Someone on my course just emailed around news of a six-part series on the history and culture of photography. The first episode is on BBC4 this Thursday at 2100:
Photography first came to life in Venice where Abe Morell used bin-liners and masking tape to turn a room into a camera – but the images created were transitory.
Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre discovered how to ‘fix the shadows’ to produce permanent images and at that moment photography was born.
Fixing the Shadows follows the birth of photography through to the age of mass photography triggered by the creation of Kodak by George Eastman.
I’m currently writing an essay comparing two published histories of photography. It involves concentrating more on what’s missing than what’s actually there, though, and I’m somehow learning little history in the process. This series should be very helpful.
My favourite moment in the early history involves Fox Talbot on his honeymoon, trying to paint an Italian lake. He used a camera lucida, an optical device that superimposes a reflected image of the scene onto the drawing surface, and produced the following:
To which he thought “this is shit”, and invented photography instead1. I can identify with this mindset.
BBC4 are kicking ass at the moment. Their recent Comics Britannia series is sitting on my Toppy waiting for a spare few hours, but what I’ve seen so far has been great.
- this is normally written as ‘found the results disappointing, but we know what they mean [↩]