Course: Introduction to Photographic Histories (online)

Mon 01 Mar 2021 - Tue 31 Aug 2021

Camera Recording its Own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors) 1971  © John Hilliard

Course: Introduction to Photographic Histories (online)

Mon 01 Mar 2021 - Tue 31 Aug 2021

Ongoing until Summer 2021 (on Dropbox and Slack)

Explore the many histories of photography in this pre-recorded online course

Photography has become an essential part of how we communicate and understand the world around us. Using pre-recorded lectures and presentations by Briony Anne Carlin, each session looks at movements and ideas that have shaped the development of photographic practice, through engaging with artworks, critical texts and photographs as visual culture.

Topics include 19th and 20th century innovations, photography as an instrument of power or an expression of self-identity, photography’s ability to document and tell stories, and photographs in the archive and the digital sphere.

This course offers an introduction to some central themes that contribute to photography’s history. Sessions range across time periods and topics to show how they relate to contemporary issues. No prior knowledge needed.

All six sessions are available on demand with video and audio recordings hosted on Dropbox and are approximately 30-40 minutes each. Slideshow presentations and readings are also available therein. Course enrolment includes opportunities for discussing photographers, themes and histories covered each week with other course participants and invited guests.

Led by curator and art historian Briony Anne Carlin.

Details on how to access the sessions will be confirmed upon registration. Please check your junk folders if you haven't received an email from TPG staff confirming your place. 


Session 1: The first 100 years: early photographic inventions and cultures

Beginning just before the invention of photography, this session explores visual culture in the early 19th century to consider how the camera transformed the way the world was imagined. We will look at early processes originating in the UK and France, questioning multiple narratives about how photography became a global innovation and debating their enduring impact today.

Session 2: Sharpness and strangeness: interwar photography in Europe

This session traces key movements in early photographic history, from pictorialism to modernism and surrealism, in the context of fine art practice and their crossover into fashion, editorial and industrial photography. The session reconsiders modernism as a colonial tool through exploring its versatile influences across several continents. We will explore the influence of these aesthetic trends on contemporary practice.

Session 3: Technologies of othering and control

Photography has always had a complicated relationship with power. Since early uses in colonial contexts, photography exerts control over the faces it captures. This session will consider how photography has established authority and difference, from passport photos to image recognition in contemporary digital culture.

Session 4: Picturing intersectionality

For many people, photography offers an alternative space for self-expression. The immediacy and intimacy of photographic imagery can give authorship to marginalised peoples. This session will consider how people have used photography to explore their individuality and to resist society’s dominant narratives.

Session 5: Trace and testimony

This session reflects on photography’s impulse to collect, to document and to evidence as a framework for contemporary approaches to documentary photography and storytelling. Photographs present a kind of ‘trace’ or ‘index’ of something that has happened or existed – although this actuality can be manipulated.

Session 6: Histories and futures

In our personal lives, and our collective memory, photographs help us to understand the people, places and events that make us who we are. Photographic technologies also offer an opportunity to ask questions, through reveal troubling realities and reimagining how the world could look. This session will draw upon the selection of shortlisted artists for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021 to explore these issues.


Briony Anne Carlin is an academic and curator based between London and Newcastle upon Tyne. She is a Doctoral Candidate at Newcastle University, where she also teaches Art Histories in the department of Fine Art. Her PhD thesis explores the material affect and social agency of contemporary photobooks.

Briony is currently an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and worked formerly as assistant curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she contributed to exhibitions including Into the Woods: Trees in Photography (2017) and the inaugural Photography Centre (2018), and conducted research with the Royal Photographic Society Collection and the Maurice Broomfield Archive. She continues to work on independent curatorial projects.

£50/£40 members & concessions.

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