History Of Photography In France

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This course is designed to provide an overview of the history of photography during the past two centuries in France. With its invention in 1839 by Niépce, the development of the daguerreotype, and the production of portraits, landscapes and snapshots, photography’s evolution throughout the 19th century demonstrates how this new discipline responded to specific as well as unidentified needs, and eventually distinguished itself from paintings and other means of representation. Examining 20th century avant-garde, surrealist and modern photography in documentaries, political images, the illustrated press, photographic agencies and journals will enhance students’ understanding of the present. The course will include site visits to the annual Rencontres d’Arles photography festival.

Method of presentation: 

Lectures, discussions, film/documentaries on photographers, field study visits to photography festivals (International Photo Festival and Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie).

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Participation and attendance - 30%
  • In-class exams - 30%
  • Oral presentation on an exposition - 40%
  1. Introduction to the Course and the Invention of Photography

    • Before photography existed
    • Niépce: first fixed photographic image in 1826-27
    • Collaboration with Daguerre and development of the daguerreotype
  2. 1839: An Invention Made Public. Initial Uses and First Works: The Calotype
    • International expansion of the daguerreotype: portrait, architecture and other endeavors
    • The era of the calotype – first photographic works – a new esthetic: HF Talbot, Bayard, Hill & Adamson, etc.
  3. Revolution of the Wet-plate Collodium: 1851-55, 1870-80
  • Various forms of portraits: art studios, callings cards. Famous faces. Photography used by the police.
  • Photography and territories: war photography, new landscapes, untouched landscapes, scientific and industrial photography.
  1. Silver Gelatin Bromide Process: Birth of the Instant and a New Look
  • Chronophotography
  • Revolution of the snapshot
  • Birth of the amateur photographer
  1. Art and Photography
  • “Make a painting,” imitate painting, naturalism, pictorialism, and other schools.
  1. Straight Photography and Successors in the 20th Century
  • Camera Work, Steichen, Stieglitz: moving towards the 20th century
  • The modern city. American references.
  1. Photography and Modernities: Explorations 1910-1930
  • Documentaries
  • Experimenting with light
  • Researching new points of view
  • The avant-gardists
  • The surrealist adventure
  1. Politics, Photojournalism and Humanism
  • Photography and politics. FSA (Farm Security Administration) photographers. Social landscape.
  • Major events, illustrated press, photography agencies.
  1. A New Post-War Vision
  • Alexei Brodovitch and her students. A photography unhinged, intimate, curious. Photographic journals.
  1. Photography and Contemporary Art
  • Plastic photographers. Artists using photography. Galleries and Art Markets.
  1. New Visions, New Practices. Our Questions.
Required readings: 
  • Delpire, Robert and Michel Frizot. Histoire de voir. Collection Photo-Poche, 1989.