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.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
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.
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.