Unknown Behind the Lens

Having recently spent a day digging through the historic motion picture records of the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the National Archives, I was constantly coming across the name of George R. Goergens. Mr. Goergens began his career as a still photographer and then transitioned into the position of motion picture cameraman when the Moton Picture Division began in 1914. I have found over 80 titles in existence that he lensed from 1914 through 1936. He shot every type of film: industrial, training, and educational films for the Department of Agriculture Federal Extension Service. With titles such as Cotton Manufacturing (1919), Last Days of the Prairie Dog (1920), Dynamite-Concentrated Power (1926), Highways of Peru (1930), his experience in the area of non-fiction film was unparalleled. He was severely injured at least twice in his career, once while filming an explosion at a grain elevator, and once in a biplane crash about the time of WWI. He was not only an accomplished cameraman, but he also held a patent for a high speed motion picture camera. He produced some animation sequences as well as developed time lapse work to show plant and germ growth. He retired in the mid 1940s, and passed away in 1952. George Goergens is another of the pioneering cameramen who while time has long since forgotten, shows us the film industry was developed in many ways, by many people, some famous, some not, but all left their mark.

2 responses

  1. Hi Buckey,

    Great post. It sounds like a fascinating career, and good to be able to publish the information. I want to know more about the life of the professional non-fiction cameraman in the silent era – could you make a living from it, or did you supplement it with other work e.g. still photography? I’d certainly welcome learning more about him. Also, your link to Google Patents reminds me that I have to do a post about locating patents online.

    When you say 80 titles in existence, does that really mean extant titles, or films that he is known to have shot?


  2. Hi Luke,
    First thanks for the nice comment, I am grateful for the opportunity to commit my meanderings to the blog. As far as the cameramen, you know in general, nonfiction, or not, these folks tended to be a most itinerent gorup. Unless you were one of the lucky few to actually be contracted long term so to speak to a studio, most of the work was free lance. So I have seen letters from cameramen in the 130’s lamenting the fact there were few opportunities to gain employment. I know Carl Gregory designed Equipment, and worked as a consultant, he mentioned many of his friends were doing the same.

    George Goergens in going to prove to be a very interesting fellow. He had a long career filming for the Government. I have some notations of travels he made, and other films he shot. Indeed there are 80 films of his listed in existance at National Archives, I imagine he filmed much more than that, but have yet to compile a complete filmography for him.


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