Robert Kates Bonine

Robert K. Bonine, 1920 (Image source: Educational Film Magazine) American cameraman, photographer

Bonine came from Altoona, Pennsylvania and was a noted photographer of ten years' experience when he first worked for Edison in 1898. In June 1899 he was hired again by Edison, which had done a deal with the Klondike Exposition Company for the exploitation of films showing the Alaskan gold rush. Bonine left for Alaska in the company of Klondike entrepreneur Thomas Crahan and took a number of films. Returning in October it was discovered that faulty registration had rendered the results quite unwatchable. Crahan was unable to use the films as promotions for the region at the Paris Exposition as he had intended, and both Edison and the Klondike Exposition Company lost heavily on the deal. Bonine moved over to Biograph, filming in Japan and China for them in the summer of 1901, then settling as chief cameraman at Biograph until 1903, during which time he also travelled to England to film the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. He rejoined Edison in January 1905, where he specialised in travel scenes, notably the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake, Hawaii and the Panama Canal, then under construction. He continued to take still photographs for himself as well as Edison films, and subsequently gave illustrated lectures on his travels. Feeling isolated by the growth in popularity of fiction films and the declining market value of the actuality film, the disillusioned Bonine left Edison in May 1907 and was not replaced. After a photographic world tour he settled in his much loved Hawaii, where he continued as a filmmaker and photographer.

Luke McKernan