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American Photographs: A Magical History (ARTHIST 285)

Nemerov, A. (PI)
Section Number
What is a "magical" photograph? Who makes one? What is the photograph's relation to the world, to the real? To time and memory and to the viewer? What hold can photographs have on us if they are now everywhere, all the time? Who is the person who could bother to care and look closely at the world and at pictures? If there is such a person, why might she see her role as an ethical one? Starting with the invention of the medium in the 1830s, this course will consider the many distinguished American photographers who have pursued their own answers to these questions: Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, William Eggleston, Francesca Woodman, Laura Aguilar, Deana Lawson, and others. Pursuing the magical, the course offers: a meditation on photography as a medium (its difference from and relation to poetry, literature, and painting); a partial history of America since 1960; a questioning of photography's relation to history; a theory of human intelligence at work - but also passive - before the world; a reflection on how a mechanical medium allows for a personal touch, a personal vision, on the part of master practitioners; yet how even an amateur can make a photograph of haunting power; an attempt to investigate whether or not - if you are quiet and attentive and lucky enough - such a thing as an actual American experience appears before your eyes
Academic Career
Letter (ABCD/NP)
Academic Year
Section Days
Tuesday Thursday
Start Time
1:30 PM
End Time
2:50 PM