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Philosophy of Photography (PH347-15)

An introduction to a new and lively field of debate in contemporary aesthetics. A range of authors will be studied, mainly from the last 30 years, and a variety of aesthetic and epistemic questions raised by photography as an art and an aid to vision will be considered. Central concerns will be whether photography’s epistemic privilege, vis-à-vis other forms of depiction, comes at the cost of its aesthetic capacities, and what an adequate account of photographic agency might look like. Photography's relation to other depictive art forms such as painting and film will also be considered. The module will thereby introduce students to what it means to do the philosophy of a particular art form.

Topics covered

The following is a list of topics for this module in the 2015/16 academic year; precise seminar content may change from year to year.

  • Introductory overview: foundational intuitions
  • Automatic Pictures: Bazin & Cavell on automatism and realism
  • Aesthetic Scepticism: Scruton on representation and intentionality
  • Transparent Pictures: Walton on transparency and imagining seeing
  • Depiction & Detection: Maynard on photography as a technology
  • Experiencing Photographs: Benjamin & Barthes on aura & punctum
  • Analogue vs Digital: Savedoff on digital and the demise of the document
  • Fact vs fiction: Currie on fictional competence/incompetence
  • a) Belief-Independence revisited: Lopes & Costello on the art in photography OR b) The Ethics of Photography: Sontag et al on Photographers and Spectators
Timing and CATS

This module will run in the Autumn Term and is worth 15 CATS.