Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
BBC Radio 3's The Essay is running a series of five programmes each evening between 16-20 February 2015 at 2245, under the banner of 'The Five Photographs that (you didn't know) changed Everything'. The photographs being discussed are not generally found in the history books; they are not generally art; and the photographers who made them are not generally known beyond a small coterie of photographic historians.
The five photographs discussed in this series of essays changed the way we see ourselves and our place in the world. They had an enormous impact in the fields of medicine, architecture, astronomy, law and cultural history. The series has been supported and developed in association with De Montfort University's Photographic History Research Centre and The Royal Photographic Society.
The programmes, with their provisional transmission dates are:
Monday 16th February.
1. A woman’s left hand. Kelley Wilder on the x-ray that changed medicine.
The photograph of Anna Bertha Ludwig Rontgens left hand taken in 1896 astounded the scientific world and alarmed the public. For the scientists it signalled the beginning of medical radiography. For the public it gave rise to fears about intrusion and privacy in much the same way as the introduction of the TSA body scanner did in 2007. From medical imaging to airport security, Kelley Wilder shows how x-ray photography changed the world.
Kelley Wilder is Reader in Photographic History, De Montfort University, Leicester
Tuesday 17th February.
2. . Draper’s Nebula. Omar Nassim on how a photo of space changed our view of the universe and our place within it.
Today high-resolution photographs of nebulae or galaxies saturate our culture to such an extent that they are almost kitsch. But when Henry Draper took the very first pictures of a nebula in 1880 it was one of the greatest achievements of photography. Omar Nasim tells the story of how this photograph defied the imagination and raised questions not just about the size of the universe but about the very origins of humanity.
Omar Nasim is lecturer in the School of History at the University of Kent.
Wednesday 18th February.
3. . The Dogon. Jeanne Haffner on how aerial photography changed the spaces we live in. The birds-eye photograph of the Dogon tribe working their fields in Mali was taken by the French Africanist Marcel Griaule. He’d trained in aerial photography during the first world war and he argued that the Dogon landscape, seen from the air, revealed the patterns and secrets of the lives of its inhabitants, patterns which could teach Western city planners and architects how to build a happier society.
Jeanne Haffner is lecturer in the Department of History and Science at Harvard University.
Thursday 19th February.
4. The Broom cottages. Elizabeth Edwards on the photo that changed the way we see ourselves.
The man who took the photo, W. Jerome Harrison, launched a scheme for recording the country’s past in which amateur photographers up and down the land took pictures of the buildings which were important them. Wiki-buildings and English Heritage do this now on a much grander scale. But Elizabeth Edwards argues that the mass participation of people in defining what matters about the past began with Harrison, and changed the way in which a nation viewed itself.
Elizabeth Edwards is Research Professor of Photographic History and Director of the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester
Friday 20th February.
5. The Tichbourne Claimant. Jennifer Tucker on the photo that changed the law.
In 1863 a butcher sat for his photograph in the remote town of Wagga Wagga, Australia. Three years later this likeness had Britain transfixed. Jennifer tucker tells the story of how it was central to the longest legal battle in 19th century England, and sparked a debate about evidence, the law, ethics and facial recognition that has continued ever since.
Jennifer Tucker is Associate Professor of History and Science in Society at Wesleyan University, USA
The programmes will be available on the BBC iPlayer after transmission.
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