British photographic history

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BBC4 has a season of photography programmes starting this coming week with a three-part series looking at the history of British photography. Other programmes will look at Harry Burton, the official photographer for Howard Carter’s Tutankhamun excavation during the 1920s; the working practices, lives and opinions of some of the 20th century’s most distinguished photographers; follow street photographer Dougie Wallace around London; and examine the classic family photo album. The season also has a companion exhibition at the National Media Museum Britain in Focus: A Photographic History which will show original photographs from many of the photographers featured in the season. 

Britain in Focus: A Photographic History (three parts, Monday, 6, 13, 20 March, 2017, BBC Four at 2100 

Photographer and picture editor Eamonn McCabe explores the fascinating and remarkable story of British photography, from the rapid innovation of Roger Fenton in the Golden Age of the 19th century, to the satirical eye of Martin Parr in the 21st. He examines the profound technical and scientific changes that have allowed iconic images to be produced, chronicles the rise of a mass democracy of picture taking, and reflects on the changing way we have consumed photographs.

Throughout this three-part documentary series Eamonn sees how the art form has developed, examining some of the unforgettable images from pioneers of British photography, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Fay Godwin, Cecil Beaton, Christina Broom, John Bulmer and Vanley Burke. From the first 'big bangs' of photographic development and early technology, through to the impact that captured images had on the development of journalism, photography emerged as both an art-form and a tool for reflecting and recording the world around us.

The programme will also look forward to the future of the medium - and how in the hands of a new generation of photographers, a thoroughly 21st century British photography is being created.

Clips from the programme can be seen here:

Photographers at the BBC (transmission time to be confirmed)

Using the BBC archive, this programme reveals the working practices, lives and opinions of some of the 20th century’s most distinguished photographers. From Norman Parkinson to David Bailey, Eve Arnold to Jane Bown, for decades the BBC has drawn the nation’s attention to the creators of what has become the most ubiquitous contemporary art form. Pioneering BBC programmes like MonitorFace to Face and Omnibus provide unique and rarely-seen insights into the careers of many leading practitioners.

Through a selection of top photographers, the programme brings into focus the key genres (fashion, portraiture, documentary and landscape) and shows how these talented figures helped develop photography into a revered – and accessible – art form.

What Do Artists Do All Day: Dougie Wallace (transmission time to be confirmed)

Street photographer Dougie Wallace’s startling and eye-catching images capture the life of the inhabitants and visitors to the super-rich residential and retail district of Knightsbridge and Chelsea, with its solid gold-plated Bugatti’s and high end retail consumerism.

BBC Four follows Wallace as he finishes his exhilarating, headline-grabbing photography photo-documentary series ‘Harrodsburg’: an up-close wealth safari capturing the ultra-rich consumers who populate one of the UKs most wealthy and exclusive postcodes.

The recent winner of a Magnum Award for his work, Dougie's images are aggressive, confrontational and opinionated. But he is unrepentant about his methods, and his message: “They come here because the rule is they can do whatever they want. Well, the rule of law in the UK says that I can photograph them. I’m just showing the wealthy, I’m taking pictures of them to highlight things like food banks in Glasgow.”

The Man Who Shot Tutankhamun (transmission time to be confirmed)

This is the story of Harry Burton, one of the great heroes of British photography. As the official photographer for Howard Carter’s Tutankhamun excavation during the 1920s, Burton created some of the 20th Century’s most famous images and helped make Tutankhamun an international sensation.

The film explores key locations in Burton’s life, in the UK and Egypt, and sets Burton’s famous black-and-white images of Howard Carter’s Tutankhamun excavation alongside forgotten colour photographs and cine film shot by Burton himself. The team led by Margaret Mountford and contemporary photographer Harry Cory Wright will also stage creative photographic experiments to discover the secrets of Burton’s art, re-creating the make-shift studio and dark-room that Burton set up by the Pharaoh’s tomb to reveal how he produced his iconic images.

Burton immortalised some of the most iconic moments of the 20th century, and besides recording the progress of the archaeology, his images capture the mystery, drama and excitement of one of the great archaeological discoveries of the century.

Smile! The Nation's Family Album (transmission time to be confirmed)

In today's digital age, the classic family photo album has become an object of nostalgic affection. But its more than just a collection of sentimental snapshots. Celebrating everyday moments and shared experiences - from birthdays to weddings, first days at school to teenage parties - amateur photography offers an intimate portrait of Britain’s post-war social history. And each generation had a different camera to tell their story.

From Teddy Boys in photo booths to family holidays captured on Kodachrome, this film reveals the images and the cameras which preserved our most precious memories. Discovering how new technologies and evolving social attitudes inspired the nation to pick up a camera, the film charts a journey from the Box Brownie to Instagram, offering a touching portrait of our changing lives, taken not by the professional photographer but on our own cameras.

The BBC is also seeking family photographs to accompany the series. See: Full entry guidelines for Smile! The Nation’s Family Album.

Details of the National Media Museum's exhibition Britain in Focus which runs from 25 March until 17 June can be found here

Main image: © John Bulmer, Washing Line, Halifax, 1965, from the National Media Museum exhibition Britain in Focus.

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