Texas A&M University - Commerce


In this course we will examine the development and history of photography, from its inception to the present. The social and cultural application of the medium (including popular uses to high art) will be emphasized.  Specific events and the work of significant practitioners of the medium will be discussed. We will study the work by individual photographers and look at historic events that influenced them. Additionally, students will read key essays in the field, and discuss and write about them critically. By the end of the course, the student will have a broad knowledge of the historical development of photography as a cultural phenomenon, a language of communication, and as an art form. 



-       discuss and explain historically significant works of photography

-       become acquainted with the characteristic features of the major styles and movements popularized by photography

-       learn to analyze the relationships among content, context, and style

-       acquire a working knowledge of the specialized vocabulary used in photography and art history

-       become able to analyze important historical documents and criticism

-       enhance visual literacy and critical thinking skills



Students’ ability to meet the course objectives and learning outcomes will be evaluated through written assignments, class participation, exams, and essay questions.



Juliet Hacking, Photography: The Whole Story (Prestel, 2012) ISBN: 9783791347349

Vicki Goldberg, ed. Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (University of New Mexico Press, 1988) ISBN: 0826310915



Available on ecollege or will be handed out in class. You are expected to bring the assigned readings to class.


-       internet access

-       access to eCollege, course documents (including pdfs of the slides shown in class) will be uploaded here


Our campus is optimized to work in a Microsoft Windows environment. This means our courses work best if you use a Windows operating system (XP or newer) and a recent version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (8.0). Your courses also work with Macintosh OS X along with a recent version of Safari 2.0 or better. Along with Internet Explorer and Safari, eCollege also supports the Firefox browser (3.0) on both Windows and Mac operating system.



This is a web enhanced course through eCollege, the Learning Management System used by

Texas A & M University-Commerce. To use the eCollege features associated with this course go to: https://leo.tamuc.edu/login.aspx. You will need your CWID (Campus Wide I.D.) and password to log in to the course. If you do not know your CWID or have forgotten your password, contact technology services at 903-468- 6000 or helpdesk@tamuc.edu


Technical Support: Texas A & M University-Commerce provides students technical support in the use of eCollege. The student help desk may be reached by the following means 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

 Chat support: Click on ‘Live support’ on the tool bar with the course to chat with an

eCollege representative.

 Phone: 1-866-656-5511 (Toll free) to speak with eCollege technical support representative.

 E-mail: helpdesk@tamuc.edu to initiate a support request with eCollege technical support representative.

 Help: Click on the ‘help’ button on the toolbar for information regarding working with eCollege.



Each assignment must be handed in on time at the beginning of class and will NOT be accepted via email.  For each class period late (and if not handed in at the start of class), the grade will be deducted one letter grade.  Assignments will NOT be accepted over ONE week late. 



All written assignments must be typed using the following guidelines: 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1” margins, double-spaced, with page numbers. Papers must be stapled. Artwork titles must be italicized. Failure to format properly will result in a lower grade.


Statement on Student Behavior:

            All students enrolled at the University shall follow the tenet of common decency and acceptable behavior conducive to a positive learning environment (See Student’s Guide Handbook, Policies and Procedures, Conduct).

            All students must show respect toward the instructor and the instructor’s syllabus, presentations, assignments, and point of view.  Students should respect each others’ differences.  If the instructor determines that a student is not being respectful towards other students or the instructor, it is the instructor’s prerogative to ask the student to leave, to refer the student to the department head, and to consider referring the student to the Dean of Students who may consider requiring the student to drop the course.  Please refer to pages 42 – 46 of the Texas A&M University-commerce Student guidebook’s Codes of Conduct for details.


Prohibited during class:

-       Cell Phones/Blackberries/MP3 Players:  Please keep these devices off while class is in session. It is disrespectful to your classmates.  No cell phones are allowed during exam sessions. If you need to check the time, consult the clock in the classroom.  Repeated use of these devices will result in being asked to leave.

-       Computers and tablets

-       Sleeping

-       Disruptive or distracting behavior: Texting, conversing with other students during class, loud eating, etc.

-       Repeated entering/exiting the classroom: Please be on time to class.  Not only is disruptive to the class environment, but you could miss important class announcements. This is a short class, so there should be no need to come in and out throughout the class period. Additionally, repeated tardiness will count with your absences, and could result in a lower grade.


Academic Dishonesty: There is no tolerance for any kind of academic dishonesty in this course. This includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism, cheating on exams, theft of instructional material or exams, representing the work of someone else as one’s own, and misrepresenting absences. Academic dishonesty is a severe transgression in college and may result in referral to the Dean of Students, expulsion from class and/or the University, and a failing grade.


Discussion: In this class, we will look at a wide array of artwork, some of which might include nudity, intense language, violence, etc. Each person will bring their own experiences to the art, and should feel comfortable expressing their opinions and vulnerabilities. The classroom is a safe environment, and each student should behave with integrity and treat their peers with respect.


            The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact:

Office of Student Disability Resources and Services, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Gee Library, Room 132, Phone (903) 886-5150 or (903) 886-5835, Fax (903) 468-8148, StudentDisabilityServices@tamu-commerce.edu


After contacting the Office of Student Disability Resources and Services, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor of what accommodations are needed IN ADVANCE of when they are needed (for example, if testing accommodations are necessary, please inform the instructor with appropriate documentation at LEAST one week before the test date).



For all emails sent, please include full name, student ID, and the class that you are attending.  Do not send emails to myself and other professors at once, as each professor has different issues to address.  You are allotted three absences for this course; plan accordingly and there is no need to contact me about unexcused absences that are incorporated into this allowance.  For excused absences, you need to bring in a hard copy of appropriate documentation of your absence.



Make‐up exams will be administered only in instances of excused absences (and acceptable documentation) and may not be designed in the same format as the regularly‐scheduled exam. When an excused absence causes a student to miss an exam, it is the student’s responsibility to inform‐‐or to have someone else notify‐‐the instructor within 4 days of the exam. If permitted, these exams must be made up within two weeks of the scheduled date, at a time and place determined by the professor.


Assignments are due at the start of the class on the assigned date. Late work will only be accepted for one week after the due date, and the grade will be penalized. Concerning grade decisions, I will not discuss specific grades on ANY assignment or test the day it is returned.  If you have concerns regarding a grade, email me within one week of receiving the assignment back clearly explaining why you think the assignment was assessed incorrectly. Upon receipt of the email, we will set an appointment to address the concern. 







Grade Breakdown:

10% Participation                                        15% Assignments

15% Exam #1                                               15% Exam #2

20% Exam #3                                               25% Exam #4


Participation: Each person is expected to come to class prepared, which means having done the reading and/or worksheet and ready to engage in the class.  The class should not just be a lecture, rather, people are encouraged to speak up, contribute to the conversation and ask questions. A major part of the participation requirement is ATTENDANCE, which is mandatory. You will also be asked to do short assignments and responses to the readings, these will contribute to your participation grade.


Attendance: Each student in this course is allowed no more than three unexcused absences. Each absence after three results in the lowering of the grade by 1/3 of a letter grade. When a student accrues more than eight unexcused absences the instructor has the right to drop the student from the course or to give them a failing grade.


Unexcused absences require no explanation. For an absence to be considered excused, appropriate documentation must be presented. Excused absences are defined in The Student Guidebook and various university policies, but the policy employed in this class is confined to the following: (1) Participation in pre‐approved University activities such as athletic events, sponsored field trips, and travel for specific University‐related academic reasons; (2) Verifiable legal proceedings; (3) Documented cases of illness, injury, or emergencies. All such excuses must be shown to the instructor in original, written, documentary form within 7 days of the absence(s) together with a photocopy for the instructor’s records. (Please understand that this copy is a student’s only record of an absence.) In lieu of documentation, the absences become unexcused and are counted as such.



Throughout the course, you will have four exams.  They will have three components: slide identifications (where you must identify the artist/title/date/style of the photograph), short answer questions, and an essay question regarding readings and styles discussed. These will NOT be cumulative - only covering material immediately preceding the exam.



Throughout the semester, various short writing assignments will be given. The assignments must be handed in on time at the beginning of class and will NOT be accepted via email.  For each class period late (and if not handed in at the start of class), the grade will be deducted one letter grade.  Assignments will NOT be accepted over ONE week late. 


                                     History of Photography Schedule


Jan 21 - Invention of Photography – PTWS: 18-49

Jan 26 - Innovations

Readings: Berger - “Understanding a Photograph” (Handout)

Jan 28 - War Photography – PTWS: 50-57, 128-131

Readings: Townsend - “Interview with Matthew Brady” (Goldberg)

Feb 2 - Travel Photography – PTWS: 70-82, 88-99, 132-135

            Readings: Blanchard - “Afield with the West Plate” (Goldberg)

Feb 4 - Photography and Science – PTWS:58-65, 136-147

Feb 9 – Commercial Portraiture – PTWS: 100-107

Reading: Chittenden, “An Historical Letter” (Goldberg)

Feb 11- Amateur Portraiture – PTWS: 82-85, 108-127

Reading: Cameron - “Annals of My Glass House” (Goldberg)


Feb 16 - EXAM #1


Feb 18 - Pictorialism – PTWS: 156-167

Readings: Stieglitz - “Pictorial Photography” (handout) and Caffin - “Photography as a Fine Art (Goldberg)

Feb 23 - Alfred Steiglitz and his circle – PTWS: 148-155, 170-183

Feb 25 - Straight Photography - – PTWS: 184-187, 196-207, 280-283

Reading: Strand - “The Art Motive in Photography” and Brown - “Interview with Paul Strand” (Goldberg)

Mar 2 - Social Reform Photography – PTWS: 147-155, 296-311

Readings: Siegel - “Jacob Riis: Shedding Light on NYC’s ‘Other Half’” (listen to NPR Story,  see ecollege)

Mar 4 - Edward Curtis and Anthropology

Mar 9 – TBA


Mar 11 - EXAM #2


Mar 16 and 18 - NO CLASS


Mar 23 - Interwar Photography – PTWS: 192-195, 208-223

Readings: Benjamin - “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Goldberg)

Mar 25 – Surrealism – PTWS: 224-239, 244-255

            Readings: Man Ray - “Self Portrait” (Goldberg)

Mar 30 - f-64

Readings: Adams - “A Personal Credo” and Weston - “Leaflet, Written for the Los Angeles Museum (Goldberg)

Apr 1 - Photojournalism – PTWS: 312-330

Readings: Hopkinson - “Scoop, Scandal and Strife: A Study of Photography in Newspapers” and Stryker - “The FSA Collection of Photographs”  (Goldberg)

Apr 6 - Photographic Essays at Midcentury

Readings: Intro/Prologue to “The Family of Man”  (handout), Weegee - “Weegee by Weegee” (Goldberg)

Apr 8 - Street Photography – PTWS: 283-295, 364-7

Readings: Abbott, “The World of Atget” and Cartier-Bresson - “The Decisive Moment” (Goldberg)***


Apr 13 - EXAM #3


Apr 15 – Color Photography and Fashion  – PTWS: 260-271, 276-279, 334-355

Apr 20 - 1960s – PTWS: 368-395

Readings: Frank - “Statement” (Goldberg)

Apr 22 - Photographing People in the 1960s

            Readings: Sontag - “America, Seen Through Photographs Darkly” (Goldberg)***

Apr 27 - Color Photography and the 1970s – PTWS: 395-403

            Readings: Rosenberg - “Introduction to Avedon’s Portraits” (Goldberg)

Apr 29 - Conceptual Photography and Postmodernism – PTWS: 404-426

Readings: Crimp - “Pictures”  (handout)***

May 4 - 1990s, – PTWS: TBA

            Readings: Barthes - “The Photographic Message” (Goldberg)***

May 6 - TBA