The history of photography, from snapshot to snapshot lifestyle
More than 800.000 experiments, images and photographic projects make the new Victoria & Albert Photography Centre in London; it is one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the world.
The David Kohn Architects studio projects this new wing of the museum, a sensory and interactive space which reviews the history of photography, reliving the essence of every captured moment.
On January 9, 1839, the French Academy of Sciences announced the existence of a photographic process carried out by Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce: the daguerreotype. Months later, on August 19, the French government bought the licence and announced the invention as a “free gift to the world”.
Photography marked a turning point in the history of mankind. Snapshot by snapshot, the new Photography Centre of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London reviews nearly two centuries of the invention. More than 800.000 experiments and images are showcased in a space designed by David Kohn Architects, one of the largest photographic exhibitions in the world.
Photography was a revolutionary invention. It allowed people to be captured and keep what they saw, like a “third eye”, adding to the experiences captured by their very own eyes.
The London art and design museum has been a forerunner in the collection and exhibition of photographs as a historical and cultural relic. A year after Queen Victoria opened the South Kensington Museum in 1857, renamed Victoria and Albert in 1899, the new institution hosted the world’s first photographic exhibition in a museum.
The history of photography up close
Pioneering photographers of colour images such as Agnes Warburg and Helen Messinger, or a more contemporary one in Roger Fenton, captured one day in their cameras with mythical episodes of history, which today are showcased in the ‘Collection of photographs: from daguerreotype to digital”.
Opened in October 2018 by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, this new exhibition doubles the surface area dedicated to photography in the museum. The David Kohn Architects Studio, from the UK, has restored part of the National Gallery from the 1860s and it has inserted intelligent and contemporary elements which refer to both the historical space itself and the history of photography. The Past, present and future of photography through a sensory and interactive experience which starts from the entrance and runs through a total of three galleries.
The first of the rooms hosts the visitors with a reproduction of a dark camera from the 1820s and, even a Polaroid from the 70s. A camera evolution which can be experienced through the viewfinders, since it is possible to handle each of the showcased pieces.
Another 150 cameras, which can be seen up close in briefcases, flank the entrance to the Photography Centre, giving way to Gallery 100. This space has been renamed the Berne and Ronny Schwartz Gallery in recognition to the Berna Schwartz Family Foundation, the first great advocate and precursor of the Photo show.
The space, designed by Kohn Architects, enhances the value of the showcased objects and it immerses visitors in a time capsule. The walls are deep blue under the windows and the built-in arches painted in the 19th century show illustrious scenes and achievements of art history.
Authentic photography treasures
The Victoria & Albert Museum hosts photographs from the 19th century. Early photographic experiments are on show by Julia Margaret Cameron, Frederick Scott Archer and Fox Talbot, who, mounted the 1835 Brass and Wood Mousetrap camera on her tripod; to the images of Steichen and Stieglitz. Warburg, Messinger and Murdoch show the first steps of colour photography, evolving the discipline to the work of Eugène Atget, Man Ray, Bill Brandt, Walker Evans, Edward Steichen, Cindy Sherman, Martin Parr, and Roger Fenton himself.
After the inauguration of the space, the Victoria & Albert Museum has been the curator for special exhibitions. Portraits of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell by the artist Chris Levine and Linda McCartney’s family album.
The singer, Paul McCartney, has donated 63 photographs taken by his wife, Linda McCartney, from 1960 to 1990. He has also given unpublished portraits of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.
The new Victoria & Albert Museum Photography Centre offers courses, workshops and informative talks with a 3600 tour through the history of photography. A museum-visitor interactivity experienced in the Dark Tent, a place for projections and multimedia lectures; or the Light Wall, a space for new acquisitions.
In the second phase of the project, scheduled for 2022, the photography centre will incorporate a library, a photography studio and a dark room, recalling the old dark cameras. Undoubtedly, a stratospheric exhibition about the essential ‘third eye’ in the biggest museum dedicated to art and design in the world.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
London, SW7 2RL, England
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- 1 The history of photography up close
- 2 Authentic photography treasures