History and Theory of Photography 2

Subject is not scheduled Not scheduled

Code Completion Credits Range Language Instruction Semester
307DT2 ZK 4 4T Czech summer

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Name of lecturer(s)

Learning outcomes of the course unit

Students are introduced to the history of photography, media and visual culture of the 20th century and contemporary theory and historical approaches to the topic.

Mode of study


Prerequisites and co-requisites


Course contents

  1. (13/02) Vernacular Photography and Consumer Culture (Michal Šimůnek)

The lecture focuses on the vernacular (mainly family) photography, that is discussed in the perspective of selected concepts and approaches of cultural studies, semiotics, history, sociology and anthropology of photography. In the broader context of reflection on the relationship between consumer, popular and visual culture we are going to specify social functions and meanings of vernacular photography and explain how the family life is photographically depicted within historically shifting and mutually interacting discourses of consumer culture and advertising, studio photography, photojournalism, documentary photography, art and family life itself. The final part of the lecture focuses on the transformations of vernacular photography in contemporary digital culture.

Ian TROWELL. „Contemporary Photographic Practices on the British Fairground“. Photographies 2017, 10:2, pp. 211-231.

If interested see records of lectures presented at Vernacular Photography Symposium (The Walther Collection). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdRSmFC1KFw5ccjMXqk57Pbkqlwj721Zt

  1. (20/02) Documentary Photography and Photojournalism (Michal Šimůnek)

The lecture is conceived as a commented overview of the history of documentary photography and photojournalism. The commentaries are focused on the changing social, cultural and technological context determining assumptions about the meaning and purpose of documentary genres and stimulating different sorts of expectations from photographers and audiences.

Mette SANDBYE. “New Mixtures: Migration, war and cultural differences in contemporary art-documentary photography”. Photographies 2018, 11:2–3: 267-287

  1. (27/02) Contemporary Visual Culture and New Documentary Approaches (Michal Šimůnek)

The lecture focuses on some contemporary transformations of photo documentary tradition and on new digital forms of documentary photography and photojournalism. Emphasising the role of photography in new documentary approaches, the lectures deals with so called interactive, web, transmedia, cross-platform, collaborative, database, algorithmic, VR and live documentaries.

William URICCHIO. „Things to come: the possible futures of documentary ... from a historical perspective.“ in Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi and Mandy Rose. i-DOCS. The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary. New York: A Wallflower Press 2017, pp. 191–205.

  1. (06/03) Cameraless photography (Michal Šimůnek)

Although cameraless photography has a stable place in the history (the very first photographs were produced without the use of a camera) and the present of the medium, it is a peripheral photographic practice occurring at the edge of photography and simultaneously making boundaries of photography uncertain. The lecture offers an overview of various cameraless techniques and experimental photographic practices (e.g. anthotypes, the chlorophyll/photosynthesis photography, cliché verre, photograms, x-rays and other other-then-light-rays images, chemigraphs, skiagraphs, screenshots, in-game photography, scanned images) and examples of their application as practiced by some selected inventors, scientists, artists and amateurs. We will pay attention to the specific status and materiality of these images and will consider diverse “off-camera” (post-)production techniques and “contra-apparatus” tactics disrupting mechanical nature of images taken by cameras or produced by other “automatic” means. In this connection we will also consider the question of the specificity of photography and will concern with several theoretical conceptions helping us to think through particular aspects of cameraless photography (e.g. Batchen’s conception of the politics of cameraless photography, reproducibility, copy and original, photorealism, Flusser’s conception of techno-imagination and play against apparatuses, semiotics of photography, aesthetics of imperfection, creative misuse, practices of bricolage and DIY ethos, found-photography, post-photography, liminality of photography, copy-and-paste aesthetic, algorithmic photography).

Winfried GERLING, “Photography in the Digital.” Photographies, 2018, vol. 11, n. 2–3, p. 149–167.

  1. (13/03) New Media and Photography (Michal Šimůnek)

Lectures provide an overview and critical analysis of theory approaches to new media from the 1990s to the present with an emphasis on the changes in form and function of the photographic image. The lecture is devoted primarily to the shift from „realistic“ form representation, dominating the 20th century (photography, film, television, virtual reality) to technology prevailing today: databases, GPS system and data visualizations.

Jay David BOLTER - Richard GRUSIN, „Immediacy, Hypermediacy, Remediation.“ Remediation. Understanding New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1999, pp. 20-50.

  1. (20/03) Operative Images(Tomáš Dvořák)

The lecture will survey the shift from the technical image as representation to instrumental or operative images – images that autonomously pursue certain tasks. It will also pay attention to the convergence of the camera with other technologies and apparatus and to the shift from optical processes to digital computation (scanners, drones, satellites, computational photography, digital image processing, machine vision).

Joanna Zylinska, Nonhuman Photography. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 2017, pp. 13–50.

  1. (27/03) Creative Misuse of Technology and Playing Against Programs of Apparatuses (Michal Šimůnek)

The lecture seeks to address those uses of photography, which question the technological nature of photography and its social and cultural position. In this respect, the project aims to consider photography through the conception of the creative misuse of technology and through Flusser’s call for playing against programs of apparatuses. Considering photography through the conception of creative misuse of technology is precarious but at the same time provocative and inspiring endeavor. What is photography as technology? Are there any ways how to play against photography? What can this kind of play reveal about the role of photography in our culture and everyday life? Are there any creative misuses of photography that have a potential to transform photography itself? The lecture aims to search for answers to these questions mainly in the context of artistic “experimental” photography and DIY “amateur” photographic practices, as these are the contexts in which the conception of creative misuse has played a significant role.

Marc LENOT. “Flusser and Photographers, Photographers and Flusser.” Flusser Studies 2017, 24. Available on http://www.flusserstudies.net/sites/www.flusserstudies.net/files/media/attachments/marc-lenot-flusser-photographers-photographers-flusser.pdf

(for Marc Lenot’s talk “Playing Against Camera. Experimental Photography” see https://www.rencontres-arles.com/en/actualites/view/119/playing-against-cameras-experimental-photography-by-marc-lenot)

  1. (03/04) Modernism and Modern Times (Josef Ledvina)

What was the attitude of modern art towards technological progress – to assembly line production, factory chimneys, aeroplanes, readymade goods, advertisement, popular magazines...? Positions were running on the scale between the enthusiastic affirmation of technological progress and its blanket rejection as of something threatening the very “essence of humanity”. In the center of our attention will be Bauhaus, touched will be also upon technopesimistic positions of some dadaists and expressionists.

Laszlo MOHOLY-NAGY, Painting, Photography, and Film, Cambridge MA: MIT Press 1967.

  1. (10/04) No lecture – plein air
  2. (17/04) Surrealism and Image (Josef Ledvina)

The lecture will outline the history of the Surrealist movement and work

of its main protagonists and a the same time open some more general questions concerning nature of images and imagining. We will touch upon the topic of “internal images“ (dreams and hallucinatory imagery) and attempts at its pictorialization or the problematics of pareidolias that (especially from the surrealist point of view) productively complicate distinction between the inner and outer (or objective and subjective).

André Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism”. In: Manifestoes of Surrealism. University of Michigan Press 1969, pp. 1–48.

  1. (24/04) Photography in Conceptual Art + summary and discussion of final essay themes (Josef Ledivna)

Lectures focus on the use of photography in conceptual art and performative arts and its particular aesthetic, defining in the face of tradition artistic photography. We will devote a part of the day to the canon of foreign artists (Ed Ruscha, Dan Graham and others) and their theory reviews (Jeff Wall, Nancy Foote), but shall also refer to related phenomena in Czech art (Pavel Vančát / Jan Freiberg: Photography??).

Jeff WALL, „Marks of Indifference: Aspects of Photography in, or, as, Conceptual Art“, in: Ann GOLDSTEIN and Anne RORIMER, Reconsidering the object of Art, 1965-1975, Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art 1995, pp. 247-267.

  1. (01/05) No lecture – national holiday

Recommended or required reading

See course content

readings for downloading:


Assessment methods and criteria

The two main requirements for completing the course are:

attendance (you cannot miss more than 2 classes, in serious cases announced in advance, you may compensate for missing more lectures by another - typically written - assignment: this needs to be consulted beforehand with the lecturer)

turning in all required assignments (if you fail to submit only one of the presentations, your final grade is F):

1st written assignment: a critical analysis of a given scholarly text, 2-3 pages, deadline: 30 April 2019

2nd written assignment: final essay on a given topic, 5-10 pages, deadline: 24 May 2019

the exam will have the form of a discussion of both texts with the teacher


This course is for the 1st and 2nd years of study together and takes place once every two years. It is registered for the 2014-2015 school year.

Further information

No schedule has been prepared for this course

The subject is a part of the following study plans