Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

media arts, photography, visual studies

This is an art foundations program invested in opening up the dense histories and meanings of photographic images in their many forms, from still to moving and back again--and the unsettled places between. We explore what it means both to know and to make an image– photographic, moving, and time-based. We will pay equal attention to the history, theory and practice of the photographic image, both still and moving, in the context of visual studies--a field that yokes a broad study of the visual arts with social and cultural history and theory--art history, film/cinema history, and philosophy. Through a critical engagement with still and moving photographic images as well as related forms of visual art, we will map a broad contextual territory and challenge received notions of the boundaries between forms, genres, and mediums.

Photography can never be thought of as simply a medium, technology or practice but a convergence of material, history, culture and power. In the Fall, we will start with the unfolding of the Western enlightenment, from the 16th to the 19th century, when optical technologies radically reorganized the senses and methods of knowledge production, posing new questions about temporal, spatial and visual relationships to artists and scientists alike.  We will then move more deeply into the 19th and first half of the 20th century, when photography emerged into an art world dominated by painting, a visual culture organized around print technologies, and societies in the throes of rapid industrialization. Photography initially emerged not out of art contexts but out of the institutions of science and industry, so we will consider, in particular, the ways it was used to produce social categories, shaping dominant discourses of gender, class and criminality. For example, we’ll look at the language of portraiture so central to the emergence of both a middle class and the language of criminal and medical photography. Our materials and techniques will first be limited to those from the 19th century (proto-photography, early processes, hand-built cameras). In winter, we move from the 19th to the long 20th century and the emergence of cinema. We will look at the way early cinema was organized around a fascination with duration, spectacle, and experimentation and on the relationship between photography and cinema, stillness and movement. We will continue to work in still photography, broadening our range of techniques, and add a small amount of 16mm filmmaking to the mix as we explore the larger social and historical contexts and philosophical questions surrounding the relationship between still and moving photographic images. In our creative and intellectual work, we’ll ask many questions about the phenomenon, concept and experience of time--for example, how is a four minute exposure in a still photograph both similar to and different from a four minute continuous shot of film or video of the same subject?

In all our work we will focus on building essential skills in practices of attention--learning how to slow down our modes of seeing, experiencing and working. In our photographic practice, this will mean moving away from the pursuit of “finished” images and towards experimental processes and conceptual problem solving. In our work with texts and images, this will mean developing our ability to read and view closely and write with precision and patience. Class sessions will include lectures/screenings, workshops, seminar, critical reading and writing, and critique. In addition to working individually, students can expect to collaborate regularly with their peers on a variety of assignments and larger projects. All along the way we will intentionally examine how our investments in collaboration animate our intellectual and creative work. We will spend significant time in critique to help each other see, describe, evaluate and improve our creative and critical work.


Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

arts, humanities, and teaching.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$75 in fall and $175 in winter for overnight field trips and art supplies.

Special Expenses

$75 per quarter for photo and art supplies.


Date Revision
November 19th, 2013 Preparatory work for students joining the program in winter quarter has been clarified.
October 23rd, 2013 Fees have been updated (fall has decreased to $75 and winter has increased to $175).
August 12th, 2013 Special expenses have been clarified ($75 per quarter).
July 23rd, 2013 Fee amount has been clarified: $200 per quarter.
April 26th, 2013 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 40


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10312
So (16 credits): 10313

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Accepting New Students


Students are required to complete chapters 1 and 4 and pages 257-271 of Liz Well's  Photography: A Critical Introduction and John Berger's  Ways of Seeing over winter break and meet with faculty during the first week of class to demonstrate comprehension of those materials. Contact faculty via email for more information.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20225
So (16 credits): 20226

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