Department of Art & Art History | Arts, Literature and Theater Collegium
Rebecca Morrison | 912.401.3081 | rmorrison@nec.edu | naerct.org
OFFICE HOURS: Tower 21 | T/W/R | By Appointment Only _____________________________________________________________________________


This course is a visually-oriented survey of the history of photography from Daguerre to the present, and an exploration of its development as a fine art medium, a commercial tool, a means of documentation, and a cultural phenomenon.


This course seeks to familiarize students with the major figures and historical movements of photography, within a broader context of art and cultural history. Its primary task is to develop visual literacy and an understanding of the complex and varied categories and functions of photographic image making. In addition, students will develop both the analytical skills and the critical vocabulary necessary to access, explore, effectively evaluate and discuss photographic imagery from its earliest examples to the present applications of the medium.


Our class meetings will consist of lectures (including slideshows and video presentations), in-class discussions, one or more technical demonstrations, and one or more visiting artist talks. Students may also be asked to attend openings and artist talks at the New England College gallery or other museums/galleries, to be announced by the instructor during the semester. Students are expected to attend all class meetings, complete reading, writing, and online quiz assignments outside of class, and participate in in-class discussions.

As we look at and discuss photographs in this class, we will follow a “loose chronological” structure. Beginning with class meeting 2 on 9/6/12, we will spend the first part of the semester following the birth and development of the medium along a chronological line. However, as the semester progresses, we will begin to look at work grouped by prevalent themes and ideas, and the chronological organization of the course will become more flexible.


Grades for this course are determined as follows:

15%            Online Quizzes (5)
15%            Image Response Papers (5)
10%            In-Class Photographer Presentations
20%            Term Paper
20%            Final Exam
*20%          Participation

*The participation grade is based on the student’s active involvement in classroom discussions, demonstrations, artist talks (Q&A), and all other in-class activities. Students will be given a participation grade at EACH CLASS MEETING. Your final participation grade for this course will be an average of these 28 grades. Unexcused absences (after 2) will result in a participation grade of 0 for that class meeting.


Cell phones are not allowed in class. NO STUDENT is allowed to have a visible cell phone or an audible ringer/text alert on during class sessions. Students observed texting or using cell phones for any other reason during class will be asked to leave and marked absent for that class period.

Students who need to be available by phone during a given class period due to a family emergency or other extenuating circumstance MUST see the instructor prior to the start of class to receive permission to have their phone on their person during class. Even under these circumstances, cell phones must not remain visible during class time. If you are expecting an emergency call or text during a particular class session, please keep your phone on vibrate in your pocket and excuse yourself from class to take your call.

Laptops may be used for note-taking only. Students observed using laptops for web browsing or any other purpose excluding note-taking in a word processing program will be asked to leave and marked absent for that class session. Additionally, students observed browsing the web or using laptops inappropriately during class may be prohibited from future in-class use of laptops.


In lieu of Blackboard, we will use the NEC Photography website for the online component of our class. Here, you will have access to the course policies and detailed class-by-class syllabus, a list of all assignments, links to lecture notes, exam review notes, and PDF versions of supplemental readings, as well as direct links to relevant videos and external websites.

The direct link to the History of Photography mini-site is:

You may also access the site by going to the NEC Photo website at:
and choosing “Photo History” from the “For Students” drop-down on the right side of the menu bar.

Due to copyright issues, certain PDF files of supplemental readings may be password-protected. Please see your email for the universal PDF password.


During the semester, a total of five quizzes will be administered online through the NEC Photo website. Quizzes, which will take the form of a series of short essay questions, will not be timed and will be open-book and open-note. While there is no time limit for quizzes, each of the five will have a specific date/time deadline. Late quizzes without a documented excuse (Doctor’s note, etc.) will be graded down 10 points for every day that they are late. Quizzes not completed one week from their due date will receive a score of 0.


One timed final exam will be administered in the classroom during this course, comprising 20% of each student’s final grade. After a five-minute review at the beginning of the scheduled final exam time, students will be given the entirety of the final exam period to complete their tests. The final exam will include short essays, multiple choice questions, and slide comparisons.


Students will write a total of 5 “Image Response” papers during the course of the semester. These short think pieces should be approximately 2 typed, double-spaced pages. The protocol students should follow for writing these papers is:
  1. Choose a photograph from a book, newspaper, or magazine. Your image MUST be chosen from a printed source, not the web.
  2. If your source is a book, scan, photograph, or photocopy the image so that you can use it to accompany your essay.
  3. Create a header for your essay that includes the photographer’s name, the title of the image (if available), and the title and date of the publication in which you found it.
  4. Write a short essay in which you discuss the image in detail. Address its purely visual aspects, such as composition, color, and form, format, and process. Do you know, for example, the scale of the printed image? Address why the photographer may have made these choices regarding syntax. Also address the context of the image and the photographer's intent. Use the essay to express your personal reaction to the image, including both your visceral and your intellectual responses to it.

Due dates for these papers are on class meeting days. In the interest of being as paperless as possible, I welcome assignments turned in by email to me in PDF or .doc/.docx formats as email attachments, sent to my NEC email at rmorrison@nec.edu. However, your paper is not considered received by me until I acknowledge that I have received it by return email or in class on the day it is due. If you have done your paper but I have not received it by email by the time we meet in class on its due date, you must find a way to print or resend it to me by the end of that class meeting to receive full credit.


A major essay, comprising 20% of your final grade, will be due on 11/27/12, the day you return from Thanksgiving break. Topic choices will be announced in class and posted online several weeks in advance of the due date. Your term papers should be 5-6 typed, double-spaced pages. While term papers are expected to demonstrate knowledge of particular figures and movements from the history of photography, they should not be structured as research papers concerned with recounting facts. Rather, the term paper is expected to be a critical analysis that reflects your understanding of particular photographers’ syntax, intentions, and historical/cultural relevance. I am interested in your own personal opinions, conclusions, and analysis, not the reiteration of factual information. When you do quote or paraphrase your text and other readings in your essay, you are expected to follow MLA guidelines for citation. You may review MLA guidelines at:


The same rules apply here as to the response papers. You may send the paper to me via email by the start of the class session at which it is due. If I do not acknowledge that I have received the paper by the start of class on 11/27/12, you must find a way to print it for me in the Tower lab above our classroom before you leave. Papers are graded down one letter grade for every day that they are late.


During our class sessions on 12/4/12 and 12/6/12, all students will give ten-minute presentations on a single photographer. You may choose a particular photographer who has been an influence on or inspiration to you personally (subject to instructor approval), or elect to be assigned a photographer instead. Presentations will follow the same format as in-class lectures. Students will bring thumb or other external drives containing images or Power Point presentations, and should plan to speak to the class about their photographer’s work while showing slides and using other visual aids. Presentations should include at least 15 images/slides, a small amount of biographical information, and an in-depth discussion of the photographer’s approach, syntax, content, context, and intention. Students will receive detailed handouts and instructions for the presentation approximately two weeks before the due date.


Attendance is required at ALL CLASS MEETINGS. While completing readings from the main text and additional resources is required, it is not a substitute for attending class. More than three unexcused absences in this class may result in a failing grade for the course.

If you miss a class, please consult the website for current assignments, readings, and lecture notes. While I will not re-teach classes, I will be happy to meet with students who wish to discuss content of a lecture that was missed because of an excused absence.


As I am a part-time lecturer at NEC and I live in Boston, I do not keep regular office hours. However, I am happy to schedule appointments with students who have missed classes or who wish to discuss or receive clarification on photographers, processes, historical movements, or concepts covered in class. I am also available by phone and email for students seeking help with any of the above or with term papers and/or photographer presentations. Please see me before or after class or email me at rmorrison@nec.edu to set up an appointment outside of class time.


If you have a documented learning need that will require accommodations for this class, you should see Anna Carlson in the Disability Services Office, CEI 210. She will help you determine possible accommodations for this class. Once you have completed the Needs Assessment Form with Ms. Carlson, we can meet to decide how I can best help you overcome any barriers to your academic success. Please be aware that you must be able to demonstrate competency in this class. This means that with accommodations, you can meet all the educational objectives of the course. For more information, see the Policy on Accommodations listed on the NEC website under Disability Services.


The following text is required for all students, and is available in the NEC bookstore:

Marien, Mary Warner.     Photography: A Cultural History, 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.
ISBN-10: 0-20-570800-0


Additional readings will be made available to students online and in class from the following sources:

Szarkowski, John.   The Photographer's Eye, 1966.   New York: MoMA, 2009. Print.
ISBN: 978-0-87070-527-4

Sontag, Susan.   On Photography, 1973.   New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1977. Print.
ISBN-10: 0893813826

Goldberg, Vicki, ed.   Photography In Print, 1981.   New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. Print.
ISBN: 0-8263-1091-5

Morris, Errol.   Believing Is Seeing (Observations On the Mysteries of Photography).   New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
ISBN-10: 1594203016

Morris, Wright.   Time Pieces: Photographs, Writing, and Memory.   New York: Aperture, 1999. Print.
ISBN-10: 0893813826

Klein, Alan, ed.   Words Without Pictures.   New York: Aperture, 2010. Originally published by Museum Associates / Los Angeles County Museum od Arts. Print.
ISBN: 978-1-59711-142-3