Photo: A History From Behind the Lens

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Photo: A History From Behind the Lens is an elegant documentary that follows the vast history of photography. Made for French television, this six-hour, 12 part program breaks down the process of photography and examines the creative role it plays in real life. Starting from the very beginnings of photography, Photo explores the experimental development of the craft during the early 20th century before moving into the modern and digital world of photography. Various forms are mentioned, including conceptual photography, pictorialism, and digital illusion.

Photo: A History From Behind the Lens gives a further insight into the art of photography by analyzing both American and European pioneers and the effect they had on modern photography.

RLJ Entertainment
1 Season, 12 Episodes
December 13, 2009
Documentary & Biography
Photo: A History From Behind the Lens

Photo: A History From Behind the Lens Full Episode Guide

  • Since the invention of the digital camera, photographers have both embraced and rejected the art of digital illusion. Some photographers "perfect" reality with photo manipulation software, while others distort images to heighten their unreality. Still others return to the simpler technology of pinhole cameras.

  • Most of the estimated 350 billion pictures taken since the beginning of photography in the early 19th century have no artistic merit or intent. But that hasn't stopped these so-called found photos from being used as raw material for new forms of photomontage.

  • The breakthrough of daguerreotypes encouraged people to commission portraits, or "likenesses," as they were known. Because subjects had to pose for hours, few children featured in these early photographs. For the daguerreotype, the ideal portrait subject was a dead one.

  • The act of photographing one's private world affirmed the importance of a subjective point of view in images captured for the photographer's personal use. Taking the camera into places out of bounds to others made the rest of us voyeurs.

  • A wind of madness swept over European photography in the 1920s. Verticals and horizontals were abandoned, as were the rules of perspective handed down since the Renaissance. With its unexpected vantage points, the New Vision saw the diagonal as the axis of modernity.

  • Pictorialists responded to the nostalgia for hand-produced paintings and the rejection of art generated by machines. Endeavoring to free themselves from the camera's mechanical objectivity, they relied on laboratory work as much as the shot itself for inspiration.

  • As photography escaped the rigidity of its rectangular format, magazines covered everything from the Dustbowl to New York nightlife to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. To avoid being overtaken by television, photography relied on unique images that created vivid memories.

  • To tell a story better, photographs were scripted, executed, and then assembled by computer. Reality became a construction process in which all were free to follow their own imaginations.

  • The Dusseldorf school of the 1960s sought to preserve the memory of a disappearing world as the industrial landscape began to change. Its rigorous documentary style eliminated all elements of subjectivity, though the school's need to control images led to digital manipulation.

  • As photographers looked at the world with an artist's eye, photography became a new means to interpret reality. In this golden age between photography's invention and its transformation into an industry, war was a new topic for documentation.