Seeing Through Photographs

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Description

When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: Although taking, sharing, and viewing photographs has become second nature for many of us, our regular engagement with images does not necessarily make us visually literate. This course aims to address the gap between seeing and truly understanding photographs by introducing a diversity of ideas, approaches, and technologies that inform their making. In this course you will look closely at photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and hear a variety of perspectives on what a photograph is and the ways that photography has been used throughout its nearly 180 year history: as a means of artistic expression, as a tool for science and exploration; as an instr…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: Although taking, sharing, and viewing photographs has become second nature for many of us, our regular engagement with images does not necessarily make us visually literate. This course aims to address the gap between seeing and truly understanding photographs by introducing a diversity of ideas, approaches, and technologies that inform their making. In this course you will look closely at photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and hear a variety of perspectives on what a photograph is and the ways that photography has been used throughout its nearly 180 year history: as a means of artistic expression, as a tool for science and exploration; as an instrument of documentation; to tell stories and record histories; and as a mode of communication and critique in our ever increasingly visual culture. Learning Objectives • Develop skills to better examine and understand the differences between photographs and photographic images. • Discover how context influences the production, circulation, and reception of photographic images. • Learn about different modes of artistic and technological experimentation and innovation in photography. • Investigate photography’s role in our increasingly visual culture.

Who is this class for: This course, aimed at a general audience interested in photography, is designed to help build skills in looking critically at photographs. No prior knowledge of studio photography or history of photography is required. Please note, this course does not address technical skills for making or editing photographs.

Created by:  The Museum of Modern Art

  • Taught by:  Sarah Meister, Curator

    Department of Photography

Commitment 6 weeks of study, 1-2 hours/week Language English, Subtitles: Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Simplified) How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.7 stars Average User Rating 4.7See what learners said Coursework

Each course is like an interactive textbook, featuring pre-recorded videos, quizzes and projects.

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The Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art is a place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration. With extraordinary exhibitions and the world's finest collection of modern and contemporary art, MoMA is dedicated to the conversation between the past and the present, the established and the experimental. Our mission is helping you understand, enjoy, and use the art of our time.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


Introduction to Seeing Through Photographs
“Photography is a foreign language everyone thinks he speaks.” -- Philip-Lorca di Corcia


2 videos, 2 readings expand

  1. Reading: 1.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 1.2 Seeing Through Photographs
  3. Video: 1.3 Interview with Marvin Heiferman
  4. Reading: 1.4 Required Readings & Additional Resources


Graded: Introduction

WEEK 2


One Subject, Many Perspectives
Discover photography's roots in both art and science by observing the diverse ways the medium has been used across time to capture a single subject familiar to us all.


7 videos, 3 readings expand

  1. Reading: 2.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 2.2 Interview with Vik Muniz
  3. Video: 2.3 Vernacular & Fine Art Photographs of the Moon
  4. Video: 2.4 Early Photographs of the Moon: Surface, Scale & Technology
  5. Video: 2.5 New Perspectives: Man on the Moon
  6. Slideshow: 2.6 Slideshow
  7. Reading: 2.6 Slideshow [mobile-friendly version]
  8. Video: 2.7 Ansel Adams. Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. 1941
  9. Video: 2.8 Eugène Atget. Pendant l'Eclipse. 1912
  10. Video: 2.9 U.S.G.S. & NASA, Surveyor III. Surface of the Moon, Day 319, W-F. 1967
  11. Reading: 2.10 Required Readings & Additional Resources
  12. Discussion Prompt: 2.11 Discussion Questions


Graded: One Subject, Many Perspectives

WEEK 3


Documentary Photography
Explore a variety of approaches to documentary photography, from those that aim to produce objective records to those that critique the reliability of photographs as evidence.


4 videos, 3 readings expand

  1. Reading: 3.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 3.2 Sarah Meister on Documentary Photography
  3. Slideshow: 3.3 Slideshow
  4. Reading: 3.3 Slideshow [mobile-friendly version]
  5. Video: 3.4 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother. 1936
  6. Video: 3.5 Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel. Evidence. 1977
  7. Video: 3.6 Susan Meiselas. Carnival Strippers. 1973-75
  8. Reading: 3.7 Required Readings & Additional Resources
  9. Discussion Prompt: 3.8 Discussion Questions


Graded: Documentary Photography

WEEK 4


Pictures of People
Examine pictures of people—as individuals or as representatives of a type, posed or captured unaware—and discover how the choices made by both photographer and subject inform our assumptions about those depicted.


6 videos, 3 readings expand

  1. Reading: 4.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 4.2 Interview with Nicholas Nixon
  3. Video: 4.3 Interview with Katy Grannan
  4. Slideshow: Slideshow 4.4
  5. Reading: 4.4 Slideshow [mobile-friendly version]
  6. Video: 4.5 Akram Zaatari. After They Got the Right to Arms. Fourteen young men posing with guns. Early 1970s/2006
  7. Video: 4.6 Frances Benjamin Johnston. The Hampton Album. 1899-1900
  8. Video: 4.7 Tina Barney. Sunday New York Times. 1982
  9. Video: 4.8 Nicholas Nixon. The Brown Sisters. 1975-Present
  10. Reading: 4.9 Required Readings & Additional Resources
  11. Discussion Prompt: 4.10 Discussion Questions


Graded: Pictures of People

WEEK 5


Constructing Narratives & Challenging Histories
Learn to look critically at the way photographs have been used to construct narratives that shape our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.


7 videos, 3 readings expand

  1. Reading: 5.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 5.2 Interview with Hank Willis Thomas
  3. Video: 5.3 Interview with Iñaki Bonillas
  4. Slideshow: 5.3 Slideshow
  5. Reading: 5.4 Slideshow [mobile-friendly version]
  6. Video: 5.5 Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Stills. 1977–80
  7. Video: 5.6 Carrie Mae Weems. From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. 1995
  8. Video: 5.7 Walid Raad. My neck is thinner than a hair: Engines. 1996-2001
  9. Video: 5.8 Thomas Demand. Room (Zimmer). 1996
  10. Video: 5.9 Harrell Fletcher. The American War. 2005
  11. Reading: 5.10 Required Readings & Additional Resources
  12. Discussion Prompt: 5.11 Discussion Questions


Graded: Constructing Narratives & Challenging Histories

WEEK 6


Ocean of Images: Photography & Contemporary Culture
Many artists are turning to our image-saturated world as both a source for and subject of their work. Explore how they examine—and frequently disrupt—current methods of image production, presentation, and circulation.


7 videos, 4 readings expand

  1. Reading: 6.1 Introduction
  2. Video: 6.2 Interview with Lucas Blalock
  3. Video: 6.3 Interview with David Horvitz
  4. Video: 6.4 Interview with Anouk Kruithof
  5. Video: 6.5 Interview with Ilit Azoulay
  6. Slideshow: 6.6 Slideshow
  7. Reading: 6.6 Slideshow [mobile-friendly version]
  8. Video: 6.7 Robert Heinecken. Are You Rea. 1964-68
  9. Video: 6.8 Thomas Ruff. jpeg msh01. 2004
  10. Video: 6.9 Martha Rosler. House Beautiful (Bringing the War Home). 1967-72
  11. Reading: 6.10 Required Readings & Additional Resources
  12. Discussion Prompt: 6.11 Discussion Questions
  13. Reading: Funding & Credits


Graded: Ocean of Images: Photography & Contemporary Culture
Graded: Final Project

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