Review: The Genius of Photography

'Car Trip, Papa at 80 kilometers an hour' 1913. Jacques-Henri Lartigue was just one of the past masters included in 'The Genius of Photography - Fixing the Shadows' last night BBC4, 9pm.

With no one individual catagorical answer to the question "what is the genius of photography?' it would seem that each episode of BBC4's new series will suggest numerous photographer's own opinions whilst telling a bit more of the story that brings us ever closer to the current state of photography; this week's most prominent belief...

"The secret strangeness that lies beneath the world of appearances... is the true genius of photography."

In an age where everyone is apparently a 'photographer' and in which some "29 billion photographs will be taken" in a year on camera phones alone, I looked forward to this series in the hope that it would replenish my belief that it does indeed take skill (or even genius) to take photagraphs that affect more than just their author.

The first episode 'Fixing the Shadows' was a introduction to the medium itself and how problems of fixing the initial images of the Camera Obscura (to create a print,) were overcome. We then loosely follow the story of the evolution of photography and how it became a medium of the masses; from Louis Daguerre and Fox-Talbot's revelations to the beginnings of Kodak.

A fascinating but brief look at some of the influential figures and founders of a medium that has changed and shaped society more than any other. Whilst the facts were there, there was little depth to explain the true public/media response of what was widely considered a likely end to painting and a 'cheat's' medium.'

I can only hope that this episode was a means by which to bring the viewer up to speed on the discovery/creation of photography rather than an attempt at any in depth analysis. Looking at the descriptions of the next 5 episodes, each hour will delve in more depth into some more specific areas.

I personally look forward to episode 6 'Snap Judgements':
"...the impact of the digital post-production techniques that make anything possible, and looks at the rediscovery of techniques which are taking photography back to the 19th century."

In conclusion, this first installment was a great showcase for some past masters, with some interesting essentials about the inception and evolution of a missunderstood creative phenomenon... I just look forward to more detail from now on!

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