Concepts and Approaches – Lecture 1

As second year has begun, it was hard not to notice how much work and the many more lectures I will have this year compared to last year. As part of the Concepts and Approaches module, run by Anthony Luvera, I also get a lecture with Daniel. I’m going to express my notes and thoughts to his lectures on my blog, to help me look back and revisit any lectures.

Daniel explained that he will be presenting seven lectures within this module. The title of these lectures are,

1. An Introduction to the Origins and Developments of Photography Theory
2. The Linguistic Turn: Photoconceptualism and Thinking Photography

3. The Pictures Generation: Capitalism and Postmodernism
4. Experiments in Documentary: Fictions Framed and Unframed
5. The Politics of Documentary: War and Gender
6. Photography and the Expanded Field: Hybridity and Materiality
7. The Digital Image and the Algorithmic Turn: New Media, Network Culture and Post-Internet Art

Just looking at the titles, I am excited to start four and five. This is because documentary photography is always something I’ve been interested in, and I can’t wait to start looking more in depth with the different aspects of this topic. Then again, Daniel expressed that these lectures will help structure what will have to be included within the essay assignment. For the essay, I need to pick some sort of artwork, followed by a succession of other images that map a field of practise. Or in simple terms, pick an image which interests you, then find different images that relate to the first image. Then this will help the essay have a ‘conversation’. Start with your key image and move on from there, using successive images to expand upon your argument and explore your chosen form of photographic practice through writing.

Inside The Essay

1. One key artwork, followed by a succession of other images that “map” a field of practice
2. Key texts and citations
3. Analysis of the composition, materials and cultural meaning of artworks
4. Critical reflection on the relevant theories pertaining to a genre or form of practice
5. Personal conclusions/reflections

 Suggested Essay Template

– Introduction (500 words)
– Section 1 (500 words)
– Section 2 (500 words)
– Section 3 (500 words)
– Conclusion (500 words)
– Bibliography (approx. 15-20 sources) – Illustrations (Fig 1, 2, 3 etc.)

With the essay been talked about and gone to the back of our heads, we started talking about the history of photography. So then we began the first title of the seven lectures. The first one being,

An Introduction to the Origins and Developments of Photography Theory

Instead of the typical history within photography, Daniel explained that these lectures will look at the key cultural, political and philosophical concepts that describe a period of approximately 170 years, in which photographic culture might be “thought”. As with all histories, we need to be critically aware of the politics we communicate in writing them. The history of photography has privileged one gender and institution over all others. So to put it humorously but also truthfully, we need to be most sceptical of these two things:

1. The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA)
2. Histories written by White Men

We must understand that histories are often written by people that make up a privileged majority. These individuals often unwittingly write a “canon” of knowledge that many people don’t criticise. It is our job as “thinking photographers” to question this and ask for a plurality of voices (more than one race, more than one gender and more than one institution).

In order to think critically, we might consider history instead constituted in two different ways:

1. Historical Appreciation – taste, not criticality. Individualism rather than collectivity.

2. Social History – the circumstances that surround us and the social conditions in which things are produced. Collectivity over individualism. Democracy over autocracy.

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