History of Photography:

Art, Science, and Technology
Professor Jane E. Boyd

This course will be held at the Independence Branch of the Free Library, located at 18 S. 7th Street (7th and Market Streets), Philadelphia.


  1. Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - Course Overview and Before Photography
    What is photography and why does it matter? Overview of two centuries of photographic history and the developments in art, science, technology, and culture that paved the way for photography.
  2. Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - Photography Arrives: 1820-1850
    The inventors who first made photography a reality; its public arrival in 1839 and how it spread; the earliest photographic images and techniques.
  3. Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - Modern Marvels: 1850-1880
    Photographers use the new invention to picture the world: feats of engineering, the effects of war, faraway places, all kinds of people, and more.
  4. Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - Snapshots and Brushstrokes: 1880-1920

    Portable cameras make snapshots possible; photography as a fine art; the rise of scientific photography; photographs become printed illustrations.

  5. Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - Seeing Clearly: 1920-1950
    Photojournalists document current events and address social issues; art photographers sharpen their focus; the first high-speed photographic images.
  6. Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - New Visions: 1950-1980
    Color photography comes of age; cameras go into space and to the ends of the earth; art photographers mix media, stage scenes, and alter their images.
  7. Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - The Digital Age: 1980-Now
    Photography goes digital and becomes more universal (and easier to manipulate) than ever before; new frontiers in art photography and science visualization.

Since its 19th-century beginnings, photography has shaped the way we see the world around us. Photography is more than cameras or lenses, chemicals on paper, or pixels on a screen; it is a complete system of visual communication. This course explores the fascinating history of photography from many points of view: artistic, scientific, technological, and cultural. After the introductory lecture, each class covers about thirty years of photographic history, from the 1820s to the present day. The course includes discussion of photographic techniques and equipment along with close examination of many striking photographs, from masterpieces by famous photographers to lesser-known scientific and technical images.

Note: This is a history lecture course, not a darkroom or how-to class. It does not require any technical expertise in photography.

Recommended reading:

There is no textbook or required reading for this course, mainly because the course will include more information on science and technology than most history of photography courses taught in art or art history departments.

The following books are recommended as supplements to the course for people who wish to learn more. All are in print and are also available used.

There are many online resources for the history of photography, though very few provide a comprehensive overview of the topic. The following links are recommended.



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