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.

Product placement


This photograph shows Joseph De Frenes, cameraman for the Charles Urban Trading Company, filming in Africa around 1908. De Frenes is using a hand-cranked Urban Bioscope camera, and the camera case with the product’s name is placed prominently in this publicity photograph for use in the company’s catalogues and promotional literature. De Frenes was an Austrian who filmed with three of the most notable creators of travel films in the early period of cinema: Burton Holmes, Lyman Howe and Charles Urban. He was Urban’s head cameraman when they made the celebrated Kinemacolor film of the 1911 Delhi Durbar ceremonies. After the First World War he established his own film business, which ran successfully for decades.