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HISTORY OF A NATURAL

September 27, 2012

When David Attenborough joined the BBC, 60 years ago this September, Britain had only one television channel. Cameras had to be wound up like a clock and could only film live or in 20-second bursts. There was no way to capture sound and vision at the same time, or to broadcast from anywhere but the studio. Attenborough, like most people, did not own a television set; he thinks he had seen only one programme in his life. He had applied for a job in radio, as a talks producer, and been turned down, and it was only by chance that his CV was seen by a television executive, the head of factual broadcasting, Mary Adams. She gave him a chance—but when he first went in front of the camera, she said his teeth were too big.

By 1956, Attenborough had persuaded the BBC to let him try a new way of filming—from and of the natural world. With only a cameraman and animal expert for company, he would go off for months to remote lands in search of rare beasts. In Borneo, some days’ walk from civilisation, he was on the trail of orangutan when he spied a man paddling up the river, wearing only a sarong and bearing a message tucked in a cleft stick. It was from the BBC, giving instructions on how to use their new toy: colour film. What started in a makeshift fashion with “Zoo Quest” matured over the decades into “Life on Earth”, “The Private Life of Plants”, “Life in Cold Blood”, “Frozen Planet” and many more. With Attenborough, the phenomenon of natural-history film-making was born.

Excerpt from an article written by Samantha Weinberg at Intelligent Life. Continue HERE

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