History of Photography: Technology, Document, Art

This course provides a critical overview of photography from pre-photographic times to the present. Given that there is no single history, but only histories of the medium, the course will explore a variety of approaches to the study of photography, its emergence as a technology for documenting the world, its evolution in relation to other art forms, its connection to other fields of knowledge (i.e., medicine, anthropology, history, post-colonial studies), its role in the development of mass culture, and its use as a means of social control. Students will consider the photographic image in a range of contexts, including art, advertising, journalism, and propaganda, and will explore the social, political and ethical consequences of photographic media in contemporary culture. This course will make active use of photographic materials in local collections for both seminars and written assignments.

Erika Wolf:

Erika Wolf is an art historian with particular interest in modernism and modernity, Soviet visual culture, propaganda, and cross-cultural representation. A native New Yorker, from 2013 to 2018 she was an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History at the University of Otago (New Zealand), where she taught since 2003. She completed a bachelor degree in Sociology and Science in Human Affairs at Princeton University, after which she was a curatorial studies fellow in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. After working several years at the Whitney, she took up graduate study at the University of Michigan, completing a doctorate in the History of Art and a master degree in Russian & Eastern European Studies. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the International Research Exchange Board, the Center for Advanced Studies of the Visual Arts, the Kennan Institute, and the Harriman Institute. She has contributed to exhibition projects at international art museums, including the Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2012, the International Center of Photography granted an Infinity Award to the Reina Sofia publication The Worker Photography Movement, an anthology to which she made extensive contributions and provided assistance in editing and translation for the English edition. She was recently named an Honorary Research Associate of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and Regensburg University, Germany.