Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary Art Photography

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Through a brief historical timeline, the study-unit explains the ways in which artists began to develop the medium of photography away from the more common areas such as journalism and documentation, and towards a more conceptual and enquiring approach to image making. Tracing this historical timeline, with emphasis on the practices of the 1960s that saw the departure from the roots of art photography to new directions which pointed towards the conceptual and performative work of artists working today, students will learn how artists conceive work based on strong conceptualisation which question the many realities of contemporary societies and the issues faced by the artist nowadays, including the canons and character of photography itself.

The study-unit also allows the students to place theory into practice and will be guided to produce work through a research, practice and reflection methodology. The study-unit promotes self-directed experimentation, collaboration and discussion. The practice of peer reviewing will be promoted in order to help students verbalise their process and products which, in turn, will help them evaluate such outcomes based on a sharing of values.

Study-Unit Aims:

The aim of this study-unit is to give a sense of the spectrum of motivations and expressions that currently exist in the field of contemporary art photography. It will work as a survey to reveal the conceptual art's use of concept, ranging from the commonplace and candid snapshots of artists such as Nan Golding to the carefully constructed tableaux of Jeff Wall. The study-unit looks holistically at the full range of ways that today's artists engage with photography to make art.

On a practical level, the study-unit helps students to focus on rethinking and reassessing preconceived ideas and to develop a strategy designed to alter their way of thinking about our physical and social world. The assignments given will help them to create work based on this out-of-the-box thinking supported by research, experimentation and reflection, while the class discussion and peer evaluation would help them construct solid conceptualisation in the language of contemporary art photography.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Devise strategies to develop art photography based on theory and context.
- Challenge the traditional stereotype of photography, that of the lone photographer scavenging daily life.
- Strengthen his/her storytelling abilities in art photography; more specifically in 'tableau' photography.
- Comprehend and acknowledge the idea of a new photographic aesthetic.
- Grasp photography's enduring capacity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
- Realise the medium's potential to concentrate on emotional and personal relationships, a kind of diary of human intimacy.
- Practice the value of translating generic types of imagery, from classic paintings to magazine adverts, film stills or surveillance and scientific photography to a more contemporary photographic language.
- Make conscious decisions to highlight the physical and material properties of photography.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Gain knowledge of the historical timeline relating to photographic practice.
- Comprehend the shift in direction of both theory and practice from traditional to contemporary art photography.
- Employ the knowledge and understanding gained from the study-unit to create specific artworks (photographs) from idealization to realization.
- Comprehend the methods of contemporary photographic art practice as defined by curatorial directions which encourage the student to be come involved in helping in the setting up of photographic exhibitions.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text:

Bright, S., (2011), Art Photography Now. Thames & Hudson.

Supplementary Readings:

Cotton, C., (2014), The Photograph as Contemporary Art. Thames & Hudson.

Campany, D., (2012), Art and Photography. Phaidon Press.

Szarkowski, J., (2009), Looking at Photographs. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 40%
Project SEM1 Yes 60%

LECTURER/S Patrick Fenech

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.