AH20220 History of Photography

Academic Year 2021/2022

** UPDATE for 2021-22: We are excited to share news that this module will be amplified in Spring 2022, owing to the imminent acquisition of an important teaching collection of photography by the School of Art History and Cultural Policy, totalling more than 250 objects and spanning the entire history of photography. Students enrolled in this module will have the opportunity to take part in small group handling sessions in the School, where we will be working with original photographic artefacts from the 19th - 20th century -- from daguerreotypes to Kodachrome colour processes! This is a fantastic opportunity to encounter photographic media first-hand, and learn directly about their processes, history, and materiality. Art history major students, as well as elective students from other subjects, are welcome to enrol. **

This module surveys the history and theory of photography, beginning with its origins in the nineteenth century and concluding with recent developments in photographic practice. We will examine the photograph as both document and artwork – as a scientific, cultural, and aesthetic practice—by reflecting on its technological and aesthetic evolution. How has photography revolutionized our ways of seeing? What is the relationship between photography and other forms of visual art and representation? What questions about looking, the gaze, and the agency of subjects does it provoke? Following a roughly chronological structure, we will discuss the contribution of key photographers and important stylistic movements throughout its history.

The history of photography in Ireland will form an important dimension of this module, and students will have the opportunity to conduct research utilizing local photographic collections. A central aim of this course is to develop students’ fluency in analyzing photographs and the complex conditions of their production and reception.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will be able to:
(1) Recognise and describe key photographic processes (and its chronological development) from the 19th century to the present
(2) Identify and describe the importance of historically significant photographers, as well as examples of their work
(3) Demonstrate knowledge of theoretical frameworks concerning photography's status as art, technology, and form of witness
(4) Demonstrate familiarity with and application of correct terminology when analysing photographs, developing critical thinking and writing skills

Indicative Module Content:

Topics will include the innovations of early photography; pictorialism and ‘straight’ photography; photojournalism and war photography; photography and modernism (abstraction, surrealism, the ‘new Objectivity’); post-modernism (conceptualism and new digital practices); and the role of the photograph as ‘document’ and photographer as ‘witness’.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Sessions will be primarily lecture based, with class discussion of particular images incorporated. A midterm exam will assess students' ability to identify photographic processes, knowledge of key terminology and photographic theory, and discuss historically important photographers / photographs. Students' critical writing skills will be honed via a research essay assignment, where they will have the opportunity to appraise local photographic collections if desired. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Art History majors should not take any Stage 2 or 3 Art History modules until they have completed their Level 1 Art History requirements.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Midterm examination covering the first half of course content. Week 7 n/a Graded No


Essay: Final research essay, focused on an in-depth examination of a selected photograph. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be given on slide exam held at the mid-term point, and suggestions for improvement offered. Extensive written feedback will be given on the final essay via Brightspace.

Name Role
Ms Carla Briggs Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mrs Susan Curley Meyer Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 Thurs 11:00 - 11:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 Tues 12:00 - 12:50