Theories of Photography: Representation, Communication, and Aesthetics
The photographic image is seen as a means of communication, a recorder of events, a powerful form of surveillance, and a poignant tool for creative practice. In this course, we will consider—and occasionally undermine—such views by delving into a critical analysis of the photographic image and the key theoretical frames that influence our understanding of photography and its ubiquitous presence in the contemporary world.
Through reading seminal essays by writers and thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, and John Tagg, we will discuss photographic projects, bodies of images, as well as their circulation and consumption. Navigating contemporary practice, scientific exploration, and official archives, this course will explore how photography has come to encompass and express our individual and communal selves. Each week will be devoted to a different theoretical concern, ranging from issues of representation to modes of spectatorship. We will observe photography and its contested connection to the real by asking: Who is seen in the frame, and by whom? How can we scrutinize the modes of production and distribution created by archives and databases? Through critical analysis of images and the theoretical texts that surround them, we will outline photography’s impact on the formation of the social body itself.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 4:00-7:00pm PT
June 15 — July 06, 2021