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Centenary Exhibition: Machu Picchu and the Camera

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
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Here's an obscure piece of knowledge for you: Machu Picchu, the spectacularly intact ruins of an ancient Incan city, was re-discovered 100 years ago this year. Which is why the Royal Geographic Society is having this exhibition. They must have been pretty excited about it when the Hiram Bingham, the American explorer sponsored by Yale, re-found the city, so it makes sense that they want to re-live the moment when he shared M.P. with the rest of the world. The RGS being one of the first groups of people to hear about it.
Images from the exhibition
Images from the exhibition

When he arrived at the site, guided by local people who always sort of knew it was there, Hiram Bingham reportedly spent the first few hours just taking photos. And when he returned, a year later on a trip sponsored by the RGS, he took another 2000 photos. And it's both of these sets of images that account for a large part of what you'll see in this exhibition. Along with a few of the photos Bingham shot on his third visit in 1915. It makes for some pretty fascinating imagery: this is how this man, now the discoverer of an ancient Incan city where he might find untold wealth, archaeological and otherwise, saw his discovery.

After Bingham thousands more people have photographed M.P.. Images by Martín Chambi, an important photographer of the 20s and 30s, and Charles Chadwyck-Healey and Hugh Thomson, who are our contemporaries, also appear in the exhibition, but hundreds of thousands of photos that must have been taken by all the countless numbers of visited who've journeyed to Machu Picchu since. So it's quite interesting to see the place through the lens of a man who thought he was the first person to lay his eyes on it in hundreds of years.
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Why? Find out what it was like to be an explorer
When: 7th September - 30th September
Where: Royal Geographical Society 1 Kensington Gore London SW7 2AR
Cost: Free
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