British photographic history

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The British Library formally opened it's landmark photography exhibition Points of View last night at a well-attended private view. The exhibiton marks the librarys first ever photographic exhibition. It opens to the public from 9.30am this morning.

At a risk of running out of superlatives Points of View is quite simply the best exhibition that the library has ever put on. It is a large show, but never feels unapproachable. It is well designed and laid out and presents a wealth of the library's treasures. It covers many themes from the photographic history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and will please the specialist historian as well as be accessible for the non-specialist.Although it includes a great deal of material the exhibition does not feel crowded. In fact, I left wanting to see more. The show includes wonderful material that hasn't been seen in other exhibitions from the library's collections supplemented with early cameras and equipment from the National Media Museum. I suspect from what I know of the library'c collections there are many more future shows like this of equal standard, or perhaps more usefully more shows which take some of the themes and approach them in more depth. There are a few minor niggles: there are a couple of areas that look empty and the Kodak section at the end feels like a last-minute addition but these are very minor points and do not detract from the overall exhibition.

Make the effort to see it. This is simply the best photography exhibition in London at the moment and the best for many years. You will not be disappointed. Accompanying the exhibition itself is a wonderful series of public lectures and events, a book by curators John Falconer and Louise Hyde and plenty of souvenirs in the bookshop.

I cannot praise the exhibition enough. I, for one, will be going back several times to re-view it.

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Comment by Michael Pritchard on October 30, 2009 at 19:49
Stephen - there is a book to accompany the exhibition. I will try and do a review perhaps at the weekend. I've a backlog of things to add to the site... Hopefully you'll get chance to see the exhibition itself before it closes in March. All the best. Michael.
Comment by Stephen Bottomore on October 30, 2009 at 16:40
You people are so lucky, living near London! The British Library has many photographs 'hidden away' in its collections, and they are to be congratulated for bringing some of them out for this exhibition -- and, one hopes, for future ones too. The India Office collections alone would be worth an exhibition: there are dozens of albums of 'family' photos which could be shown. Congratulations BL: though I hope you'll publish catalogues too, so that those of us who can't come in person will, at least, be able to see the exhibition(s) in book form.

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