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Mitchell and Kenyon: Employees Leaving Alexandra Docks (1901)


Main image of Mitchell and Kenyon: Employees Leaving Alexandra Docks (1901)
Mitchell and Kenyon 409: Employees Leaving Alexandra Docks, Liverpool
35mm, black and white, silent, 167 feet
Production CompanyMitchell and Kenyon
Commissioned byRalph Pringle

Dockworkers leave Liverpool's Alexandra Docks at the end of another shift.

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At the turn of the 20th century, dockyards like Liverpool's Alexandra Docks were the envy of the world. During this time Liverpool's dock and others in Britain were twice as lucrative and productive as their American counterparts.

The recently rediscovered work of pioneering filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon includes some 124 films capturing employers and employees exiting their factory or works. Known as a 'factory gate' film, this example is one of some 170 films that Mitchell and Kenyon were commissioned to make by 'stand-alone' showmen, in this case Ralph Pringle. Pringle, like other showmen of the time, worked independently, exhibiting in venues like town halls. He was manager of the Liverpool-based North American Photo Company, which commissioned Mitchell & Kenyon to produce a series of films of local interest. This particular film would have been shown as part of a larger programme of entertainment, exhibited to the workers, their family and friends, who would have paid for the chance to see themselves on film.

At first glance there is no indication that the location in the film is even the entrance to the Liverpool dockyards. The male workforce leaves amidst the hustle and bustle of heavy-duty carts, stacked high with cotton bales. The men weave themselves through the oncoming traffic towards the camera, their hard day's labour etched in their faces. The human activity on the street and never-ending traffic continues undeterred by the camera's presence.

The large scale of the dockland operation is not at all clear from the limited entrance view provided here by the cameraman. Like the majority of Mitchell and Kenyon's commissioned work, the emphasis is on capturing as many of the faces of these potential filmgoers as possible as they go about their everyday business.

Rebecca Vick

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Mitchell and Kenyon 409 (3:39)
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