For History Buffs--Photo Drama of Creation Sequence?

by cabasilas 7 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • cabasilas

    I just obtained a CD of movies and slides of the Photo-Drama of Creation. It has movies of Russell talking and some movies of Bible themes. Then there's a narrated slide presentation that appears to match the text of the Photo Drama book. There's over 8 hours of material here. It's not organized, however, by how the viewer in 1914 would have seen the materials. (And I know there were different editions of the Drama with some showings being shorter.)

    Would anyone know how the Photo Drama was organized? I'm imagining Russell appeared first and then the narrated slides began. But, I'm not sure about this. I'm wondering if there are any history buffs out there who could tell me how it was arranged? Thanks!

  • VM44

    The Photo Drama was 8 hours long?

    Was it shown all at once?

    An eight hour showing would seem to me to be a test of endurance!


  • cabasilas

    I believe it was shown in sections with short intermissions while musical interludes played. (On this CD there are several sections of hymns which I'm guessing played while they changed trays of slides?) To be honest, it seems like an impressive undertaking considering it was done in 1914. There are over 600 slides...most in color. Not exactly what we'd consider special effects these days but I bet for the time it was quite an event.

    Of course, there are places where Russell's theology is very transparent. Like 7,000 years for each day or "epoch."

    I'm curious as to details as to how the presentation was made to the public if anyone is familiar with this.

  • Ingenuous

    There are quite a few versions of it out, maintained by Bible Students.

    At least one Bible Student organization - the Dawn Bible Students Association - has the Photodrama in book form.

  • JW_Researcher

    I wrote this in an old paper:

    "The production ran a total of eight hours and was shown in four different two-hour parts."

    "Arguably one of the first motion pictures with sound, The Photo-Drama of Creation was a unique combination of a silent motion picture and still pictures synchronized with recorded lectures. Some of the sequences involved time-lapse photography. The content outlined history from God’s creation of the earth to the end of the millennium. All seats were free of charge. The production ran a total of eight hours and was shown in four different two-hour parts. There were twenty sets of the four-part presentation that enabled the presentation to be viewed in 80 different cities on one day. This required much organization as halls had to be rented, the presentation advertised, etc. The

  • JW_Researcher

    I have a chapter in PDF (893kb) that examines the Photo-Drama as a propaganda piece:

    If you'd like it, PM me.

    Nelson, Richard Alan. (1992). “Propaganda for God: Pastor Charles Taze Russell and

    the Multi-Media Photo-Drama of Creation (1914)." In Une Invention Du Diable? Cinéma Des Premiers Temps Et Religion, ed. Roland Cosandey, André Gaudreault and Tom Gunning, 230-255. Sainte-Foy, Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval, 1992.

  • cabasilas

    Thanks for the links. I'd been to a couple of those before but the one from AGS Consulting led to:

    I think these files will help me piece together the sequence for this CD. I'm glad I have the CD as the downloads for the media files from that site take FOREVER to download!

  • stev

    There was moving pictures of Russell speaking, probably at the beginning and ending and intermission, which was synchronized with the recording of his voice. There were moving pictures of various Bible scenes, during which recorded music was played. Color slides were shown while recordings of the text spoken were played.

    The full Photo-Drama took 8 hours, but there was a shorter version called the Eureka Drama. This might have just been the slides.

    More information on the Photo-Drama can be found in the Watch Tower from that time. It was very expensive, and many volunteers were needed to run the slides, and the moving pictures, and the recordings, etc. It was shown throughout the world to many viewers.

    The Photo-Drama was probably Russell's most ambitious large-scale undertaking, which needed large financial resources and willing volunteers. It is true that there is propaganda mixed in, but it should recognized that was perhaps Russell's most mainstream effort, and much of the music and art was of good quality. It is one of the most positive things about Russell and the early Bible Students. In fact, the Russell's early Bible Students were moving toward the mainstream, and the PhotoDrama is a prime example of the move to gain respectability. The Bible Students/JWs perhaps never equaled the Photo-Drama in popularity, artistic excellence, and effectiveness as a public witness. However, Russell's failed predictions, the confusion surrounding 1914, Russell's death, and Rutherford's rise to power all worked to regrettably reverse this mainstream trend, and the Bible Students became more narrow and eccentric.

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