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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: semiotics, materiality, the archive, ethics, memory, trauma, and the event.

Course objectives


  • can explain and utilise historical and contemporary photography theories;

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

  • can critically comment on diverse theories surrounding photography;

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

  • can identify and present a relevant case study via multimedia material.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Research

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


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal