Genius of Photography

The Genius of Photography, a BBC documentary series from 2006.  The programs are about the history and social impact of photography.91ttgl2bjxul-_sy679_

The program record the early development of photography by Fox Talbot in 1834 and Louis Daguerre in 1839.  Bothindependently invented photographic process that enabled the creation of an image without having to draw or paint.

Photography was discovered at a time where industrialisation and mechanisation was taking off, scientific discoveries and inventions were increasing rapidly.  Photography had is role in all of these helping scientific understanding such as movement by a series of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge  who took a series of photographs to show how horses (1879), animals and people move.

Photography as a form of capturing and documenting details and recording architecture, nature, people and places, industrial buildings.

The role of photography has been used to carefully record and catalogue pure documents, just the facts, no artistic interpritation or emotional involvement, pure observation, so that things can be compared.  This is called Typology, it has been used in industrial photography .

August Sander attempted human typology, he was an obsessive collector of photographs of people, he had 7 types of photographs, he took for farmers: the farmer, children with mother, person at work, head person, members of family at sport.  His style of framing was consistant so that a baker could be comapred with grocer or a farmer.

How photography has been used to for documenting events, social, political, acts of war and acts of peace and natural disasters or acts of aggression or terrorism, travel and touristic sites of interest. A vehicle for propaganda.

It has become a major method of capturing and spreading news event stories with photojournalism.

Photography used to record facts and evidence used in criminal cases from such things as war crimes to forensic evidence.

It has become democratising as photography moved from the elitist specialist individual, professional or keen amateur to the mass population being able to own a camera and take pictures.  This came about by the mass production of cheap cameras and roll film invented by George Eastman who created the “Kodak” company.

The importance people put on photographs to keep memories of members of families and friends, holidays and parties and great moments in history that are recorded not just by the professional by many people.

The series explores photography that developed into an art form from the eraly days of photography.  It discusses some of the creative and inventive photographers such as Man Ray and his experimental darkroom techniques, the photograms he created and how it became part of the Dada and surrealist art movement.  The development process solarisation that Man Ray created.

The programs discusses how photographers have been inspired by artists, the places and views, style and composition.  Photographers have created similar works, and how in doing so tell different stories within their pictures, “transforming what it describes” What is included in a picture and what is left out, capturing a moment in time. photographers such as Andre Kertesz

The socialist political movement of Russia, the role of photography was declared to replace the subjective nature of art and painting.  The photograph was the harsh reality.  The photographer Alaxander Rodechenko was a new society socialist photographer using small light weight Leica cameras and easy to use and frame pictures through a viewfinder. Rodenchenko created montages combining several images together to make compositions to represent ideas and in his case for propaganda.

Eugène Atget a French photographer recorded and documented the streets, business and buildings of Paris from 1897 until his death in 1927.  He wanted to create a record of Paris and how it changed over time, as buildings were torn down and replaced. Atget used old photographic equipment and processes that were popular in the 1850s, Atget did not learn or adopt modern developments in photography.  For this reason the 1000’s of photographs he took all have the same qualties and style.

Walker Evans an American photographer was a prodergy of Atget.  He was influenced by his style to catalogue and capture carefully images of America.  In 1930s he was commisened by the US government FSA to take propoganda documentary photographs to support resettlement of Americans following the dust bowel disaster


Episode 1 – Fixing the shadows. Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Eadweard Muybridge

Episode 2 – Documents for Artisits – First World War, Machines, Atget, Man Ray, Walker Evans, Rodechenko

Episode 3 – Photojournalism

Episode 4 – Paper Movies

Episode 6 – Snap Judgements


allege  lee miller


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