Module Catalogue 2023/24

FIN3038 : Histories of Photography

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Katarzyna Falecka
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment

In addition to the completion of FIN1013 & FIN1014, students must also have successfully completed one stage 2 Art History Module.

Co Requisites
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 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, Alfred Stieglitz, Tina Modotti, Malick Sidibé, Asco, Cindy Sherman, Santu Mofokeng and others. Discussions of these works will be framed through writing by Georges Didi-Huberman, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, Abigail Solomon-Godeau and Achille Mbembe.

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 and their critiques.

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.

9) Curatorial practice, e.g. through writing exhibition labels or conceptualising an exhibition idea in relation to the visual material and theoretical texts studied in the course.

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
FIN2038Histories 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
Essay1M1002500 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Case study1MN/A
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 Case Study 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


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.