Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • AD - Arts & Design
  • HY - History

Lab fee:


This introductory course charts the history of photography from early nineteenth-century nascent technologies (daguerreotypes and tintypes) through to the diverse range of photographic media currently practiced by contemporary artists and photographers (film and digital).

In this art history course, we will consider how the new visual discourse of photography was informed by both technological and social developments. Photography cannot be defined as a unified medium; therefore, this course investigates both discontinuous as well as coalesced conventions within its own history; in other words, how and why photographs look different from each other.

In addition to noting external influences upon the photographic object, we will explore how photography helped to shape a variety of visual disciplines from painting to zines. Accordingly, our class will discuss formal photographic syntax (how they are composed and the forms they appear represent) and allied aesthetic practices as well as the wider social and political issues that influenced the content of its visual culture.

We will study how artists use photographic practices in the context of social and activist functions to examine a diversity of subjects: gender and class, ethnic and national identity, among others; and, how categorical distinctions between mass culture and avant-garde art, commercial, and fine art photography are not always stable.

Course readings include writings by historians, artists, and critics that reflect the unstable status of the photographic object within the intersections of science, technology and culture, aesthetic discourse and everyday documentation. We will look at many photographs. Students will be evaluated on their participation in class discussions, short essay assignments, and a final project or paper.




Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.