Art & Art History 256 | St. Olaf College
Explore the history of photography as an artistic medium, a cultural expression, a technological marvel, and a social text. During our class we will travel around the globe, analyzing photographs from the United States, China, India, Peru, Mexico, Germany, France, Great Britain, South Africa, and Japan. In addition to exploring photography as an artistic medium, we will look at the cultural discourse of photography, and engage in discussions on ethics, nationalism, gender, race, mass culture, and memory. Accordingly, the course includes readings from disciplines as diverse as art history, visual studies, visual anthropology, and sociology. The course will be divided in two parts. The first will move chronologically from the mid-nineteenth century to look at the early development and technologies of photography, while cultivating skills in the visual analysis, and developing a working vocabulary of terms related to the field. The second unit will proceed topically to discuss various issues, styles, and subjects of modern photography from the late nineteenth-century to the contemporary selfie craze. Covering over a century of photographic practice, students will gain the ability to deeply understand and analyze the shifting medium of photography and its sociocultural contexts.
(Image: Nicéphore Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826 or 1827. The earliest surviving photograph.)