Module Catalogue 2024/25

FIN2038 : Histories of Photography

FIN2038 : Histories of Photography

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Katarzyna Falecka
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 30 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Code Title
FIN1013Art Histories I
FIN1014Art Histories II
MCH1023Media Studies
MCH1001Digital Cultures
Pre Requisite Comment

Students on programme P305 (BA Digital Cultures and Media) are not required to take FIN1013 and FIN1014. However, they must complete MCH1023 and MCH1001 in order to be able to enrol onto FIN2038.

Questions about pre-requisite modules, and whether students are able to choose this module, should be directed to the relevant Degree Programme Director.


Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



Since its invention in the nineteenth century, photography has been the subject of contentious debates. Is photography an art? Is it – was it – a threat to art? Is photography something closer to a tool or technology? Is it media? This course will consider several key episodes in the histories of photography in relation to how the medium has been theorised and historicised by critics, scientists, photographers, and art historians. It will focus on photography’s relationship with theories of the modern and postmodern, exploring how photographic practices were both shaped by and contributed to discourses surrounding technology, gender, memory, mass culture, conflict, race, and class. Integral to this will be a consideration of how photography became absorbed by museums of modern and contemporary art, while also being capable of engaging in institutional critique. Through case studies drawn from histories of photography in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the US, the course will encourage engagement with photography’s cultural, social, and political significance.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will begin by examining the various ways in which photography’s invention has been historicised and consider whether it emerged, as many historians of the medium have argued, as a means to satisfy the public’s ‘frenzy for the visible’. Integral to these considerations will be photography’s role in the formation of imperial identities and colonial imaginaries. The course will then examine the various ways in which modernism asserted itself through photography. Questions of labour and the political will guide discussions on documentary photography, as well as on photography’s role in shaping a decolonial imagination. The course will also analyse photography’s postmodern iterations with a focus on questions of identity, mass culture, and authorship. Case studies will include the work of Augustus Washington, Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Tina Modotti, Malick Sidibé, Cindy Sherman, Santu Mofokeng, Lalla Essaydi, Glenn Ligon, Samuel Fosso, and Ilona Szwarc. Discussions of these works will be framed through writing by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Susan Sontag, Edward Said, and others.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of Histories of Photography, students should have knowledge of:

Different forms of visual responses and practices related to modern and postmodern photography.

Key debates framing the ways in which we write histories of photography.

Contextual factors – cultural, social, political and institutional – that influence the creation of photographs, their exhibition and reception.

A range of interpretational methods.

Intended Skill Outcomes

On completion of Histories of Photography, students should have developed skills in:

1)       Analysing modern and postmodern photography in relation to theoretical texts.

2)       Presenting ideas in a clear and engaging manner through essays and oral presentations.

3)       Thinking critically about cultural production, historiography and theory.

4)       Researching a topic and making productive use of the library and appropriate online resources.

5)       Engaging with interdisciplinary texts and evaluating appropriate material to inform relevant debates.

6)       Assessing information, ideas and theoretical points of view in order to reach independent conclusions.

7)       Debating ideas in both in-person and online group discussions.

8)       Using visual analysis as a critical tool.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00PIP lectures.
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Pre-recorded supplementary lecture materials delivered online to support PIP teaching.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:0010 hours for formative, 40 hours for essay
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:00Lecture and seminar preparation.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00PIP seminars.
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion41:004:00Student discussion groups on Canvas.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study180:0080:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
FIN3038Histories of Photography
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures: to allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to a body of knowledge, and modelling of the level and nature of the analysis required. PIP lectures will be supplemented with online material (in the form of pre-recorded lecture materials, relevant videos, etc.) to make the module content more accessible, manageable and digestible.

2. Seminars: to encourage interaction and the development of cognitive and key skills; to allow preparation and presentation of directed research on specific issues and case studies. Seminars help to foster collegiality among the cohort and are an important supplement to the teaching delivered by group discussions.

3. Canvas discussion groups: to allow for more innovative, interactive and cross-curricular teaching.

Nb. In person lectures and seminars can move to synchronous and asynchronous online delivery as required in response to pandemic-related restrictions.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A1002000 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Case study2MVisual analysis
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay affords the student the opportunity to conduct academic research into a topic of their choice relating to the module content, with the question(s) set by the module leader. The questions encourage students to engage closely with the key topics, critical ideas and practices studied on the module curriculum. The assessment will be supported by critical discussions undertaken during the seminars and/or discussion boards. The assignment is designed to develop critical thinking, the ability to develop an argument, writing skills, visual analysis and theoretical comprehension.

The Visual Analysis offers students the chance to hone writing and analytical skills in advance of the essay in a formative and less pressurised context. The formative nature of the assessment will permit faster feedback, allowing the case study analysis to feed fully into the summative essay.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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