A (Very) Short History of Photography

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Duration 01:00:41

Notre Dame

Nicole Woods is an art historian at the University of Notre Dame. Woods’ research focuses on the historical and neo-avant-gardes, performance and conceptual art, gender studies, critical race theory, and the history of photography. She also has taught at the University of California, Irvine and Loyola Marymount University. Professor Woods is the recipient of several prominent research grants, including The Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writers Grant.


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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