AMS 390 • American Photography
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Note: Taught with Prof. Robert Abzug This graduate seminar will investigate the history of photography in the United States in relationship to changing currents in America society and culture. Taking as its starting point, the course will follow three distinct, but related, strands of that culture: the history of the medium, from daguerreotypes to digital imaging; the relationship between photography and American history, especially urbanization, the rise of commercial culture, and identity formation; and finally a history of the theory of photography, in particular how photography has been understood as a medium expressive of visual culture. Specific themes that this seminar will address include: art; nature; nation building; ethnicity and race; war; landscapes; urbanization and industrialization; advertising and fashion; documentary expression; photojournalism and picture magazines; postmodernism; and the practice of reading and writing about photographs.
This course will be conducted as seminar with open discussion of the assigned readings and other visual materials. We will meet in the Harry Ransom Center in order to make use of that archive's superb photography collection.
TENTATIVE READING LIST (Please note that this is a sampling of the kinds of materials we will read in this class, and not the final reading list): James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography Miles Orvell, American Photography Mick Gidley, Edward Curtis and the North American Indian, Incorporated Christopher Pinney and Nicolas Peterson, Photography's Other Histories Laura Wexler, Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in the Age of U.S. Imperialism Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History--Mathew Brady to Walker Evans