If you’re a fan of documentary series in the style of Planet Earth, then I have found your next show to binge, courtesy of Netflix. Tales by Light is a mesmerizing visual masterpiece that focuses on photographers, and narrated are the attempts to capture a perfect image. If you’re anything like me, when you’ve come across a particularly affecting or powerful image, you’ve wondered what it was like to capture it. I’ve asked myself if the picture was staged and how, how many frames were taken before that one special snap finally came to be, under what conditions the picture was taken, and so on. I’ve also wondered about that name in the corner or along the side of the photograph and who that person is. We know names like Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus, Anne Geddes, and Robert Mapplethorpe, but most photographers are unknown to us. This Australian documentary series introduces us to talented photographers and also shows us what it takes to take a great picture.
If you are a die-hard photography fan or are a practitioner of the trade you will likely be let down by this series, as I noticed in many of the reviews I read. If, like me, you are someone who enjoys and appreciates good photography but you can’t say you know much about lenses or equipment, then this series will be much more enjoyable to you. I believe this show was specifically created for people like us. It doesn’t hurt that the cinematography of the show is breathtaking and as beautifully shot as the images themselves. The show is also masking as a travel series, spanning the globe from Antarctica to Papua New Guinea, so if you have a bad case of wanderlust like me, then this show will really speak to you.
My only complaint is that the episodes are quite short. 20 minutes long in the first season, to be specific, and I was constantly left wanting so much more. The show in essence is very much like Chef’s Table, with photography swapped in for cooking. We get an extensive, yet not comprehensive, array of photography types and subjects, but with lots of room to go from the 6 episodes which make up this season. From ocean and underwater photography, to festivals and rituals in South Asia, passing through indigenous tribes in Southeast Asia, and even the world of extreme sports, there is something for everyone here.
I thoroughly enjoyed each episode and was impressed by the shots, the passion, and the visuals that accompanied it. I have already begun to recommend the show to friends of mine, and I eagerly await the next season, which has already aired in Australia, even though it’s only three episodes long, but the fact that each episode is now an hour in length, I have a lot of hope.