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Author Topic: "China Girl" Art Exhibit
Mark Lensenmayer
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1605
From: Upper Arlington, OH
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 02-21-2006 10:29 AM      Profile for Mark Lensenmayer   Email Mark Lensenmayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
John P., your work might be here!!
Be sure to see "Booth Scoop" at the end.

China Girl Art Exhibit (Link may expire 2/23/06)

Who's that girl?

CCAD spotlights the secret pin-ups of the movie world
By Melissa Starker

For years, movie projectionists and film lab technicians have had a world of women to themselves. "China Girls," as they're known, were female models paired in a frame with color bars and placed by lab techs on leader, the extra feet of protective film around movie reels that's never meant to be seen by the public.

"It's something that's been going on since the late silent-early sound era," explained Julie Buck, conservator of the Harvard Film Archive's film collection. "They were originally on black and white film to compare black and white density, then before the digital age they were used to compare reels to ensure uniform color."

From the time Buck was in college, she was "kind of obsessed" with the ladies on the leader. Over a two-year period, she collected dozens of them with assistant film conservator Karin Segal.

Together they digitally restored the images and enlarged them for display in Girls on Film, a panoramic photo installation opening this weekend at Columbus College of Art and Design. This city is only the third in the country to host the show, following New York and Boston.

As old, damaged leaders were replaced and tossed at Harvard Film Archive, Buck would retrieve the images of women and hang them in a miniature pin-up gallery of snatched frames, something you'll find in a lot of projection booths. She and Segal, both visual artists working individually outside their archive jobs, decided it was time for the "China Girls" to debut in a real gallery, to get out of the booth and into the limelight.

Through friends working with film in projections booths, other archives and editing bays, Buck and Segal built on their own collection, compiling about 75 models (60 appear in the exhibit).

"I didn't want to mine other people's collections, but occasionally projectionists I know said, 'I have this crazy one-do you want it?'" Buck recalled. "We don't cut prints [at the archive] unless something is being discarded, so it took a long, long time before we had a critical mass of images."

At that point, the frames were scanned and painstakingly restored in Photoshop. "We were trying to get them as idealized as possible," said Buck. They were also thinking movie screen big for the prints (Harvard printed one that takes up a whole wall of Buck's apartment). Instead, the artists chose to format them all to the same easily frame-able size and install the women's pictures in a solid horizontal line like a film strip, suggesting a connection and a narrative between them.

As the project consumed their free time, Buck admitted, "We became so obsessed with them we added ourselves to the show." In full make-up and a dramatic pose, Segal represents one kind of "China Girl," the glamorous type. Buck's off-the-cuff shot represents the other-in her words, "I just work in the lab and someone asked me to pose."

Exactly who most of these women are, however, is a mystery, and part of what has kept Buck fascinated. Their career-specific celebrity is another factor. Though they were unidentified, except by brand name, some of the models were well-known and well-loved among film handlers. As Buck explained, "In one year, one of the standard Kodak girls appeared on film more often than any movie star."

With the exhibition, and an upcoming short film made by Buck and Segal from its images, Buck said their hope is that some of the "China Girls" will come out of the woodwork. So far a few have been identified following the previous exhibit openings and accompanying press coverage, but they're living in other countries. Given the wide, odd assortment of individuals who've gravitated towards Columbus over the years, you never know if a former Kodak girl will rediscover herself at CCAD.

"Girls on Film" is on view February 17 through March 19 at the Canzani Center Gallery at Columbus College of Art and Design. For details, call 224-9101 or click to

Booth scoop

You've peeked at the private pin-ups of projectionists, now get hip to the lingo used in the booth

Print: Ah, good old-fashioned celluloid. Stored as 20-minute reels that are spliced together by the projectionist, the average 35mm feature can weigh upwards of 70 pounds.

Head/Tail: Alternate terms for leader, the removable wrapping of protective film around the beginning and end of a reel. Home to "China Girls" and countdowns.

Platters: Flat metal discs on a motorized spindle that each hold about three hours of film. The low-maintenance system is standard in multiplexes, but film archives and facilities like the Wexner Center don't use platters because they can scratch prints.

Flat/Scope: To the two aspect ratios for projecting screen images. "Flat" is standard wide screen and "Scope" is the even wider Cinemascope. If the stars on screen look shorter and squatter than they should, the movie is being shown through the wrong lens.

Frame up/down: What to yell at the projectionist when the bottom of the image is on the top of the screen and vice-versa. A knob on the projector realigns part of the film path, which moves the line between frames out of sight.

Another link with some pictures is available.

Harvard Gazette China Girl Article

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-21-2006 12:13 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
film archives and facilities like the Wexner Center don't use platters because they can scratch prints.

Grrr. [Mad] Platters scratch film?

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John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 02-22-2006 08:01 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Last July, I attended the opening of the "Girls on Film" art exhibit at the Harvard Sert Gallery with my daughter Katie:


I enjoyed meeting curators Karin Segal and Julie Buck at the opening reception.


FYI, Maureen Darby is the Kodak model who became "LAD Girl", seen on millions of prints around the world for the past 24 years!

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Tim Reed
Better Projection Pays

Posts: 5246
From: Northampton, PA
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 02-23-2006 03:14 AM      Profile for Tim Reed   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: John Pytlak
Maureen Darby is the Kodak model who became "LAD Girl"
Glad you remembered her name! I enjoy knowing things like that.

This young lady has always been my favorite:


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John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 02-23-2006 06:02 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Tim: If you notice, the "General Film" lady is displayed over my shoulder at the Harvard exhibit.

I was in the Kodak Research Lab studio back in 1982 when we shot 800 feet of 5247 for the "LAD Girl" control film. All of the film supplied to labs since then has been made from those original two cans of film -- either as duplicate negatives or using a digital intermediate. Over twenty years later, Maureen's image is still used to assure good color in labs around the world. [thumbsup]

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System Notices
Forum Watchdog / Soup Nazi

Posts: 215

Registered: Apr 2004

 - posted 03-04-2012 12:59 PM      Profile for System Notices         Edit/Delete Post 

It has been 2201 days since the last post.

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

Posts: 4247
From: Bloomington, IN, USA
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 03-04-2012 12:59 PM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Here's a link to a short film that arose out of the "Girls on Film" exhibit.

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