On the 21st of July 2007 I was lucky enough to get my hands on a piece of movie memorabilia estimated at £90,000. What it actually signified in terms of cinema history is much harder to quantify. It was part of a pre-auction exhibition at Christie’s in London, and it was the camera on the podium that was the prized piece.

This Bell & Howell 2709 belonged to Charlie Chaplin and was used on films from Shoulder Arms in 1918 and into the 1920s. This camera then would have therefore been involved in such films as The Kid (1921) and The Gold Rush (1925). These very lenses were witness to scenes that have become so embedded into our consciousness (even if you haven’t actually seen them), it’s quite difficult to imagine that these classics ever had to be made at all.

I was lucky enough to look through the very eyepiece Chaplin would have looked through to judge a scene. I also had a chance to crank the handle itself. I would describe it as having a steady, fluid motion about it which was surprisingly compelling.

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