The American photographer Garry Winogrand said that he took photographs to "see what the world looked like photographed". Photographers have always had this as their mission statement, but the three decades from the late 1950's onwards was the real golden age of the photographic journey. The Genius of Photography -- Paper Movies relives the journeys that produced some of the most acclaimed paper movies. The programme takes a fascinating look at Robert Frank's odyssey through 50s America, William Klein's one-man assault on the sidewalks of New York, Garry Winogrand's charting of the human comedy in Central Park Zoo, Tony Ray Jones's dissection eccentricity at the English seaside, and finally, William Eggleston's guide to Memphis and the American South. Episode four of the series also examines the arrival of colour as a credible medium for serious photographers, as controversial at the time as Dylan going electric.
The final programme, The Genius of Photography - Snap Judgements, asks what a photograph is worth these days. One answer is .9m, the record-breaking price achieved by an Edward Steichen print auctioned at Sotheby's in February 2006. The other answer is around 1/29th billionth of that figure based on the calculation that some 29 billion photographs will be taken in 2006 by phone cameras alone. Photography has never been so valuable and so ubiquitous. From America to China and on to Africa, the programme examines how the business of being a photographer has been changed by the market's sudden interest in what was once the poor relation of the art world.
Having conquered the street and the road, photographers approached the final frontier: the family and the self. The Genius of Photography -- We are Family is about what happens when photography translates personal relationships into photographic ones, when strangers, celebrities, lovers and children get fed to the camera. It's also about what happens when photographers turn their cameras on themselves—what they choose to reveal, and just what they try to conceal.
The chronological heartland of the programme is the me decades of the 1970's and the 1980's. From Diane Arbus's freaks (we meet Colin Wood, the manic boy clutching the hand grenade in Central Park) to Richard Avedon's confrontations with celebrities like Marylin Monroe, from the confessional diaries of Larry Clark and Araki, to the uncomfortably intimate family portraits of Sally Mann and Richard Billingham, the series takes a photographic journey into some of the most intriguing ideas of the photographic self, including an unforgettable encounter as Nan Goldin photographs Joey the transsexual.
In the decades following the First World War, photography was the central medium of the age. "Anyone who fails to understand photography", said the Hungarian artist and photographer Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, "will be one of the illiterates of the future". Precise, objective, rational and apparently machine-like, it was used to promote the radical utopia of the Soviet Union and to bring order and clarity to the chaos of Weimar Germany. But while some prized photography for its ability to objective documents others were using it to explore the irrational, the subjective and the surreal, photography's natural language. The Genius of Photography - Documents for Artists examines in detail the work of some of the greatest and most influential modern photographers: Alexander Rodchenko, August Sander, Man Ray, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans and Bill Brandt. With contributions from Martin Parr, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joel Meyerowitz and Mark Haworth-Booth.
Being in the right place at the right time, the decisive moment, getting in close — in the popular imagination this is photography at its best, a medium that makes us eyewitnesses to the moments when history is made. But just how good is photography at making sense of what it records? Is getting in close always better than standing back, and just how decisive are the moments that photographers risk their necks to capture? Set against the backdrop of the Second World War and its aftermath, The Genius of Photography - Right Place, Right Time examines how photographers dealt with dramatic and tragic events like D-Day, the Holocaust and Hiroshima, and the questions their often extraordinary pictures raise about history as seen through the viewfinder. With contributions from Magnum legends Philip Jones Griffiths and Susan Meiselas, soldier-lensman Tony Vaccaro and broadcaster Jon Snow.