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Documentary Film & Photography



The field of documentary film and photography has rapidly expanded in recent decades and continuous to develop in surprising ways. In a historical sense, the notion of documentary film and photography is relatively young – the term stems from the 1920s – but the meaning and function of documentary has undergone many transformations. In a general sense, a ‘documentary’ is expected to provide a ‘factual’ or ‘objective’ portrayal of the world we live in. Ideally, then, a documentary image would not subjected to any form of manipulation or mediation. The point of this course is to examine how such claims to truth and authenticity were articulated, but also came to be questioned. We shall pay attention, for instance, to such issues as the mode of address, the framing of images, the use of stylistic devices and narrative techniques, and the function of captions and commentary. In particular, we shall focus on the relationship between fact and fiction, examining the role of re-enactments in documentary, for instance, or the deliberate blending of fictional and actual film footage in recent film and video essays.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will:
1. Learn to identify significant artists, works and techniques in the field of documentary film and photography.
2. Acquire an advanced historical and theoretical knowledge concerning the nature and function of the documentary image in modern society.
3. Demonstrate their abililty to use the acquired historical and theoretical knowledge to critically analyze and historically situate documentary films and photographs.
4. Demonstrate their ability to articulate and develop coherent and relevant arguments concerning documentary works during class presentations and in a final research paper.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture, Research, Excursion 28 hours

Course Load

28 hours (weekly lectures) + 80 hours (literature) + 32 hours (paper) = 140 hours (5 EC)

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

  • essay, assignments, etc.

  • presentation

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following: the final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

The required textbook is Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary, 2nd ed. (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2010).
It is highly recommended to purchase B. K. Grant & J. Sloniowski, eds., Documenting the Documentary (Detroit: Wayne State Press, 2014)


Enrollement trough uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:

Contact details

Media Studies student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; “”:
Coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.