movies as authenticity; commercials copy its style to sell intimacy; documentaries use it to recount history "from below."

Reel Families is the first historical study of amateur film, the most pervasive of media. Patricia Zimmerman charts the history of this medium from 1897 to the present, examining how ideological, technical, and social constraints have stunted amateur film's potential for extending media production beyond corporate monopolies and into the hands of everyday people. She draws on an array of sources—camera manufacturers, patents, early film and photography technology journals, amateur filmmaking magazines, professional magazines, and family-oriented popular magazines—to investigate how the concept of amateur film was transformed within evolving contexts of technology, aesthetics, social relations, and politics.


1 Pleasure or Money

2 Entrepreneurs, Artists, Hobbyists, and Workers: 1897-1923

3 Professional Results with Amateur Ease: 1923-1940

4 Cameras and Guns: 1941-1949

5 Do-It-Yourself: 1950-1962

6 Reinventing Amateurism


PATRICIA R. ZIMMERMANN is Professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography at Ithaca College. She is also the author of States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies and has also published articles in Screen, Afterimage, Journal of Film and Video, Cinema Journal, The Independent, Genders, Wide Angle, and Current Research in Film.