Hands - Ralph Steiner

Rental Format(s): Digital File

Co-makers: Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke
Production: Works Project Administration
Original format: 35mm silent film 1.33:1
New music: Eric Beheim
Courtesy: National Archives and Records Administration

Educated at Dartmouth, Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) became a successful commercial and much honored fine art photographer. He made perhaps the first American abstract film, H2O (1929), following it with other experiments, some political in nature, some in Hollywood. Steiner also photographed The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and co-directed and photographed The City (1939) with Willard Van Dyke. -Robert A. Haller

Willard Van Dyke (1906-1986), a photographer by age 12, formed in 1932 with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham the pivotal West Coast photography group f/64. Moving East, he became a noted documentary film-maker working closely with Pare Lorentz and Ralph Steiner among others. Hands may be his first completed film. -Robert A. Haller

"Hands" is an ingenious piece of propaganda that communicates not only through the thrust of its content, but through the very unconventionality of its "experimental" structure. The film suggests that the government that produced it is imaginative and inventive, open to new possibilities, and supportive of forms of free expression. -Scott Macdonald

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