In this first class session, we spend some time looking at some of the problems that the photo historian faces, including an introduction to the pioneering work of Daguerre and Fox Talbot.
Class session #2 is the first part of a two-part overview of the history of photography; a sort of “condensed” history in order to get a sense of the medium’s “who, what, when and where.” This week, we cover from 1800 B.C. to 1888 A.D.
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In this second part of a two-part survey, we continue our fast trip through the history of photography, attempting to get a handle on who did what, when they did it and how it happened. We start in around 1880 and finish up in the 1990s.
The 4th class meeting starts a more conceptual approach to the medium’s history. We look at 19th, 20th and some 21st century portraits and see if we can draw some conclusions about what makes a good portrait photograph. We also see if we can draw some parallels with the words and ideas of the Transcendentalist thinkers and writers Emerson and Thoreau and see if they can help us illuminate what portraiture means.
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Photography as a form of transportation is the topic for class #5. We look at how the advent of wet-plate collodion technology spurred the advance of travel and landscape photography, with a special emphasis on photography of the American west. There is also a brief exploration of 20th century photographers who went “on the road” as well as a look at the way 21st Century technology like Google Earth, Gigapan and Photosynth are changing the way in which we are able to see the distant parts of the globe for ourselves.
The interactive relationship that painting and photography have had for 174 years is the topic of this class session. We attempt to look at how painting influenced photography and vice-versa. We also look briefly at how what photographs “look like” influence our understanding of what they are.
A slightly shorter class session, as we cover three smaller topics: 1) the ideas surrounding stereoscopic photography, 2) the way 19th century photographers handled photographing standard subjects; once you take away subject, what other choices do photographers have to make? and 3) Rephotography: how does subject matter change over time and what does that mean for photographers?
One of the great characters in the history of the medium, Alfred Stieglitz was also one of the most influential photographers and promoters of photography of the 20th century. In this class, we look at Stieglitz and the group of photographers and other artists he gathered around him. We also try to examine why what Stieglitz did and what he said were often two different things.
Is any photograph real? This question comes up as we trace the trajectory of the manipulated image in this class session. We also try to see if we can figure out where our digital photographic age is taking us and whether we want to go there.
The middle of the 20th century was a time of tremendous change in all areas of the world and especially in the world of photography. This class session looks at the changes that photography experienced during the atomic age through an examination of the cultural, political and artistic climate of the time.
During his 29-year tenure as Director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the great curator and photographer John Szarkowski (1925 to 2007) changed the way the world saw photography.
This short class session introduces Szarkowski’s work and was followed by a film about him.
The 15th and final class session examines documentary and conceptual photography, looking at the motivation and rationale behind them. We also try to tie up the ideas of the course with some concluding remarks.