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Cinema and Photography


Admission requirements

Same as admission requirements for the BA Art History.


With the first public introduction of the new technological media – photography (1839) and film (1895) – a fascinating terrain of conflict and opportunity opened up within the visual arts. Some would argue, for instance, that the invention of photography spelled the ‘death of painting’, whereas others imagined a complete renascence of modern culture. This course will address the many intersections between the ‘modern’ media of film and photography and the traditional field of the visual arts – its media (painting, sculpture, prints), protagonists (artists, critics, curators, collectors) and institutions (galleries and museums). In contrast to traditional surveys of modern art or cinema history, this course will not treat art and cinema as separate cultural practices, but investigate the many ways in which their histories have been intertwined. Starting in the mid-19th century with the rapid expansion of photographic techniques, we will discuss the various positive and negative responses to photography and the successive attempts to emancipate photography from its ‘mechanical’ status to an art in itself. We shall pay particular attention to the example of documentary photography (and film) as an ambivalent genre that resides between the ‘artistic’ and the ‘journalistic.’ Other case studies will concern the engagement of the historical avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism and Constructivism) with photography and film; the ‘return to film’ during the advanced art practices of the 1960s and ‘70s; the use of cinematic tropes in the art of the 1980s (e.g. appropriation art); and the ‘post-cinematic’ reworking of film history in contemporary art installations. As a whole, this course will not only investigate the established categories of film – mainstream (Hollywood cinema), ‘art’ cinema, avant-garde film, and, more recently, ‘artists’ films’ – and their various ‘sites of exhibition’ (e.g. cinema palaces, art house cinemas, art galleries), but also demonstrate how the disciplinary boundaries of past scholarship, which arbitrarily divided art history from film studies, can no longer be maintained in a present where the ‘platforms’ of photographic and filmic presentation are rapidly multiplying.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will:

  • Learn to identify significant artists, works and techniques in the field of photography and film.

  • Acquire a basic historical and theoretical knowledge concerning the nature and function of film and photography within the field of the visual arts.

  • Demonstrate their abililty to use the acquired historical and theoretical knowledge to critically analyze and historically situate photographic and filmic practices within the fields of art and society.

  • Demonstrate their ability to articulate and develop coherent and relevant arguments concerning photographic and filmic practices during examination.


  • Thursday 17-19 hrs (concept)

Please note: for the final schedule refer to Collegeroosters / Timetable BA Art History on the Art History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture series

Course Load

Course load summary: 10 ects (280 hrs)

28 hrs: Attending lectures (2 hrs weekly x 12 weeks)
24 hrs: Studying of compulsory literature (450 pp à 5 pp/hr)
12 hrs: Assignments
212 hrs: Prepering test
04 hrs: Test —-
280 hrs

Assessment method

  • Mid-Term: 30% of Final Grade

  • Final test: 70% of Final Grade

Exam review
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Compensation: the weighted average mark should be at least 6.0 (rounded at one decimal).
Resit: a resit is only allowed for the paper (70%).


Blackboard will be used to make the following course materials accessible:

  • Posting of syllabus, assignments and literature

Reading list

Reading list will be announced in Blackboard.


Via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



Dr. P.E. Goldbach

Arts, Media and Society student administration, Huizinga Building (Doelensteeg 16), room 1. Tel. 071 5272687;