SM3721 - Theories of Photography and Imaging

Offering Academic Unit
School of Creative Media
Credit Units
Course Duration
One Semester
Course Offering Term*:
Semester A 2021/22

* The offering term is subject to change without prior notice
Course Aims

This course highlights the use of theories.

In the spirit of theory as practice, a course on the theories of photography turns around the assumption that art-making is best when the artist is as spontaneous as s/he can be. With a comprehensive list of courses on the practice of photography in place at SCM, this course aims to invite students to think through the many implications of photography and the many possible ways to understand photographic practicess. This course aims at encouraging students in photography to become more informed about the choices they make and the reasons they provide for their photo-making activities. For students who do not specialize in photography, this course enables them to be informed, intelligent users, and be able to benefit from the theoretical thinking of photography to better other areas of academic/artistic pursuits.

The first part of the course persuades students to acknowledge the importance and relevance of theory, and that even when we don’t mention theory, our photographic activities always already rest on implicit, unspoken assumptions presented as ‘common sense’. As Victor Burgin argues, “theory sets out to question the underlying assumptions of common sense in order to replace them.”

Even though this is a theory course, students are invited to walk through selected 20th-century and contemporary thinkers who have contributed to our understanding of photography and photographic practices. While it is still arguable whether photography has a theory of its own, we take the history of photography itself as theory. We will examine theories of image-making, the use of photography in contemporary everyday culture, theories of interpretation and meaning-making, photography within a broader system of picture-making, as well as the social and technological contexts and issues underpinning photography.

The last section of the course will deal with the question of where photography began, the impact of digitality on our understanding of photography, and the role of photography in contemporary art. Throughout the semester, students will be asked to read assigned texts of digestible size, keep a journal to document their writings of assigned, found and researched photographs, and to complete a final photography project with a thesis statement.

Assessment (Indicative only, please check the detailed course information)

Continuous Assessment: 100%
Detailed Course Information


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School of Creative Media