Tag Archives: Documentary

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


War Photography – Genius of Photography

The recording of war and how people were effected was changed by the use of photography.

The First World War was when photography was widely used to record the true horror and what life was like at war.  The conditions the soldiers lived in, the informal moments and the effects of war and the injuries.

Images of war was traditionally captured by war artists and these paintings could be influenced by the army that commissioned the paintings, details could be missed and for reasons of moral and propaganda, a more optimistic picture could be painted.

The use of the camera made it possible for soldiers that could not draw to be able to capture the images of war, from the everyday life in the trenches, to the results of barrages and combat.  Films could be easily sent back home to be developed and printed, or kept in a soldiers kit bag to be brought home later.

The use of photography in war could also be used by newspapers.  The use of photography in newspapers required censorship, photography became used as a means of spreading propaganda.  Photographs of happy soldiers going off to battle, the scenes of victory.  What was often not shown was the armies defeated at battles, large numbers of dead and dying troops.

Famous 2nd World War photojournalist Robert Capa.  He got very close to the action and recorded the troops lives and deaths.

Robert Capa


Photographs of war have been used as evidence to aid the conviction of military and political leaders of war crimes.

2nd World War photographs were taken Henryk Ross by occupants of the Jewish ghetto showing people living their day to day lives in Poland.   Some of these photographs were later used as evidence to prosecute war criminals.  The photographs also showed what life was like for some of the Jews.  Parties and social gatherings, children playing, the ghetto life was not all grim as had been conveyed.  This does not alter the fact that the rise of Nazism and the unbelievable cruelty is deniable, just that there were times captured on camera people getting on with their lives.



Vile Bodies

A 1998 Channel 4 documentary series about photography and the body.

In this documentary many questions and observations were raised about “People watching” points raised included views and interviews with Jenny Saville, John Coplans, Joel Peter Witkin, these people have a reputation for seeking out and creating pictures of people with imperfections.

Jenny Saville – British painter known for paintings of people, she paints people ‘Warts and all’

John Coplans – British photographer, painter, writer.

Joel Peter Witkin – American photographer. His work often deals with images of death, corpses, and various outsiders such as dwarves, transsexuals and physically deformed people.

The program raised issues about what we presume and assume so much more from our bodies, what message do we actually project or want other people to see versus actually and what do other people see. Perfect face, perfect body.  Also the signals.

The program also investigated the place of the photographer and how they capture and project images of the body.

What makes the perfect body, flawless, featureless.  Do imperfections add interest and character.  At what point does imperfections become voyeuristic and considered ‘bad taste’, freak show or even taboo and not to be viewed.  Plays on peoples fear of mortality, old age, death, disfigurement and deformity.

“The principal thing is the question of how our culture views age: that old is ugly. Take a photographer like Mapplethorpe. Every single photograph of his is about classical notions of beauty, of young beautiful black men, young beautiful women, and he selects subjects who are essentially interesting and good-looking and extremely physical. I can’t stand them.” This quote by John Coplans (http://www.photoquotations.com/a/159/John+Coplans) describes well the fact that he finds much more interesting to look at old or imperfect bodies than the beautiful young ‘perfect’ bodies while others will find young fit bodies beautiful and the old are ugly.

Jenny Saville “There is a thing about beauty. Beauty is always associated with the male fantasy of what the female body is. I don’t think there is anything wrong with beauty. It’s just what women think is beautiful can be different. And there can be a beauty in individualism. If there is a wart or a scar, this can be beautiful, in a sense, when you paint it.” http://www.azquotes.com/author/44289-Jenny_Saville

Daily Telegraph review of Vile Bodies http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4712702/A-body-of-work.html