Fall 2023

The Photograph: Image, Text, Context

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-130


Karen R. Koehler (Section 01)


It is estimated that more than 1.4 trillion photographs were taken in 2021 alone; arguably the photograph has become the dominant language of contemporary culture. The recorded image is increasingly used as evidence and has had a meaningful social impact. Simultaneously, the camera has also become a pervasive tool of surveillance. Yet, how deeply do we really look at photographs? How often is the lasting effect of these multitudinous images really considered, by either the maker or the consumer? Are everyday photographs works of art, or simply a kind of currency? In contrast to the fleeting snapshot or screen swipe, this course will take a deliberate, slow approach, and focus on a small, select number of photographs studied in significant depth. Making use of diverse methods of looking and analysis, we will examine photographs that are both canonical and non-canonical: from the earliest daguerreotypes in the nineteenth century, to avant-garde experimentations to contemporary global networks and questions of appropriation. As an introduction to liberal studies, the seminar will study the social, intellectual, and art histories of photography, interrogating concepts of visual representation and reproduction, and issues of technology, identity, and power, while also employing the theoretical lenses of diverse writers. Students will write in direct response to the photographs, post essays on primary sources and critical readings, take some pictures, and develop a research project on a single photograph from the collections of the Mead Art Museum.

Fall semester: Professor Koehler.

How to handle overenrollment: First-year Dean will handle

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on discussion, visual analysis, reading, writing and research.

FYSE 130 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM FAYE 113
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM FAYE 113


Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023