AH 331- History of Photography


Spring 2020
Monday & Wednesday 1 to 2:15 PM
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Office Hours:
Monday & Wednesday
noon to 1 PM and by appointment


click here for a printable syllabus



Course Description

AH 331 - History of Photography offers a survey of photography from 1839 to the present. Emphasis will be placed on the relationship of photography to other arts and current critical issues in the field.

Photography is so much a part of our private and public lives, and it plays such an influential role in our environment that we often forget to examine its aesthetics, meanings, and histories. Considering fine art and mass media practices, the class will examine the works of individual practitioners as well as the emergence of technologies, aesthetic directions, markets, and critical theories.

During our investigation we will model the activities of art historians–we will read, write, present, discuss, and research. Students are encouraged to establish a critical eye that is actively engaged in questioning through a shared learning experience. Think of the classroom as your lab, the textbook as your guide, and writing assignments as an adventurous expression of what you’ve learned!

Objectives & Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will:


Learn major artists and photographic movements from its invention to the present;


Be able to identify and compare the aesthetic and philosophical characteristics associated with the major movements of fine art photography;


Become familiar with the resources in fine art photography that are available to be directly experienced in Southern California;


Analyze and evaluate the social, political, and technological developments of art photography;


Learn the predominant theoretical ideologies influencing photographic movements and be able to recognize and apply them when looking at photographic works; and


Synthesize strategies in critical theory to write analyses of photographic works.


Art History Program Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to:

Write both descriptively and analytically about works of art in a variety of media;


Write an independent research paper that uses visual analysis and scholarly research to develop and support a thesis;


Conduct advanced art historical research using the full range of scholarly resources; and


Recognize the theoretical concerns of art history and its allied disciplines and apply specific theoretical perspectives to their research projects.


General Education Learning Outcomes
7AI Artistic Inquiry: students compose critical or creative works that embody or analyze conceptually an artistic form at a baccalaureate/pre-professional level.
7SI Social Inquiry: employs theories of how people frame and analyze social and/or historical phenomena.


Instructional Websites

This class will be taught from the instructional website The Slide Projector at, www.theslideprojector.com. Lecture presentations, assignments, and other course materials will be available for you at this site and you will need to access it regularly.

Additional essays will be posted to the AH 331 Assignments page at www.theslideprojector.com and exams will be taken outside of class on Blackboard at blackboard.chapman.edu.

Required Textbook

Mary Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2015). ISBN 978-0205988945

Recommended Texts

Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art, any edition, 10th or 11th preferred (Boston: Pearson Education Inc.). ISBN 978-0205708253

A Short Guide to Writing About Art
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989).
Camera Lucida

Richard Bolton, ed. The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1993).

The Contest of Meaning

Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Anchor Books, 1990). ISBN 978-0312420093

On Photography


Instructional Strategies
Students will work toward course objectives through: active participation in class discussions; student reports on readings; in-class partner exercises; reading assignments; writing assignments; exams; viewing images and videos; and attending of an off-campus exhibition that will require a commute, and may entail a parking fee, and/or entrance fee.
Major Study Units
Writing with light
New Vision

• Previsualization

• Victorian optical amusements

• Straight photography

• Zone System

• Chemical experiments
• Modernism and the avant-garde
The Family of Man
The Daguerrotype
Healing the Madness
The Americans
The Calotype
• Dada

• Street photography

Wet-Plate Collodion

• Photomontage

Vietnam War
New Images
• Surrealism
The Question of art

• Appropriation

Imaging The Other
• Social reform movements

• Culture Wars

Amateur practices

• Photojournalism

• Identity Politics

• Theory of sacrifices

• FSA and FAP

• Body Politics

• Kodak

• Halftone printing

Death of photography

• Snapshot

• Life Magazine

• Digital vs. analog

Decisive Moment

• Photo market

• Photo Secession

• Photographer’s Eye
• Camera Work
Group f/64



Methods of Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on the presentation of evidence that they have achieved the course objectives; frequency and quality of their contributions to in-class discussion; on their ability to make oral and written critical observations about the works of art, artists, movements, and concepts presented in the course; on the quality of the writing they present in written assignments; and on their ability to demonstrate growth in their understanding and application of the history and theory of photographic works from its invention to the present.

There are 500 points possible, which will be earned through the following components:


Class Participation 20%

Students may earn up to 100 participation points through the following activities:

  • Actively and consistently contributing to in-class discussions and applying theoretical ideas to works to earn up to 25 points. Participation will be evaluated at the midterm, and at the conclusion of the semester;
  • Posting at least ten times to the class Inquiry Blog with questions and thoughts that synthesize your understanding or questions concerning class discussions, readings and individual writing projects. Posts need to be made throughout the term, but earned points are limited to one post in a single day, and up to three in the same week. Your challenge is to move the conversation from your reading, to the classroom, and into your everyday life. Please avoid simply stating that you agree/disagree, like/dislike, or find interesting/are neutral on a topic. Please remember, posts will not earn credit if made all at once, and/or just at the end of the semester. Students may earn up to five points on each post, for a total of 50 points possible; and
  • Post five or more photo history memes on the class blog located on Blackboard to earn up to 25 points.

Writing Assignments 30%

Students may earn up to 50 points on each of three assignments detailed in the Assignment Packet. You will be offered multiple choices for each submission.


Visualizing Photo History 10%

Students will collaborate on creating infographics for the Art Department’s display case that visualize some aspect of the history of photography. Students will form groups to conceptualize, develop, write, and design an infographic that will be printed and displayed in the case. Each student may earn up to 50 points for their individual contributions to the infographic projects.


Exams 30%

Learning will be accessed three times this semester on the course Blackboard page at https://blackboard.chapman.edu, with each exam worth 50 points each. Due to the nature of online testing, and the multi-day duration offered to submit, exams may not be made up. Please use the class schedule to plan accordingly.


Final Presentation 10%

During our scheduled final exam period, each student will be asked to give an in-class presentation on a photograph that is of significance to you for up to ten minutes.

In preparation, each student will be asked to submit a presentation plan that identifies the photograph you’ll be speaking about, a methodology for your analysis, citations for your sources, and an image of the photo, worth 25 points. The presentation itself will be worth a maximum of 25 points.


Extra Credit

Students are limited to earning a maximum of 25 points, 5% of the total points possible (500), in extra credit points during the semester. Any points earned above this cap will NOT be applied to the final grade.

Ilsa Bing, Self-Portrait in Mirrors, 1931.



Points will be earned on writing assignments through committed consideration of the material, demonstration of learned concepts and language, and evidence of critical thinking. In addition to the individual requirements, each writing assignment will earn points based on rigorous analysis demonstrated comprehension of assigned readings, critical reflection, thoughtful response to questions posed, and active engagement with the material.
100 to 97%
500 - 483 points

Writing demonstrates excellence in both articulation and critical thinking. Art historical methodologies are used thoughtfully and with skill. Questions are answered thoroughly, and discussion is carried beyond prompt with sophistication. Credible scholarly sources are employed to support the author's position, and Chicago Manual of Style citation rules are carefully followed. The written assignment leaves little to no room for improvement, and demonstrates committed interest in the discipline.

A -
96 to 90%
482 - 448 points
B +
89 to 87%
447 - 433 points

Writing demonstrates clear focus and an above average consideration of the subject matter. While all questions have been answered, there is room for improvement by carrying the analysis and discussion beyond a basic response to the essay prompt. Writing exhibits potential for excellence however, a clearer application and understanding of the art historical methodologies is needed. Author has met the requirements for research and citations with few errors. Thesis could be served by additional research.

86 to 84%
432 - 418 points
B -
83 to 80%
417 - 398 points
C +
79 to 77%
397 - 383 points

Most of the material is understood, but the focus is not entirely clear, and analysis is cursory. Question responses could be more fully realized, and the material, more thoroughly examined. Distracting citation issues are present, little research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. There are issues with language that make the writing somewhat difficult to understand.

76 to 74%
382 - 368 points
C -
73 to 70%
367 - 348 points
D +
69 to 67%
347 - 333 points

Writing demonstrates little understanding or connection with the material and is flawed in content and form. Question responses do not provide evidence of critical thinking. Major citation issues are present, no research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. Issues with language make the writing very difficult to understand.

66 - 64%
332 - 318 points
D -
63 - 60%
317 - 298 points
< 59%
297 - 0

Work fails to meet any requirements satisfactorily.



Assignment is incomplete but shows potential. Student is offered one additional class day to revise, add to, and re-submit the assignment.



Instructor Policies
Commitment to the Conversation

Art historians do not work in secluded spaces that are entirely disconnected from the world around them. Therefore, conversation and debate will be central to the learning experience this semester. Given the importance of engagement, students will be expected to fully commit to in-class dialogues and will agree to refrain from sleeping, texting, emailing, and completing class assignments during class meetings.

Notes on Note Taking

Some students benefit greatly from taking notes during class, others gain more by completely immersing themselves in the dialogue, or doodling while actively listening. However, it’s doubtful that any student is assisted in their learning by social media alerts, text messages, online shopping, pop-up ads, news feeds, or catching up on errands during class time. Although laptops and smart phones are powerful tools that are sold to us on the (increasingly false claim) that they help us to be more efficient and productive, their potential to distract and disrupt our learning is significant enough to warrant alarm. This can be especially true for classmates with different learning styles then your own who might be substantially distracted by the flashes and swipes happening in your shopping bag, even if they don’t seem to be a bother for you.

With these issues in mind, students are strongly advised to take hand-written notes on paper. Students who find paper notes difficult to handle, or who’s learning is significantly assisted with a laptop are welcome to share their concerns with the instructor, who is open to making accommodations. No matter your note taking approach, please think of class time as a luxury–you’ve just secured the time to clear your head, and practice deep focus on an incredible subject. ??

Respect is Key
This semester, we will consider provocative, challenging, even vulgar subject matter and imagery. It is assumed that each of us undertakes this learning endeavor with honorable intent and a commitment to understanding diverse perspectives and histories. When this is difficult, we agree to keep an open mind and to respect all views and identities–even those with which we do not personally agree. While engaging in class activities, we agree to avoid using derogatory, inflammatory, or otherwise hurtful language.
Pronoun Guide

Creating and maintaining a safe and inclusive classroom for all participants is our shared work! Our commitment to this effort communicates respect for each other and encourages all of us to engage in self-discovery, self-awareness, and creative decision-making. One of the easiest ways that we do this work is in how we refer to each other. Everyone will be asked on the first day of class to specify pronouns, if desired, and commit to utilizing correct pronouns at all times. In this endeavor, I’ve found the following guidelines helpful:

    • Some common pronouns are “she, her, hers,” “he, him, his,” and “they, their, them.” Other useful pronouns are: “ze or zie” (pronounced “zee”), and “hir or hirs” (pronounced “here”). Some people don’t use pronouns, and would like their names to be used instead (i.e. “Denise just sent Julie an email.”)
    • Keep in mind that a person’s pronouns can’t be assumed.
    • Remember that It can sometimes be difficult to announce one’s pronouns publicly. As well, self-discovery is an ongoing process, so pronouns can change from situation to situation, and day to day. Please respect everyone’s privacy by only sharing their identities after receiving their consent.
    • Last, but not least, remember that if you make a mistake, that’s okay! Simply, apologize, move on, and continue working to utilize correct pronouns.

Regular attendance is mandatory. You are permitted two unexcused absence without damage to your grade. More than two missed classes will potentially lower your grade, and missing four or more classes will put you at risk of failing (FW) the class. Please also be punctual! Students arriving 15 or more minutes late should expect to be marked absent for the entire class.

Letting the instructor know that you will be absent by email is appreciated! Please understand, due to the large number of emails received, the instructor may not be able to reply to your absence notification. Additionally, the instructor will maintain a simple record of attendance that will not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. If you are not present, you are not able to participate. The circumstances that prevented you from being able to attend class, however unfortunate, do not change this.

Assignment Submissions on Blackboard

Please submit all coursework–including VTLS reports, drafts, and extra credit assignments–on the class Blackboard page before class begins, on the day the assignment is due, whether you will be absent or in attendance. If you encounter a problem with your submission, please notify the instructor immediately, and attach your completed assignment to the message. Assignments will not be graded via email.

All coursework must be submitted by the last class meeting, on Wednesday, May 13.

Late Assignments
You may submit one assignment, one week late. The late assignment will not be marked down, and you do not need to receive prior permission for the late submission from the instructor. However, any late assignments in addition to the one accepted assignment, will only receive credit at the discretion of the instructor.



Chapman University Policies
Academic Integrity Policy
Chapman University is a community of scholars which emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and for submitting coursework completed this semester, for this class. Academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated anywhere in the university. Academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor/administrator and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including expulsion. Please see the full description of Chapman University's policy on Academic Integrity at www.chapman.edu/academics/academic-integrity/index.aspx
Students with Disabilities
In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term. Upon recommendation of the Center for Academic Success, adaptations of teaching methods, class materials, including text and reading materials or testing may be made as needed to provide for equitable participation.
Equity and Diversity Policy

Chapman University is committed to ensuring equality and valuing diversity. Students and professors are reminded to show respect at all times as outlined in Chapman’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy: at www.chapman.edu/faculty-staff/human-resources/eoo.aspx. Any violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the Dean of Students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy.

Chapman Diversity & Inclusion Program

Chapman University is deeply committed to enriching diversity and inclusion through on-going efforts to cultivate a welcoming campus climate for all members of the Chapman community. We strive to provide an inclusive academic curriculum, promote equity and access in recruitment and retention, and develop meaningful outreach programs and partnerships with our diverse local communities. At Chapman the term diversity implies a respect for all and an understanding of individual differences including race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, genetic information and any other characteristic protected by applicable state or federal law, so that all members of the community are treated at all times with dignity and respect.

Students are strongly encouraged to get involved with the Diversity & Inclusion Program by filling out the CDP Engage Interest form at: chapman.campuslabs.com/engage/submitter/form/step/1?Guid=3fbdfffe-ac83-4d60-a505-00dab304572e to share your areas of interest and we will connect you with opportunities to further engage with the initiative. You can always reach the Diversity Project at cdp@chapman.edu if you have any questions.



Writing Center
All Chapman students are welcome to meet with Writing Center tutors, who can help you with any part of the writing process, from understanding the assignment and finding a significant topic to editing your final drafts. The Writing Center is located in DeMille Hall 130. To guarantee time with a tutor, call (714) 997-6828 or email tutor@chapman.edu to schedule an appointment.
Food Pantry
Students in need of food should contact Lisette Martínez Gutiérrez in the Office of Student Affairs & Dean of Students at martinezgutierrez@chapman.edu or 714.532.6042 to access the food pantry.
Sexual Assault
If you have been sexually assaulted, make sure you are in a safe place. Call 911 in an emergency, Chapman University Public Safety at (714) 997-6721 and, Chapman University’s Sexual Assault Information Line at (714) 744-7000. Contact Orange PD at (714) 744-7444.
Student Psychological Counseling
If you are in need of help or support immediately you can contact:
CU Student Psychological Counseling - (714) 997-6778
Suicide Prevention Hotline - (800) 273-8255
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline - (800) 662-HELP
National AIDS/STD Info Hotline - (800) 458-5231


Gordon Parks, Boys looking in a car window, Harlem, New York, August 1943, 1943.



Class Schedule and Required Reading
This is a tentative schedule that may change according to the needs of the class during the semester. Lectures & assignments will be posted on The Slide Projector and Blackboard. Updates will be announced in class, and modified on The Slide Projector, and on Blackboard.
Discussion Topic
Assignment & Reading Due
February 3
February 5
Before Photography
Introduction - page 7
February 10
The First Photograph
February 12
Mirror with a Memory
Pages 8 - 16
The Daguerreotype
February 17
Photography's Re-Invention
Pages 16 - 29 & 56 - 73
February 19
The Expanding Domain
Pages 30 - 41 & 43 - 55
February 24
Imagining the West
Pages 42 , 96 - 140 & 222 - 227
February 26
Question of Art
Pages 74 - 95
March 2
Amateur Visions
Exam 1
March 4
The Other
Assignment 1
March 9
Bearing Witness
Pages 140 - 159, 214 - 222
March 11
Pages 160 - 179 & 182 - 194
March 16
Photography's Salvation
Pages 180 - 181, 194 - 199, & 208 - 214
March 18
New Vision
Pages 230 - 240 & 260 - 335
March 23
Spring Break
March 25
March 30
Social Documentary
Pages 228 - 229, 240 - 259
April 1
Healing the Madness
April 6
Decisive Moment
Exam 2
April 8
Group f/64
Assignment 2
April 9
Hitler's Bath
April 11
The Family of Man?
Pages 336 - 347
April 18
Art History Symposium, AF 209 B, 11 AM to 5:30 PM
April 16
The Americans
Pages 348 - 391
April 18
Snapshot Aesthetic
April 20
Through the Lens of Culture
April 22
Frames of Unrest
Pages 392 - 491
April 27
The Simulacra
Assignment 3
April 29
Culture Wars
Presentation Plan
May 4
May 6
May 11
Digital Ciphers
Chapter 14
May 13
Death of Photography?
Exam 3
May 21
Final Presentations 10:45 to 1:15 PM



Important Dates
Late Registration
The last day to add this courses is Friday, February 14.
Drop Deadline
Students wishing to drop the course without record must do so by Friday, February 14. The last day to withdraw from a course is Friday, April 17.
Final Exam
The in-class final for this course is mandatory, and will not be offered at an alternative date, except under extenuating circumstances. The instructor understands that the end of the academic year and travel come with much urgency and pressure. Nonetheless, the hours set aside for the final exam are a part of your earned credit and as such, are an important component of your grade.
Grades will be available no later than Monday, June 1.



Dee Williams, Broadway Waterfall, 2010.