FIN3038 : Modern and Postmodern Photography

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


From photography’s invention, the theorisation of the medium has had a profound influence upon its practice. This course will introduce a history of the relationship between the photograph and its theorisation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In particular, we will examine photography’s relationship with theories of the modern and postmodern, looking at the ways in which a modernist ideal of autonomy was presented through photography in the early twentieth-century, and the ways in which photography lent itself as a medium to theories of postmodernism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. At the end of the course we will consider photography now, and examine the ways in which it both reflects and diverges from this history. Through this, the module will foster a spirit of enquiry into issues surrounding photography – social, political and institutional – and students will develop skills in self-initiated research, academic writing and visual analysis.

This module is available to incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students studying Fine Art. Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students primarily studying other disciplines are not able to take this module as an outside subject.

Outline Of Syllabus

We will begin by examining the various ways in which modernism asserted itself through photography in the early part of the twentieth-century, particularly focusing upon ‘straight’ photography in the US, avant-garde photography in Germany, and modernist photography in France. We will then go on to consider the ways in which photography has been used for political purposes as documentary or photojournalism, from the US construction of the FSA, to more recent approaches towards photographing conflict. We will also consider what Douglas Crimp entitled ‘The Photographic activity of Postmodernism’, analysing the relationship between theories of postmodernism and artistic explorations of the photograph. Finally, we will examine the role of digitisation in recent photographic practice, and consider the exhibition of contemporary art photography.

Throughout the course, we will be closely analysing particular photographs and texts. This material will include photographs by August Sander, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Simon Norfolk, and writing by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Rosalind Krauss, Martha Rosler, and Vilém Flusser.

This module is available to incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students studying Fine Art. Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students primarily studying other disciplines are not able to take this module as an outside subject.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading120:0020:00Seminar Preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00Individual tutorials
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops23:006:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork11:001:00Guest lecture
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study180:0080:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
FIN2038Modern and Postmodern Photography
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures: to allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to a body of knowledge, and modeling of the level and nature of the analysis required
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
3. Tutorials: to provide feedback and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of submitted work, and increase awareness of the potential for individual development.
4. Workshops allow for more innovative and cross-curricular teaching.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation101M10N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M502500 words
Written exercise1M40Analysis assignment 1 (1500 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The coursework affords the student the opportunity to conduct research with seminar and peer support into particular areas of interest, to develop their organisational, group work and presentation skills in reporting back to the group and then to demonstrate their ability to think independently using their seminar discussion to inform their individual assignments. Assignments are targeted to develop critical thinking, the ability to develop an argument, visual analysis and theoretical comprehension. The presentation enables the student to develop and test key transferable skills.

Reading Lists