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Topical Debates on Photography in Historical Perspective


Admission requirements

A relevant BA-degree. Please consult the lecturer beforehand if you want to follow this course as an elective.


By surveying the classic and contemporary theories of photography, this course will critically examine the topical debates in/around this constantly evolving medium. To better delineate different branches of photography theories, it begins by inspecting the contentious distinction between documentary and art photography. To do this, it will draw on some long-lasting concepts in the field of photographic studies, such as ‘referentiality’, ‘indexicality’, ‘iconocity’, ‘transparency’, and ‘opacity’, thereby judging how they deal with our putative understanding of reality. However, as it has remained controversial what justifies the veracity of photographic documentation and what we actually mean by ‘reality’ when dealing with photography, the course will later probe into more cross-disciplinarity concepts and discourses, such as: materiality, memory, agency, the archive, trauma, ethics, and politics.

Course objectives


  • can critically comment on historical and current photographic debates;

  • can explain and summarize different manifestations of photography theories;

  • can illustrate and engage with a current photographic debate in writing;

  • can identify and present a relevant case study through multimedia material;

  • will suggest alternatives for a current photographic discussion by using theory.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Research

  • 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

The reading list will be announced prior to the start of classes.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


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

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