Autochrome portrait of Charlie Chaplin,
Hollywood, Calif., circa 1917 - 1918
Here, 100 years after Chaplin’s Feb. 2, 1914, screen debut (in a 13-minute one-reeler, Making a Living), LightBox shares this surprising, quiet Charles Zoller portrait of the London-born actor, writer and director. Zoller (1856-1934) was a furniture dealer from Rochester, N.Y., who was introduced to the tricky — but hugely rewarding — autochrome process in Paris in 1907, the very year that the Lumiere brothers first marketed the new picture-making technology. In fact, Zoller — whose archive is housed at the Eastman House — might well have been the first amateur American photographer to work with autochromes.
His Chaplin portrait, meanwhile, still transfixes us a full century after it was made. Standing in that quintessential pose, Chaplin might be mulling one of his trademark stunts, or reconsidering the sequence of a critical scene. But what really moves us is not the mystery of what’s on his mind, but the sense that we’re actually there with him, in the California sun, moments before someone (perhaps Chaplin himself) shouts that stirring, cinematic word: Action! (Más)