Amateur film has been seen as the junkheap of private culture. Yet music videos recycle home movies as authenticity; commercials copy its style to sell intimacy; documentaries use it to recount history "from below."
Reel Families is the first historical study of amateur film, the most pervasive of media. Patricia Zimmerman charts the history of this medium from 1897 to the present, examining how ideological, technical, and social constraints have stunted amateur film's potential for extending media production beyond corporate monopolies and into the hands of everyday people. She draws on an array of sources—camera manufacturers, patents, early film and photography technology journals, amateur filmmaking magazines, professional magazines, and family-oriented popular magazines—to investigate how the concept of amateur film was transformed within evolving contexts of technology, aesthetics, social relations, and politics.