See the moving  


The Spectacle of One Mouth Swallowing

The Big Swallow

James Williamson, Great Britain, 1901

As his photographic subject draws nearer, complaining all the while that he doesn’t want to be photographed, the photographer/cameraman (Williamson himself) adjusts his focus in an effort to keep the image sharp—a difficult task with a camera not equipped to adjust adequately to the variable image. His audience probably perceived the resulting instability of the image and perhaps even intuited the cause as the cameraman’s effort to maintain the illusion of a mouth growing so large that it can eat a camera and cameraman. In effect, therefore, his trick was exposed in his very effort to pull it off, and although Williamson thus admits that photographic imagery can lie, his viewers could assume control over what they saw even while accepting its power to trick and amuse them: they merely needed to accept the illusion by ignoring both the trick (thereby confirming that the screen is a magical place) and the strictly rational world (thereby accepting the premise that an impertinent cameraman can indeed be devoured in a single swallow).

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