2023-2024 Catalog

ARTH 287 Photography, History and Power

Photographs today are ubiquitous. Yet they are incredibly diverse in their functions, circulation, meaning, and relationship to institutions, personal and collective identities, scientific knowledge, and artistic cultural practices. As a realist medium, photography has the potential to shape the way we think about ourselves, our communities, our national cultures, and our engagements with a transcultural world. This course is designed to explore the technological, cultural, economic and ideological power that photographs have to shape our collective understanding of the world we live in. This course will also introduce students to key tools necessary for developing visual literacy in our image-saturated culture. Together we will learn about different photographic genres - exploration and travel photography, portraiture and family photographs, medical and legal documentation, fine art prints and mass cultural forms - and we will explore photography's power to represent personal and collective identities, social and political ideologies, and history itself. Photography, after all, was created in the early 19th century, at a time of rampant Euro-American colonialism. The course will explore photography by, for, and of makers and collectives working in and across local, indigenous, and global cultures in North and Central America, East and Southeast Asia, Africa and the African Diaspora. Readings will include primary source materials, theories of photographic meaning, and research-based analyses of particular photographic practices within both local and global contexts. Students will be asked to grasp both the medium's technological and rhetorical functions, but also to develop their own critical perspective on photography's shifting relations to global visual culture. Coursework will include a hands-on photography project and a museum or gallery visit.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Fine Arts
  • Global Connections