I have found exhibitions at the British Library to be long and laborious to get through in the past… and so I had cleared a few hours in my diary for this one.
But this time, it was more of a case of ‘less is more’. Points of view: Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs was well laid out and you could easily absorb the images without fearing information overload.
I liked the fact that right from its beginning, photography was seen as art. Photographic pioneers took time to composed their shots and also realised that photography could play an very important role in documenting life. Or that it could play an active part the day-to-day life, such as identifying and recording criminals. But mug shots are one thing… the French guy who thought that criminals could be identified by their physical features may have gone a bit too far.
There was an opportunity to see photos of the Prussian war and of London past and present; you could play with early prototypes of 3-D glasses; see how popular photography started with mass processing and competitions; there was an example of one of the first x-ray images.
But the images that made it for me were the “Norfolk Broads” photos from Peter Henry Emerson. A stunning piece of photo documentary. The images so well composed, so beautiful and so telling of an age and a way of life.
Well done the British Library! We want more of the same please.