May 12, 1894 [The Barbershop]

The customer arrives, receives his shave and haircut; another customer smokes, reads his paper, chats, laughs. The attendants circle, the everyday event rapidly unfolds.

I'm in a barbershop every two weeks, and I know every detail. But Edison's Black Maria Studio composes the event like a swift and balanced melody, allegro for tonsorial delights. It does not ask me to observe more than I already know—but unlike the ghost-park of the camera obscura, the barbershop is not merely displayed but framed and orchestrated. The men seem almost to dance to an unheard song.

The familiar, then, dominates—but is made extra-familiar, action becoming performance. The theater is making its way into the peephole.


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