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Leeds Bridge
Graeme Garvey on the day the first camera rolled...

Image shot by Louis le Prince

Clouds scud over Leeds having scraped across the Pennines. Planes ferry into and out of nearby Yeadon Airport. Motorways race vehicles in all directions; round, through and away from this evermoving city. In the daytime, you can stand in City Square and watch the choreographed chaos of people intermingling, each invisibly drawn by ravelling threads. At night, you’ll feel clubland’s beating pulse invade. New buildings are altering the landscape, expressions of confidence in concrete and glass. All is built around a once-lively river which travels almost unnoticed through. A minor inconvenience, to be crossed discreetly, as at Leeds Bridge.
I was there, standing on it, late one August afternoon. A man has made it into a magical bridge.

Out of respect for him, let’s run the next bit as a movie:-
Pan upwards away from the river’s steady ebb and sweep right to the waterside buildings. Focus on an elevated window. Zoom in. Pick up sound from inside the room and cut to view of within.
Now we’ve merged with the past and can see what looks to us like an antiquated camera. The year is 1888. It is autumn. Louis Le Prince is bringing twenty years of painstaking work to fruition. Excited, absorbed, he checks his equipment as the bustling Victorian city hurries about its business. His camera overlooks Leeds Bridge which people are crossing in either direction, briskly. Several horsedrawn carriages traverse it. He speaks to his assistant, then they are ready. The camera starts and they film in rapt silence. In my mind’s eye, colour has faded to monochrome and I can see that famed clip of people and carriages moving jerkily but moving across the bridge. Frozen images, made to flow, have come to life.

Poor Louis, though, choosing to celebrate his adoptive city in some of the world’s first motion pictures, had jealous rivals in America. He also had run up large debts trying to be first to bring the past back to life. Ironically, his mysterious and total disappearance in 1890 from a train travelling between Dijon and Paris, along with all his equipment and films, is perfect cinema. Abduction? Deception?

The diminishing train, without Louis, races on towards Paris but I remain on the bridge, feeling the sunshine on my back. Leaning over the parapet, I watch the waters sliding forever eastward. Everything changes. All the people captured by Le Prince’s camera have long since hurried to their rest. Nothing is fixed … except by movies.

© Graeme Garvey August 2002

Bykeman’s journey- A prince among hillocks
Graeme Garvey
...home once more, he searches for a meaning to the universe, with stimulants which he has kept handy.

© Graeme Garvey July 2002
email:Graeme Garvey

Previously by GG
The Yorkshire Dales

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