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Most early filmmakers—such as Thomas Edison, Auguste and Louis Lumière and Georges Méliès—tended not to use close-ups and preferred to frame their subjects in long shots, similar to the stage. Film historians disagree as to which filmmaker first used a close-up. One of the best claims is for George Albert Smith in Hove, who used medium close-ups in films as early as 1898 and by 1900 was incorporating extreme close-ups in films such as As Seen Through a Telescope and Grandma's Reading Glass. In 1901, James Williamson, also working in Hove, made perhaps the most extreme close-up of all in The Big Swallow, when his character approaches the camera and appears to swallow it. D. W. Griffith, who pioneered screen cinematographic techniques and narrative format, is associated with popularizing the close up with the success of his films. For example, one of Griffith's short films, The Lonedale Operator (1911), makes significant use of a close-up of a wrench that a character pretends is a gun. Lillian Gish remarked on Griffith's pioneering use of the close-up:

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