2017-2018 Catalog

ARTH 287 History of Photography

What is a photograph? Is it a "document" or a "work of art"? Who makes a photograph and for whom does s/he make it? How and where do photographs circulate? What effect does the context in which a photograph is viewed have on its meaning(s)? Designed as a selective history of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries, this course revolves around questions like these (although these are not the only issues we will explore), regarding the nature and function of photography in modern culture. Through thematic lectures, a wide-ranging list of readings, and in-class discussion, we will explore the medium from multiple perspectives. Students will develop the critical skills they need to read and critically analyze the visual rhetoric that shapes photographic representations. In addition to learning about the different photographic genres - exploration and travel photography, studio and portrait work, medical and legal documentation, fine art prints, photojournalism - this class will push students to investigate photography's position within a broader cultural field: the medium's shifting relations to the artistic avant-gardes; advertising and consumer culture; constructions of race, gender, and national identity; and photography's role in producing history itself. Readings will include primary source materials and theories of photographic meaning; students will be asked to grasp not only the medium's technological and rhetorical functions, but also to develop their own critical perspectives on photography's shifting relations to intellectual, social, and political ideologies. Coursework will require one hands-on photographic project and a museum visit.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Fine Arts
  • Global Connections