image by student Melanie Farspour, fall 2016
BUT REALLY, what part of our life is not touched by photography? I kid you not, while teaching the History of Photography course this quarter I could not have correlated such history more lucidly to everyday life. History of photography as life. Or, history of photography of life.
The quarter began in early January 2017:
Class week by week:
- First week of class, John Berger passes away. Usual first week of class begins with introduction to “Ways of Seeing.”
- Second week of class: Photography and the Victorian era. What is interesting here is that historically (and in the beginnings of photographing people) photography was aligned to those in higher social standing, and eventually a growing middle class. Ownership of the image is gained through the act of looking. In this week, the Apple Campus also revealed progress of construction. I think of their iconic iPod advertising campaign: the silhouetted figure with the ubiquitous white ear buds. In this instance, the silhouetted figure represents the middle class, while the white ear buds are the connecting thread. A reversal of negative and positive space, of reality and cut out.
- Orientalism, ethnographic surveys, photography. The travel ban is enacted.
- Week four: Daguerreotypes and science. Seven daguerreotypes showing the first photographically documented sequential eclipse of the sun. 1854, Langenheim Brothers. During this week the discovery of a new galaxy is announced with photographs of an endearing and seemingly paper mache object, 2017.
- A pre-history of the modern civil rights movement, “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” photographs from the depression era. Protest is not only economic, but also visual. As a precursor to future protests, such as “I Am a Man,” political and human rights aesthetics are previsioned through the lens of a camera, for the camera.
- DADA. and Trauma.
- The Russian Avant-Garde, Censorship, and the Atomic Age.
- Sometime mid to late quarter, I notice that I write smiley faces as if I am typing or texting them—sideways.
These correlations to the everyday were astounding–specifically in the historical year of 2017. At times of uncertainty or hostility, my advice to anyone is to bury yourself in books–as much as possible. Read as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Have the conversations you thought you couldn’t. And Do. NOT. STOP.