21A.348 | Spring 2008 | Undergraduate

Photography and Truth


What matters most is staying up with reading and viewing assignments and participating actively in class. In addition, you will be responsible for the following.

Mini-Essays/Reports (PDF)

(1¼-2 pages, ongoing)

Three short essays, 1¼ to 2 pages, to be spaced out over the semester, on photography in life and literature. Some will be presented and discussed in class.

  • On photography as it appears in a film, novel, or short story
  • On photography as it plays a role in life

Vernacular Photographs

(4 pages, due Week #8)

A brief study of an example of vernacular photography, either from one’s own family albums or some other source.

Practice and Impact

(5 pages, due Week #10)

An essay on photographic practice and its impact. Either some aspect of depression-era photography, or colonial photographs of non-western peoples.

Critical Discussion of Claims/Theories/Interpretations

(2 pages, due Week #11)

Brief critical discussion of one point in theories/claims/interpretations of photography.

Interpretation of Pictures

(3 pages, due Week #12)

Discussion and analysis of one set of photographs (a photo-essay, a book, one photographer’s work).


1 Introduction  
2 The power and ambiguity of photography  
3 Looking at faces  
4 Snaps/albums/postcards/itinerants, everyday photography and people’s lives First mini essay/report due
5 Truth and deception  
6 Advertising photography and gender  
7 Photographing the Great Depression Second mini essay/report due
8 Imperialism and photography Brief study on vernacular photography
9 Muck-raking, advocacy, and propaganda Third mini essay/report due
10 Photographing people’s lives: photo-essays and photo-ethnography Essay on photographic practice and impact due
11 Looking at pictures, thinking about photography Critical discussion of claims/theories/interpretations
12 War and suffering in the picture Interpretation of pictures

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008