Time-lapse and Color

The Birth of a Flower (Extract)
K: Percy Smith. P: Kineto. UK 1910
Print: BFI

The Birth of a Flower (1910) was the film that brought Percy Smith firmly into the public eye. Mesmerising time -lapse photography captures the poetry of flowers opening their petals to the light. This was something new and exciting for cinemagoers of the time and it is reported that the film received riotous applause and requests for immediate repeat screenings.
We see the following plants bloom before our very eyes: hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops, neapolitan onion flowers, narcissi, Japanese lilies, garden anemones and roses. Smith modified his cinematography set-up with candle wicks, pieces of meccano, door handles and gramophone needles to film these flowers in motion. He set up a system whereby growth could be filmed even while he slept, a large bell being set to ring and wake him if any part of the process malfunctioned.
The film obtained a remarkable amount of press coverage with newspaper reporters as well as the film trade being entranced by this beautiful display of nature in action. In Smith’s own personal scrapbook an unidentified newspaper journalist states that the film: ‘may be regarded as the highest achievement yet obtained in the combined efforts of science, art and enterprise.'”
Jenny Hammerton
Screen online