2018-2019 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? Designed as a selective history of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries, this course revolves around questions like these about the nature and function of photography in modern culture. Through varied course readings, in-class discussion, thematic lectures, and hands-on research, students will explore the medium of photography from multiple perspectives.  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 role in advertising and consumer culture; the production and circulation of ideas about 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 include some community-based research, and a museum visit.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Fine Arts
  • Global Connections