On November 1, 1920, a four-page, semi-monthly paper devoted to the interests of cinematographers made its initial appearance in Hollywood. Priced at just 15 cents per copy, The American Cinematographer had its roots in two newsletters — Static Flashes and The Cinema News — produced by The Static Club and the Cinema Camera Club, the cinematographer organizations that would later merge and, in 1919, evolve into the American Society of Cinematographers. The publication’s goal was a reflection of the ASC itself: to help educate all motion-picture professionals, and to distinguish the cinematographer’s role in a very collaborative art form.
Ten years later, in 1930, ASC President Hal Mohr described the initial issue of The American Cinematographer as “nothing pretentious, just four pages, 9 by 14 inches, telling the latest developments in cinematography. At the time there was no thought in the minds of those who started it that this paper someday was to become the outstanding magazine devoted to cinematography, professional and amateur, and to practically examine all other technical matters pertaining to the making of pictures.”
In November 1940, upon AC’s 20th anniversary, the ASC’s Board of Governors stated that those first four pages from 1920 have “a news value far beyond that visioned by the men who wrote it. But that is the way with a newspaper or news publication. It is sent to press with an unceremonious ‘Out of my sight,’ with no thought that in a day or two anything contained therein will have interest for a living soul. Then an anniversary gradually approaches. The first number is found, in this case down in a cellar, in a frame the glass of which is broken. It is subjected to examination.”
AC will be conducting just such an examination every month this year, presenting representative stories from each decade, culled from more than 1,200 issues. For the sake of the historical record, these curated articles from AC’s past will be republished as they initially were — complete with their original insights and anachronisms — and should be considered as products of their time.
We begin here, where the story began, with those first four pages (click here for a full-res PDF):
And here’s a look at AC in the
Subscribe to American Cinematographer for access to the complete AC Archive — all 100 years of the magazine’s coverage, including every story referenced in this article.