Histories of Photography: Ethics and Activism in Photography of the United States, 1850-present (Session D)
This course examines the profound ambivalence of the photographic medium, a visual technology of both subjugation and empowerment. Looking at a wide array of photographic practices in the United States between 1850 and the present, we will explore how the medium has been used by artists, activists, educators, civil servants, newspaper editors and other cultural producers to visualize politics and social culture. The roles of photography in constructing race, sexuality, gender, class, and nationality will figure prominently in our readings and discussions. Other topics will include photographs of war and atrocity; the ethnographic gaze of the camera; documentary photography of the WPA era; photographs of the civil rights struggle; photographic reclamations in black feminist art; censorship and archival absences; the “queer camera,” and contemporary global art photography. Throughout the course, students will be asked to critically interpret the relationships that photographs inscribe between photographers, photographic subjects, and viewers. By the end of the course, they will have acquired the theoretical proficiency and historical knowledge to analyze and engage in sustained debate about a wide variety of photographic images.
Histories of Photography encourages students to view photographs in person at Bay Area institutions such as SFMOMA, the Oakland Museum of California and Pier 24, as well as campus collections at the Berkeley Art Museum and the Bancroft Library. Assignments and course meetings may require visits to these sites.