Art 551

ART 551: History of Photographic Media and Camera Arts

Credit Hours: (3)

This course provides an overview of the history and invention of photography and the camera, an examination of issues related to the development of photography as a tool of science, historical documentation, and art; and the place of photography and more recent developments in digital and video media in the history of art.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to locate their individual photographic practices within the history of photography and discuss this history in writing. The course surveys the major themes, inventions, and aesthetic developments in the history of photography from the early 19th century through the early 21st. In particular, this course will ask questions about the reciprocal relationships between social thought and developments and photography=s impact on the public understanding of these events, the impact of art on trends in photography, and the impact of photography on trends in recent art.


Preliminary topic areas include:

· the art/science debate in the 19th century and the art/photography debate in the 20th

· the earliest developments leading to the invention of photography and the reasons for these developments

· early forms of cameras and camera arts

· technological developments and their impact on the uses (and/or abuses) of photography

· stylistic movements in photography (pictorialism, photo-secession, constructivism, surrealism, etc.)

· photography and the social landscape

· portrait photography and the influence of gender

· mediating the photographic image with text

· photography and traumatic history

· advertising, propaganda and the role of photography


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The primary instructional method will be digital “slide” lectures, group discussions, critical analysis of readings, and presentations of individual research. Graduate students will be expected to analyze their own work in the context of their historical studies and prepare a substantial research paper. Those students who are concentrating in photography may find that this serves as a preliminary opportunity to explore ideas which will eventually be used in the MFA thesis.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

* develop familiarity with the history of photography and the camera arts

* be able to identify key movements, photographers, and significant works, and analyze them using principles of art historical analysis

* relate these movements and works to social, economic, and political developments

* recognize the impact of changing technological processes on photography


Assessment Measures

Term paper case-studies, class presentations, in-class exams, and regular short writing assignments

Although all students will be expected to take exams and complete short essay assignments, graduate students who are photography majors (as most will probably be) will prepare an in-depth analysis of their own work, analyzing it with the use of art historical methodology and attempting to situate their work in the context of the history of photography. For these students, the long paper may serve as an opportunity to begin to conceptualize their thesis plans. Other graduate students (art majors but not photo majors) will also prepare long research studies, choosing a photographer and issue raised by that photographer’s work as the subject of their investigation. This group of students will be asked to produce replications of the works they are studying as a means of investigating the techniques used by the photographer and as a supplement to more traditional scholarly research with books and journals.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

May, 2009