Billy Bitzer Rides The Train

Before he became the first cinematographer in Hollywood[land], and before he helped fund D.W. Griffith's Birth of A Nation, Billy Bitzer worked for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in New York, making actualities, basically documentary shorts.

Like this one from 1905, which follows a subway from 14th st to 42nd st. Kottke reports the chatter that it's the Lexington line, which makes sense. I remember reading some plaque about how the Lexington line is the oldest in the city, and was built by excavating the street, then covering it up. Both from the bracing and the ceiling height of the tunnel above, it looks about as old and rickety as a subway could look.

Also, the Biograph offices at the time were at 841 Broadway, at 13th.

And Joshua points out a romantic coda from Alan Weisman's book, The World Without Us: "should humans disappear, Lexington Ave. would shortly cave in (presumably because of the subway), creating a huge river that would flow through the center of the island (again)."

rvr vu! [via tmn]

Billy Bitzer []

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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first published: December 11, 2008.

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