Note: A compilation of the questions included on this site is included in the question bank.
- Compare and contrast the accounts of photography offered by Walter Benjamin in "A Small History of Photography" (1931) and Vilem Flusser in Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983). How have the questions-historical and philosophical-suggested by the advent of philosophy changed over the course of the century?
- In "Desiring Production Itself: Notes on the Invention of Photography," Geoffrey Batchen writes, "Why 1839 and not before? This is the question that continues to haunt the history of photography's invention" (15). Explore various answers to this question offered by photo-historians and theorists.
- Trace the history of photography's paradoxical relationship to both science and magic.
- Compare and contrast Walter Benjamin's, Susan Sontag's, and Roland Barthes's analyses of the role of time in photography.
- Analyze the relationship between the 19th-century technology of photography and 20th-century technologies of image reproduction.
- Discuss the different experiences of viewing a painting and viewing a photograph. What are the particular critical demands of these media and in what ways do they diverge?
- Explore through a close reading of the work of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, or another contemporary photographer the implications of Susan Sontag's observation that "In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing" (On Photography).
- Both Professor Draper and Roland Barthes describe in some detail the positioning of the subject's body before the camera. Explore the relationship between the "Operator" (photographer) and the "Target" (subject/object) as it is articulated by nineteenth-century and twentieth-century practitioners of the art of photography. Analyze the ways in which photographs are necessarily intensely constructed images. Alternatively, consider how the technology of photography affects the subject's view of his or her body.
- Discuss the connection between photography and death. How do photographs inflect our experience of mourning and of loss?
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