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Historiographies of Photography and Film


Admission requirements



This course focuses upon some seminal phases within the histories of both photography (first half) and film (second part). We will discuss the ‘origin’ of photography, when it was predominantly regarded as a ‘neutral document’. We will address the use and meaning of the photographic document by referring to the Mission Héliographique, Jacob Riis, the Farm Security Administration and August Sander. In recent decades, photography has been increasingly identified with an artistic domain, and one can think of the work by Christian Boltanski or Jeff Wall. We will examine the relation between an artistic and documentary approach of photography, and thereby introduce a number of formal themes, like sharpness, tonal values, format, color versus black-white. The part on film will initially highlight the affinity with photographic experiments (by Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey) and further indicate how film has evolved in subsequent decades, hovering between an entertainment industry, a storytelling medium and the so-called seventh art. We will address the ‘silent film aesthetic’, as well as key movements such as Italian neorealism, nouvelle vague from France, the Neue Deutsche Welle from Germany and new Hollywood.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.


12 lectures (two hours) in first semester from September to December: timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Assessment method

  • Written exam with essay questions


  • Course information (e.g. schedule of series and objectives) and course documents (e.g. additional documents for lectures)

Reading list

  • Reader

  • List of literature: Mary Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History, London (Laurence King Publishing) 2006

  • Alan Trachtenberg (ed.), Classic Essays on Photography, New Haven 1980.


Via uSis

Contact information

Tineke de Ruiter