BBC's "The Genius of Photography" is Exceptional and Awesome

Posted by David Ozanich — 24 Nov 2010

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Last night I stumbled upon the six-part series "The Genius of Photography" which has been playing on BBC Four. I cannot overstate how compelling this show is and I recommend that you stop whatever you are doing and watch the first section right now. I promise you'll be hooked. I was up until 2:30 in the morning watching episodes one and two last night.

The first hour-long episode, called "Fixing the Shadows," chronicles the earliest days of photography from the first processes like the daguerreotype to the revolution that occurred when George Eastman introduced the Kodak and suddenly everyone had access to film. Then, in "Documents for Artists," the show begins to examine photography as art in the early 20th century with the likes of surrealist Man Ray and collagist and propagandist Alexander Rodchenko. Chuck Close is among the "talking heads" in the documentary and, when discussing the "dilemma and the strength" of photography says "It's the easiest medium in which to be competent, but it's the hardest medium in which to have personal vision."


Subsequent episodes include "Right Time, Right Place" which considers the role of photojournalism and how our relationship to history has changed since the advent of the camera; "Paper Movies" marks the rise of color in "serious" photography; "We are Family" ruminates on the shift towards photography as a means of revealing the self; and "Snap Judgements" is about the rise of high-priced art photography as well as the advent of the digital age.

You can read more details about each of the shows at the BBC website. They are so packed with fascinating anecdotes and revealing portraits of photographers that I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

The big news is that you don't have to get the BBC to watch the program. They have their own YouTube channel with all six episodes. You can also purchase them on DVD (a great holiday gift idea!) here.

Thanks to JPG Member Sinan YĆ¼zakli for posting this tip.

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