Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
History of Photography 1 - Themes and Processes 1840-1940
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 2 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay (3,000 words)  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   50%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to
.a) identify the major movements in nineteenth and early twentieth century photography
b) identify and understand the major processes in nineteenth and early twentieth century photography
c) identify and demonstrate understanding of the major trends in nineteenth and early twentieth century photography
d) identify and discuss the work of select individual photographers in nineteenth and early twentieth century photography
e) articulate an awareness of the visual revolution which photography heralded for societies world-wide
f) understand and discuss the role photography has played as a visual art

Brief description

This module charts the early development of photography (from before photography to invention) through to specific applications of the medium as a carrier of ideas (praxis to epistemology and ontology) and is designed to be an informative background ‘primer’ for students (including those with no background in photography). The course introduces the student to some of the significant processes, explores the major themes and applications of photography in the first one hundred years (the portrait, travel, war, propaganda, etc.), and includes case studies of major historical figures and the relationship of photography to historical narratives and events.


1. Introduction to the course, readings, assessments, trips, Blackboard, the syllabus, etc.

2. ‘Opticks’ and the origins of photography: Philosophical Inquiries and Concepts centred on Light and Light Capture. The pre-history of photography and the momentum towards invention.

3. The 'official' Invention (1839): Niepce, Daguerre and Talbot
The main protagonists, the announcement of ‘photography’ and the debates and discussions about the form and meaning of photographic making.

4. The National Library of Wales – early photographic collections

5. A New Art: romance, polemics and recantations
The ‘art’ of photography, Robinson, Rejlander, Emerson and The Linked Ring.
A New Language: War, Travel and the Portrait
The portrait craze, photographers on the battlefield and exploring the world.

6. New Momentum, New Directions:
The birth of the snapshot and photographic democratisation, Alfred Stieglitz Modernism and the Photo-Secession.
Photo-Modernism: American Realism/European Experimental
European and American currents in Modernist photography before 1945.

7. Visit to Lacock Abbey, home of William Henry Fox Talbot.

8. Politics and the Camera: Social(ist) Commentaries (1840s – 1950s)
Looking at the origins of ‘photography with a conscience’ the development of the photograph as social commentary through to social questioning including: Hill and Adamson, Thomas Annan, John Thompson, Jacob Riis, and the left-wing radicalisation of photography (in an American context) in the work of Lewis Hine and the Photo-League.

9. Documents and Narratives: Politics and Ideology as Photographic form
Case studies to explore the state sponsored ‘political’ role of photography in the 1930s, with select examples from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers of Roosevelt’s New Deal and the conflation of creative photography, pseudo-science and propaganda in National Socialist Germany.

10. Margaret Bourke-White: War, Fortune and Steel
A case study of a woman photographer working as photo-journalist between the two world wars and beyond.

11. Bill Brandt and Robert Frank: Documentary to Art
How these ostensibly photo-documentarians developed an aesthetic approach to their practice that has been read as being ‘art’

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Written communication skills
Improving own Learning and Performance Written, critical, IS and research skills further developed
Information Technology Writing in an academic context using word processing and CAL systems
Problem solving Contextualizing historical precedent in the history of photography (e.g. visual, cultural, media, conceptual effects of the medium)
Research skills Researching through the use of library resources (National Library, Hugh Owen) as well electronic resources (e.g. JOEY, the internet), object studies (School of Art collections, NLW collections of photographs
Team work Seminar discussion groups and debate


This module is at CQFW Level 6