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Topical Debates on Photography in Historical Perspective


Admission requirements

A relevant BA-degree


In this course, we discuss several topical debates and seminal theoretical texts about photography. To better distinguish different branches of photography theories, we start with an old distinction between documentary and art photography. In doing so, we will examine concepts such as ‘indexicality’, ‘iconocity’, ‘transparency’, and ‘opacity’, thereby discussing how they deal with our putative understanding of reality.
However, since it has remained controversial what justifies the veracity of photographic documentation and what we mean by ‘reality’ when dealing with photography, we will deal with more contemporary debates in relation to photography later in the course, such as: language, landscape, snapshot, archive, ethics, memory, trauma, and the event.
Moreover, since dealing with actual photographic images is an indispensable part of the theoretical understanding of the medium, there will be a photographic excursion scheduled as a part of the course as well.

Course objectives


  • can explain different manifestations of photography theories;

  • can illustrate and summarise a current photographic debate in writing;

  • can identify a relevant case study and present it to the class through multimedia material;

  • can critically comment on diverse theories surrounding photography;

  • will suggest alternatives for a current photographic debate by using theory


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Excursion

Assessment method


  • Presentation as midterm exam: a 20-minute presentation based on thorough research;

  • Final paper: a research paper of approximately 5000 words.


  • Presentation: 20%

  • Final paper: 80%


The resit will be announced on Brightspace

Inspection and feedback

All students will receive written feedback on their research proposal and oral feedback after presenting their research in class. For arranging an individual feedback session on the final paper, students need to contact the instructor via email.

Reading list

Will be announced prior to the start of classes.


Enrollment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, email:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. S.A. Shobeiri

Coordinator of Studies Media Studies