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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Brian Allen
ART H 232
Seattle Campus

Photography: Theory and Criticism

Art traditions of photography from its origins in the nineteenth century to the present. Emphasis on photographic traditions and photographers of the twentieth century.

Class Description

This description is for the Summer 2004 class. The course will concentrate on photographs that are now collected and displayed as fine art in the United States, and the photographers who made them. However, since the distinction between art photography and other photographic practices has often been blurred, the course also will make reference to commercial photography, documentary practices, scientific photography, family photography and mass culture in the last 160 years. Critical approaches to photography will be surveyed, with emphasis on Modernist and Postmodernist theory.

Most of the classes will be slide lectures with discussion. There will be guest lectures by three working photographers on photographers they admire. Field trips to the Henry Gallery and the Photo Archives at the Allen Library also will be made during class time.

Recommended preparation

There are no course prerequisites for this class. The ability to write a college level research paper is crucial, however. It is helpful to have a basic knowledge of European and American history in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and the art history of the same period. It is also helpful to have a little experience in a photographic darkroom, or at least to have visited one when it was being used.

Class Assignments and Grading

The textbook, "Seizing the Light" by Robert Hirsch is assigned reading (500 pages), as well as a Course Pak of reviews, criticism and artist statements (about 170 pages). Independent visits to the Henry Gallery will be required, and to other galleries. Students also will research and write an 8 page paper in academic style with footnotes, on a photographer of their choice.

Grades will be based on a quiz, a midterm exam, a final exam and a term paper. The exams will have multiple choice questions and essays. A list of possible essay questions will be handed out in class in advance of each exam; some of those questions will be used for the exam. Class attendance is important; some exam questions will be based on topics which will be covered only in class, not in the written materials.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Brian Allen
Date: 04/19/2004