Critical and analytic theories in photography

Course Dates: 15/07/20 - 12/08/20
Time: 18:00 - 20:30
Location: PS - Photography Studio
Armelle Skatulski

An introduction to some of the main ways of thinking about photography, based on cultural theory, politics, philosophy and semiotics.


What is the course about?

Over the period of the twentieth century, photography came to touch upon and/or to reshape almost all areas of life in which images are made, used and experienced. Given its massive influence, and the many different forms and uses, it is perhaps unsurprising that those who have tried to understand it critically and theoretically have adopted a range of different approaches, drawing on different cultural and political theories, philosophies and ideas of vision and communication to aid them in thinking about this most versatile of image forms.

This course offers an introduction to some of the major influential approaches to thinking about photography that developed between the 1930s and the last decades of the twentieth century. Through readings of selected texts by key thinkers, and in discussion of a range of visual materials, this course explores some of the central issues and concepts in twentieth century criticism and theory of photography.

What will we cover?

The course covers a range of writers whose work has proven important for the historical, critical and theoretical understanding of photography. These include Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, John Berger, Roland Barthes, Allan Sekula, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Christian Metz, Kaja Silverman and Vilem Flusser. Our exploration of the ideas put forward by these writers will be informed by group discussion of a variety of photographic practices.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Understand the concepts and arguments put forward in the writings studied and in class discussion.
• Use these concepts in analysis of photographic works and have a good sense of their relevance for thinking about visual culture more generally.
• Feel confident that you have a grasp of some of the key debates, issues and ideas that shaped critical and theoretical discussions of photography in the twentieth century and that, on this basis, you can move on to further and related studies.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is open to all. No previous knowledge of the subject is required.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion. You should be able to use numbers and be able to do simple measurements and calculations.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The tutor will give introductory lectures clarifying the essential content of the text(s) in focus. You will then be given a chance to participate in discussion of visual examples and to apply the concepts studied to these.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You may find it useful to buy some of the books discussed during the course.

If you would like to buy art materials for your personal use outside of the course, City Lit students receive 10% discount off everything* from Cass Art, the UK's leading art supplies retailer. Your tutor will advise you on what you should buy. You will need to show your enrolment receipt in-store to receive your discount. Visit the Charing Cross shop at 13 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0EP or find your local shop at *Terms and conditions apply, visit

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Various courses in the City Lit programme for Art and Design may be of interest to you after this course. Specifically courses related to art history and photography, such as Modern Art 1900-1950 and Modern Art 1950-present. You may also wish to put some of the theoretical knowledge into practice through a practical course.

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details

Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: VY604

Wed, eve, 15 Jul - 12 Aug '20

Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)

Full fee: £159.00
Senior fee: £159.00
Concession: £97.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2700/2703

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.