A (Very) Short History of Photography

Nicole Woods – Notre Dame

Since the birth of photography, we have used the camera to record all experiences of humanity—indeed, our contemporary lives are saturated with visual images. But photography is a contested medium for creative expression and documentation. Should photographs be seen as veridical representations of the world — windows into the nature of ourselves more trusted than our own senses? Or are photographs artistic forms — inventing truth, not simply documenting it? And what are the moral/ethical dimensions of photography? What, if anything, is owed to the subject of a photograph? This (very) short introduction to the history of photography will grapple with these questions: from examining its beginnings in the 1830s, to the uses of photography in various art movements, to the recent practices by contemporary photographers and artists working in the context of postmodernity.

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