From the stere­o­scope to the selfie, a his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy at the V&A

The National - News - - ARTS&LIFESTYLE -

Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria & Al­bert Mu­seum opened its Pho­tog­ra­phy Cen­tre, con­sist­ing of four new galleries, this week, with the ex­hi­bi­tion Pho­tog­ra­phy Spot­light.

Chart­ing two cen­turies of pho­to­graphic his­tory from the early pi­o­neers to dig­i­tal smart­phone snap­pers, the ex­hi­bi­tion “tells the story of pho­tog­ra­phy as a way of col­lect­ing the world, from the medium’s in­ven­tion to to­day,” V&A di­rec­tor Tris­tram Hunt says.

“In an era when every­one’s iPhone makes them a pho­tog­ra­pher, the V&A’s Pho­tog­ra­phy Cen­tre ex­plores and ex­plains the medium in a com­pelling way.”

Vis­i­tors en­ter the ex­hi­bi­tion through an in­stal­la­tion of more than 150 cam­eras that span a pe­riod of 160 years.

Those view­ing the works are also in­vited to han­dle the de­vices and wit­ness the im­prove­ments in tech­nol­ogy – from an 1820s cam­era ob­scura through a 1920s Ko­dak No.2 Brownie to a 1930s Le­ica II rangefinder and 1970s Po­laroid 1000 in­stant cam­era.

Through stereo­scopic view­ers, vis­i­tors can see 3D pic­tures from the 1851 Great Ex­hi­bi­tion at Crys­tal Palace in Lon­don, and some of the ear­li­est pho­to­graphs of Ja­pan.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Spot­light also in­cludes pho­to­jour­nal­ism, with 1930s copies of the United King­dom’s Pic­ture

Post magazine, which dis­plays the harsh re­al­i­ties of war over­seas.

The col­lec­tion in­cludes pic­tures do­nated by Paul McCart­ney, where were taken by his late wife Linda, her­self a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher. The pic­tures also in­clude shots of 1960s stars such as Jimi Hen­drix, The Yard­birds and model Twiggy.

The ex­hi­bi­tion con­tains a se­lec­tion of Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­phy pi­o­neer Wil­liam Henry Fox Tal­bot’s pic­tures and cam­eras, in­clud­ing an 1840s wooden tri­pod cam­era.

The new cen­tre also in­cludes a project space filled with works by Ger­man pho­tog­ra­pher Thomas Ruff, who has dig­i­tally rein­ter­preted Lin­naeus Tripe’s 1850s pa­per neg­a­tives of In­dia and Myan­mar, bring­ing mod­ern de­vel­op­ing tech­niques to the land­mark orig­i­nals.

The cat­a­lyst for de­vel­op­ing the new ex­hi­bi­tion space and open­ing its four galleries was the trans­fer last year of the Royal Pho­to­graphic So­ci­ety’s col­lec­tion of 270,000 pho­to­graphs, 6,000 cam­eras and 26,000 books to the V&A.

The mu­seum’s ar­chive of more than 800,000 pho­to­graphs is now one of the world’s largest and most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of his­toric and con­tem­po­rary pic­tures.

A sec­ond sec­tion of the cen­tre, due to open in 2022, will in­clude a teach­ing space, brows­ing li­brary and a stu­dio for res­i­den­cies by pho­tog­ra­phers.


Cather­ine, Duchess of Cam­bridge, looks at a stere­o­graph as she opens the V&A’s Pho­tog­ra­phy Cen­tre in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day

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