The History Of Photography: Drawn By Light At The Science Museum

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 45 months ago
The History Of Photography: Drawn By Light At The Science Museum ★★★☆☆ 3
Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 167, No. 6, June 1985, Along Afghanistan's War-torn Frontier."The green-eyed Afghan girl became a symbol in the late twentieth century of strength in the face of hardship.  Her tattered robe and dirt-smudged face have summoned compassion from around the world;  and her beauty has been unforgettable.  The clear, strong green of her eyes encouraged a bridge between her world and the West.  And likely more than any other image, hers has served as an international emblem for the difficult era and a troubled nation." - Phaidon 55The iconic image does not stand outside of time.  Rather, it connects with the moment in a deeply profound way.  Such as images are imbued with meaning, a significance that resonates deeply with a wide and diverse audience.  McCurry's photograph of the Afghan girl is one such image.  For many, this beautiful girl dressed in a ragged robe became a worldwide symbol for a nation in a state of collapse.  Haunted eyes tell of an aAfghan refugee's fears. Bannon, Anthony. (2005). Steve McCurry. New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 12.NYC5958, MCS1985002 K035Afghan Girl: FoundNational Geographic, April 2002Iconic PhotographsNational Geographic Magazine, Along Afghanistan's War-torn Frontier, June 1985, Vol. 167, No. 6South Southeast_BookIn the Shadow of Mountains_BookSteve Mccurry_BookLooking East_BookIconic_BookUntold_bookPORTRAITS_APPfinal print_MACROfinal print_Sao Paulo final print_Milan final print_Birmingham Retouched_ Sonny Fabbri 4/8/2014
This is one of the most familiar photographs on display -- a young Afghan girl fixes an intense stare with her green eyes. Copyright Steve McCurry..
This grainy image is actually Leicester Square in 1896. Copyright Paul Martin & National Media Museum.
This grainy image is actually Leicester Square in 1896. Copyright Paul Martin & National Media Museum.
Autochrome_23630, 10/29/14, 3:06 PM,  8C, 5888x8000 (103+0), 100%, Default Settin,   1/8 s, R106.0, G97.0, B97.0
This dramatic picture of a young girl is an example of one of the lesser known photographers represented in the exhibition. Copyright Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O'Gorman.
Ansel Adams is one of the greatest landscape photographers and is represented here with a subtle moonrise over New Mexico. Copyright Ansel Adams publishing rights trust.
Ansel Adams is one of the greatest landscape photographers and is represented here with a subtle moonrise over New Mexico. Copyright Ansel Adams publishing rights trust.
Three Color Carbro print
Photography used as advertising, in this case glamorising the air force. Copyright Nikolas Muray photo archives.
A hippopotamus at London Zoo. One of the earliest uses of photography was to document animal and plant life. Copyright National Media Museum.
A hippopotamus at London Zoo. One of the earliest uses of photography was to document animal and plant life. Copyright National Media Museum.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

We've been impressed by the quality of exhibitions at the Science Museum's Media Space since it opened earlier this year. While previous shows have focussed on very specific topics, the latest opening — Drawn By Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection — covers a much broader subject: using images selected from the archives of the Royal Photographic Society, it aims to cover the entire history of photography.

As well as some great images on display there are strong references to the history of photography, including some early camera models and even some examples of heliographs — a process using light to create images, which pre-dates traditional photography.

One set of images that stood out for us were those of New York by Margaret Bourke-White. We loved the packed Coney Island beach, and visitors sticking their heads out of the Statue of Liberty's crown. Other highlights include Harold Edgerton's capturing of a drop of milk as it impacts on a smooth surface, and Alfred Buckham's The Heart of Empire — a sweeping aerial shot of London.

Drawn By Light tries to cover everything: the history of photography and all the various subjects it captures from documentation to advertising, and fashion through to portraiture. Such a broad remit means things tend to jump around, with no natural flow. Despite there being several great works here, there's a lack of cohesion. This exhibition, therefore, isn't as captivating as previous ones we've seen in this space.

Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection is on in the Media Space, Science Museum until 1 March 2015. Tickets are £8 for adults, £5 concessions.

Also still on show in the Media Space are the photographs on the horrors of poor housing in Make Life Worth Living. While at the Science Museum. check out their new Information Age gallery.

Last Updated 03 December 2014