The Documentary Photograph

What is the relationship between documentary photography and truth? How is aesthetic pleasure elicited by (or in spite of) the political, military, economic, or social functions of such photographs? This course explores two rich and complex periods of documentary photography: the images made for land surveys of the American West following the Civil War (O’Sullivan, Bell, Jackson, Russell) and the work produced for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II (Lange, Evans, Lee, Parks, Post Wolcott, Rothstein, Shahn). These photographs were often conceived of and collected as discrete bodies of work. Thus we also consider the material, theoretical, and cultural functions of the “archive” and the “file” as essential aspects of the documentary mode.
Taught by Jennifer Raab Spring 2015
Course Number: 
HSAR 741