History and Theory of Photography 2

Display Schedule

Code Completion Credits Range Language Instruction Semester
307EDT2 ZK 4 4T English summer

Subject guarantor


Name of lecturer(s)


Learning outcomes of the course unit

students will be introduced to the history of photography, media and visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries and to the main contemporary historical and theoretical approaches in the field

Mode of study


Prerequisites and co-requisites


Course contents

(01/03) Mon.

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.

Geoffrey BATCHEN, “Whither the Vernacular?” In: T. M. Campt et al. eds., Imagining Everyday Life. Engagements with Vernacular Photography. Göttingern, New Your, Neu-Ulm: Steidl, The Walther Collection, s. 33–40 + s. 61–66 (Discussion).

(08/03) Mon.

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.

(11/03) Thur.

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

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

(15/03) Mon.

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).

Joan FONTCUBERTA – Geoffrey BATCHEN. Dialogue between Joan Fontcuberta and Geoffrey Batchen. Correspondence. October/December 2016. Available at http://correspondencias.fotocolectania.org/en/2016-en/

(22/03) Mon.

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.

(25/03) Thur.

Temporalities of technical images (Michal Šimůnek)

The lecture will focus on certain tendencies which may be observed in contemporary visual culture: an unprecedented acceleration on the one hand (e.g. live broadcasting, instant photo sharing, live streaming) and an effort to decelerate on the other (e.g. slow photography, slow cinema, slow TV). Fastness and slowness have always been attributed as qualities peculiar to technical images, technical apparatuses and diverse image practices. The lecture, tracing historical and contemporary cases of fast and slow images, will consider fastness and slowness from the perspective of media archaeology.

Jimena CANALES. A Tenth of Second. A History. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009. Ch. 5 Captured by Cinematography, pp. 117–154.

(29/03) Mon.

essay consultation (Michal Šimůnek)

(05/04) Easter

(08/04) Thur.

New Media and Photography (Tomáš Dvořák)

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.

(12/04) Mon.

Photography in Conceptual Art (Josef Ledvina)

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.

(19/04) Mon.

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).

Trevor Paglen, “Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking at You).” The New Inquiry, Dec. 8, 2016.


(22/04) Thur.

Scientific Photography and the Problem of In/Visibility (Tomáš Dvořák)

The lecture focuses on the shift in visual culture towards (studying) infrastructures, platforms, data and algorithmic formations of contemporary “invisible” visual culture. It frames the contemporary situation by the techniques of visualizing the invisible in the tradition of scientific photography and by the problem of disproportion between human and photographic vision.

Adrian MacKenzie – Anna Munster, “Platform Seeing: Image Ensembles and Their Invisualities.” Theory, Culture & Society 2019, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 3–22.


(26/04) Mon.

Between Aestheticism and Propaganda (Josef Ledvina)

The lecture will deal with dynamic relations between art and politics at the beginning of 20th century and during the interwar period. At the center of our attention will be conflicting ideas of “pure art“ and art conceived as a tool of social change. Concepts of formalism, aestheticism, folk education and propaganda will be discussed together with paradigmatic examples of abstract art, political posters or magazine covers. Soviet avant-garde and subsequent enforcement of socialist realism doctrine will be covered in more detail, but we will also touch upon the question of (un)seriousness of declared political positions of some proponents of Dada movement.

Recommended or required reading

see course contents

texts available at:


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 selected scholarly text (please, consult the selected text with M. Šimůnek), 2-3 pages, deadline: 31 March 2021

2nd written assignment: final essay on a given topic, 5-10 pages, deadline: 30 April 2021


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


On alternate year for 1. and 2. class

Schedule for winter semester 2020/2021:

The schedule has not yet been prepared

Schedule for summer semester 2020/2021:

room 112
Room No. 112

(Lažanský palác)

(lecture parallel1)
room 112
Room No. 112

(Lažanský palác)

(lecture parallel1)
Date Day Time Tutor Location Notes No. of paralel
Mon 13:10–16:25 Room No. 112
Lažanský palác
lecture parallel1
Thu 15:30–17:00 Room No. 112
Lažanský palác
lecture parallel1

The subject is a part of the following study plans