Monday, 15 February 2010

"Points of View - Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs"

This exhibition at the British Library opened on 30 October 2009 'til 7 March 2010, and was on my list of things to do, so I thought I'd better do it!
It starts with the obvious - the invention of photography and the various methods developed for capturing images. There are a couple of videos showing how labour intensive this all was. It then moves on to show how photography was used throughout the 19th century:

  • To record the growing interest in ancient civilisations, and there are some fantastic shots of Egypt, India and Burma
  • Anthropology, to record medical specimens and compare ethnic groups for research and teaching
  • Potraiture - this was primarily wealthier households who began to compile family albums
  • Panoramic imagery - fairly crude but impressive nonetheless
  • Muybridge sequences which were hailed as the precursor to the moving image
  • War and its aftermath, eg the Crimean
  • Urban renewal eg the construction of the Crystal Palace
The final section is callled 'photography for all' and illustrates the impact that Kodak had on making photography more accessible to the masses.

What have I learned?
I noticed that there were no examples of photography purely for art's sake, so I suppose that back in the 19th photography was more purposeful. Possibly due to the time and costs involved in producing each image?

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