Photography: History, Theory, Practice

Home/ Photography: History, Theory, Practice
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2EN3464

Course Coordinator and Team: Sayandeb Chowdhury Email of course coordinator: sayandeb[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Aim: The AUD English MA Programme has since its inception resisted any effort towards following a definite lexicon of approaching literary studies and to that end, a course of this kind contributes to the idea of critical and cultural enquiry beyond the obvious. In the narrative of its origins and history, photography mirrors the definitive visual turn in social and cultural sciences and since the first experiments in the 1820s has come to occupy a foundational position in the gradual but inevitable ‘technologisation’ of art forms. Yet, at the heart of photography lies the complex and often conflicting registers of representation and form; memory and time, gaze and witness; and of history that is both present and absent. One of the abiding concerns of photography has hence been its liminal position between art and technology as well as its efficacy of being a redoubtable representational template that it at odds with the various interpretations of reality that it projects. This course, by introducing students to a wide range of debates and movements in photography would hope to provide a substantive idea about the form and function of photography across time, cultures and genres.

Course Outcomes: On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Get a holistic and critical idea view of the history and practice of photography
  • Understand photography as both art ans cultural practice
  • Learn to read visual images as templates of broader practices
  • Engage with photography as language and visual compendium.

Brief description of modules :

Module I| The many histories of photography

This module will look at the history of photography not only from mainstream sources but also from other contested sources that have been unearthed in new scholarship.

Module 2| Understanding Photography

This section is about waysoflookingat photography as technology, surveillance, witness, politics, event, visuality.

Module 3| Photographic practices

This module will look briefly into the major ways in which photography has been ‘used’ and

‘abused’ and how it contributed to other forms/kinds of enquiry

Module 4| Photography and colonialism

This module looks at a brief history of photography in South Asia (and also in Africa and

Southern America) taking into account the regimes of contested practices of the past.

Reading List:

  • Beaumont Newhall, TheHistoryofPhotography:From1839tothePresent, Museum of Modern Art , New York, 1982
  • Mary Warner Marien, Photography:ACulturalHistory, Pearson, 2014.
  • Allen Trachtenberg (ed) ClassicEssaysonPhotography,Leete's Island Books, Maine, 1980.
  • Liz Wells (ed) ThePhotographyReader, Routledge, London, 2002.
  • Richard Bolton (ed) TheContestofMeaning:CriticalHistoriesofPhotography(Reprint
  • Edition), MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1992.
  • Christopher Pinney, PhotographyandAnthropology, Reakton Books, 2011.
  • Andres Higgot and Timothy Wray (ed) CameraConstructs:Photography,Architecture andtheModernCity, Routledge, 2012. Leo Charney, Vanessa R. Schwartz (ed) CinemaandtheInventionofModernLife, University of California Press, 1995.
  • James Ryan, PicturingEmpire:PhotographyandtheVisualizationoftheBritishEmpire.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Martin Jay & Sumathi Ramaswamy (Ed) EmpiresofVision:AReader, Duke University Press, 2014.

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:

Writing assignment: 30%

A theoretical/reflective paper based on a set of essays : 30%

Term paper : 40 %