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Historiographies of Photography and Film


Admission requirements



In this course we will focus on the terms of the debate on the historiography of photography and film. Rather than looking into the history of photography and film itself, our focus will on the methodological aspacts and implication and development of photography and film history as disciplines. We will discuss how there has been thought about the “origin” of photography, when it was predominantly regarded as a “neutral document.” We will address the historiography of the use and meaning of the photographic document. In recent decades, photography has been increasingly identified with an artistic domain. We will examine the relation between the artistic and the documentary approach of photography, and thereby introduce a number of formal themes, like sharpness, tonal values, format, color versus black-white and the digital versus the analogue.

After a brief discussion of what is now generally labeled “the new film history,” we will then, in the second half of this course, consider the more recent turn in the discussions on the historiography of film towards an archeology of media change. This media archeological perspective will guide the remainder of the course, in which we will subsequently discuss: the relation between the still and moving image; the notion of projection vis-à-vis an expanded notion of the cinematic; the conception of framing vis-à-vis the discourse visuality; the emergence of cinephilia as historically motivated practice; and finally on the advent of the digital in what may turn out to become an archeology of remediations.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student

  • has knowledge and understanding of the key terms, movements and arguments in the debate on the historiography of photography and film;

  • is able to reflect on the concept of historiography itself, as well as on its relevance within the debate on photography and film;

  • is able to demonstrate this knowledge and understanding in a coherent argumentation;

  • is able to reflect on the methodological implications of the key terms, movements and arguments on the basis of a given example.


Mode of instruction


Course Load

5 ECT: 140 hours: 24 hours lectures, 48 uur reading texts and 68 hours for assignements including essay.

Assessment method

Take home exam with essay questions (50%), written assignment (50%)

The final grade is the weighted average of the two assignments.


Blackboard will be used for announcements, distribution of program and literature, and peerfeedback, and submitting assignements via Safe Assign.

Reading list

Available via Blackboard.