This seminar will explore the cultural history of American social photography, ranging from the progressivist photography of the late 19th century to the staged documentary works of contemporary ... read more
This seminar will explore the cultural history of American social photography, ranging from the progressivist photography of the late 19th century to the staged documentary works of contemporary photographers such as Jeff Wall. In the course of the seminar we will analyze the different functions and contexts of social photography, discussing a number of problems regarding, for instance, the visual representation of social reality, the political impact of documentary photography, and the aestheticization of poverty. Referring to the works of photographers such as Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Jacob Holdt, Camilo José Vergara, and Jeff Wall, we will thus contextualize and evaluate the political and aesthetic possibilities - as well as the limitations - of different modes of social photography. Participants will be asked to buy a reader containing all the essential texts we will discuss throughout the seminar.
Active participation, oral presentation, final paper. ----------
Suggested introductory reading:
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, London: Vintage Classics, 2009.
Michelle Bogre, Photography as Activism: Images for Social Change, Waltham, MA: Focal Press, 2012.
James Guimond, American Photography and the American Dream, Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
Miles Orvell, American Photography, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, London and New York: Penguin, 2003.
Maren Stange, Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography in America, 1890-1950, New York: Cambridge UP, 1989.
John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs. Images as History: Mathew Brady to Walker Evans, New York: Hill & Wang, 1989. close