Histories of Photography
Alexandra Courtois de Vicose
MTuWTh 12-2P, 106 MOFFITT
Define photography. Go ahead.
Not as evident as it seems? One of the reasons may be the staggeringly quick evolution of the technology behind the production of pictures and the multiplicity of roles these images were/are made to play. The plurality indicated in the title of this course hints at the various avenues any class on photography could take as its narrative.
This course, an introduction to the history of photography, will examine technological innovation. In that sense, chronology will matter. But beyond production, we will engage with how photography has been used, thinking about it thematically and conceptually. When, why, and how is photography political, commercial, scientific, and artistic? We will learn about photography’s pre-history and simultaneous invention(s) with Niepce and Daguerre; think about the photograph as document; consider its role in times of conflict and its relation to trauma; its subversive potential; what happens when color invades the frame; and the ubiquity and instant gratification of photography in today’s age of social networks and mobile devices.
This course will rely heavily on visual analysis (give those eyes a workout!), description and argumentation. Readings will include both primary sources (artists’ and photographers’ statements) and essays by historians and theorists of photography (an average of 50 pages weekly). There will be short weekly reading responses and two longer essays, as well as creative assignments.
This is an introductory course with no prerequisites; however, English reading and writing skills must be developed enough to be able to meaningfully engage with images as well as complex theoretical readings. Participation in class is essential to success in this course.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (A) and Chronological period (III).