Chomón, Segundo de


Chomón, Segundo de
(1871-1929)
   An inventor and master of trick photography, Segundo de Chomón was one of the true pioneers of Spanish cinema. He has been called "the Spanish Meliés," and indeed his most enduring impact was in the creation of magical effects (which is what cinema was all about in the beginning) in the first two decades of the film industry, although he also had a career as a producer and became one of the first film industrialists, bridging the gap between the French and Spanish film industries at the beginning of the 20th century.
   He arrived in Paris in 1895, just in time to see the earlier manifestation of the Lumière brothers invention. His first job in the primitive film industry was for George Méliès and the Pathé Brothers company, hand-painting frames to produce color effects in early films. He even invented a device, called a pochoir, to speed up the process. In 1902, he returned to Spain as a representative of Pathé, producing a long series of documentary shorts and fictions (he had a preference for fantasy and fairy tales) with a camera he made himself, thus working in two lines of cinematic development: the creation of illusion and the recording of reality. Between 1905 and 1909, he worked again in Paris, and his films became extremely popular: he was regarded as one of the most skilled technicians of the age and took part in many successful productions. In this period, he produced his most inventive work, including the use of primitive tracking shot as early as 1907.
   Some of Chomón's special effects have become legendary, as evidenced in the remarkable Electric Hotel (1908), in which inert objects were brought to life through visual trickery. Also in Paris, he came into contact with artistic movements that prefigured surrealism. In 1910, after making a small fortune, he decided to set up his own company back in Barcelona. The enterprise did not work as well as he had intended, and in November of that year he was working again for Pathé. His reputation remained strong, and he was called upon to design trick photography for one of the first big European epics, Giovanni Pastrone's Cabiria (1914) (among other productions with the same director, including the stories about the legendary prehistoric hero Maciste). He settled in Paris again in 1923. His last important participation was as trick photographer for Abel Gance's Napoleon (1926). The following year, he made his last contribution for a dream sequence featuring a giant ape in Benito Perojo's El negro que tenía el alma blanca (The Black Man Who Had a White Soul).

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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