The Photographic Apparatus

Since its inception, the technical development of photography has arisen out of specific historical and political circumstances that have “naturalized” its practice and ideologically coded its apparatus. Through critical discussions, material examinations, and studio projects, this seminar will take a reflexive approach to photographic technology past, present, and future. What can earlier periods of photography reveal about our current condition? How do lens-based technologies relate to determinations of race, class, and gender? What does it mean to be a photographer, to take photographs, and to agree or disagree with its apparatus?

Sample reading list:
Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity…
Kaja Silverman, The Miracle of Analogy, or the History of Photography Part 1
Teju Cole, A True Picture of Black Skin
Guliana Bruno, Surface, Matters of Aesthetics, Matters and Media
Barbara Kasten, Notes and Questions to Myself
Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media

Reading/Writing assignments:
One individual photographic project TBD at the end of the semester. One presentation of a case study of a thematically related issue. Five short assignments exploring the photographic apparatus.

Prerequisites and Restrictions:
None. This course is intended to have broad appeal across disciplines. Nearly every discipline involves an apparatus of some kind, but the devices themselves remain largely unexamined. This is particularly true of photography, where the images produced almost immediately supplant the devices (and ideologies) that made them possible. This course will use and examine both. Though photography experience is not necessary for enrollment, students with photographic experience are encouraged to enroll..

Other information:
When necessary, cameras, lighting, analog labs and desktop computers with imaging software will be provided. Grading 10% Other = Willingness to practice, sharing specific knowledge generously and working together on tasks with class mates.




Tuesdays, 1:30 - 4:20 pm


Fia Backström