Felix Nadar. Nadar lying on a bench with a cat, self portrait, c.1855-60. Public domain via Wikiart.


Histories of Photography

  • Begins: Tuesday 4 October 2022
    Until: Tuesday 1 November 2022
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Ben Street

The history of photography in terms of still images is much shorter than that of drawing, paintng or sculpture. This course will trace the history of photography looking at specific examples of photographs from a range of contexts. We will not only contextualise photography in terms of technology and function but also explore how to look at and analyse a photograph.

Week 1 – Writing with light: the early years. This lecture will explore the origins of photography in nineteenth-century France and Britain, its relationship with painting and the possibilities and shortcomings of the medium.

Week 2 – Photography and modernism. This lecture will investigate the use of photography in early twentieth-century art in Russia, Germany and France in order to trace its adoption as a medium for modern art.

Week 3 –Photography in motion. This lecture will consider the rise of street photography in France and elsewhere and draw parallels with the rise of urban culture and photography itself.

Week 4 – Photography at mid-century. This lecture will look at photography’s coming of age in the 1950s in America, Japan and elsewhere. The importance of war photography will also be addressed.

Week 5 – Photography as an art. The 1980s and 90s saw the rise of new voices in photography whose works shifted the public perception of the artform.


Ben Street is an art historian, lecturer and author of numerous books on art for children and adults. He is a researcher and tutor for the University of East Anglia and the University of Oxford and has been employed as an educator and lecturer for many museums in the UK and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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