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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF3059 Critical approaches to photography

20 creditsClass Size: 18

Module manager: Dr Maki Fukuoka

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Photographic images saturate every corner of contemporary society in a developed country to such an extent that it is difficult to spend a day without seeing a photographic image. Yet, the popular concepts in discussions of photography remain overused and unexamined at best ('truth' 'reflection' 'index'). By engaging with historical and cultural treatises about the medium and its property (how photography 'reflects' reality, how photographers 'see' differently, for instance) this module excavates the multiple layers of philosophical issues embedded in concepts such as 'truth,' 'reality' and 'mediation' in thinking and writing about photographic images.


This module surveys the major theoretical concepts in the study of photographic images and their meanings. This module aims to achieve the following three goals:
1) Become familiar with major discursive concerns in thinking about photography.
2) Learn to “see” abstract issues informing the works examined, and vice versa.
3) Engage in critical discourse on photographic images in our own words by incorporating, extending, and challenging the ideas we learn in class.

Learning outcomes
Students should gain deeper understanding of key issues of photography to analyse photographic images from wide-ranging sources, including but not limited to art, popular culture, and anthropology. They should understand how and to what extent 'reading' photographic images are informed by historical and cultural assumptions and practices. The module offers a set of analytical skills to see photographic images more critically and self-reflectively.

Skills outcomes
Skilled visual and textual analysis
Ability to construct a sustained and coherent argument
Co-ordination and dissemination of a range of historical, contextual, and cultural information


This syllabus is indicative and is subject to change
Syllabus is subject to change but this is an indicative structure of the module teaching -
Week 1: Introduction “What is a Photograph?”
Week 2: The Invention of Photography
Week 3: Social Histories of Photography, pt. 1
Week 4: Social Histories of Photography, pt. 2
Week 5: Photography and Modernism
Week 6: No teaching (Photography and Ethnography)
Week 7: Photography and Imperialism
Week 8: Roland Barthes on Photography
Week 9: Photography and Gender
Week 10: Susan Sontag on Photography
Week 11: Photography and Digital age

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

The delivery will be structured into a lecture and then break to group discussions, and occasional return to a lecture.

Students are expected to complete a set of reading for each week to support a level of independent study and preparation for lectures and seminars.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The in-class discussion, and posting of weekly responses on VLE allow on-going monitoring of student progress. The successful completion of the final essay will be also monitored through submissions of abstract, bibliography, and individual tutoring during Week 10 and 11.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 2500-300050.00
PosterPeer-review of individual’s submitted digital file10.00
Reflective log8 x 250 word40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

There will be an ungraded self-portrait set during Week 2. Thus, the self-portrait set in Week 10 is a second exercise. The individual marking for Self-portrait in Week 10 will be assessed by the class, by using peer-review sheets in class. All assessment components must be passed in order to pass the module overall.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:22:37


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