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A History Of The World According To Getty Images

An extraordinary amount of human history — cultural, scientific, artistic — is held in private hands, unable to be viewed or used unless a steep price is paid. In his compelling short film A History Of The World According To Getty Images, director Richard Misek takes a look at several historical films that are in the public domain but are not publicly available…you have to pay thousands of dollars to companies like Getty Images to see and use them.

‘A History of the World According to Getty Images’ is a short documentary about property, profit, and power, made out of archive footage sourced from the online catalogue of Getty Images. It forms a historical journey through some of the most significant moments of change caught on camera, while at the same time reflecting on archive images’ own histories as commodities and on their exploitation as ‘intellectual property’.

As the largest commercial image archive in the world, Getty Images is particularly worthy of attention here. Many of the defining images of the last century — for example, the Apollo moon landings and the first breach of the Berlin Wall — are owned by Getty. These images live in our heads, and form a part of our collective memory. But in most cases, we cannot access them, as they are held captive behind Getty’s (as well as many other archives’) paywalls.

I found his comments about filmmaking, photography, and power really interesting:

Newsreel cameras document power. But what strikes me most about my exploration of the Getty archive is how much the act of filming is itself an expression of power — men filming women, the rich filming the poor, colonizers filming the colonized. […] Whenever I search a news archive, I always hope I’ll find some images that aren’t about power, and once in awhile I do. But by and large, the past offers no surprises, as it is the source of all the inequalities and injustices that still exist.

Once the film finishes the festival circuit this summer, a high-resolution download will be available from this website, thereby making six public domain clips available online for free. (via aeon)