The Artful Science: Photography and Society, 1825-1919

Open, Lecture—Fall

When, why, and how was photography invented? This course introduces students to the history of photography in the 19th and early 20th centuries, from the medium’s invention with the parallel, contested origin stories of William Henry Fox Talbot and Nicéphore Niepce to the first motion pictures and until the earliest instances of Dada photomontage. Readings from a variety of disciplines, including historical documents and writings by artists and critics, aid us in considering the contradictions inherent to photography as a medium as we investigate its role as both art form and science. Examining photographic practices in fields as diverse as fashion, avant-garde art, anthropology, architecture, advertising, and political documentary, we will ask how early photographs were shaped by and, in turn, shaped practitioners’ conception of reality.