Photographic Portraiture: Rethinking Representation (PHO4112.01)

Elizabeth White

This studio/ seminar invites students to engage both creatively and critically, by making work and through readings and discussions. Throughout the course, students will learn about historical and contemporary practices in photographic portraiture, drawn from a range of personal, popular, institutional, and artistic contexts, and consider how our multiple identities inform (and are influenced by) the photographic representations of others. Self representation and performance will also be considered, as well as the impact of technology, and the psychological, social, and political dynamics of portraiture– including particular focus on issues related to race, class, gender, and sexuality. Assignments prompt students to explore formal and conceptual strategies while readings provide theoretical and historical context and encourage critical thinking about questions of truth, power, agency, and trust.

A substantial amount of weekly reading is required for this course and class time will be fairly evenly split between seminar discussions and critiques. Self-directed final projects will allow students to explore their own questions and concerns, and may be either creative or analytical and take visual or written form. Note that this is not a technical course in studio photography and most assignments do not require the use of any particular equipment or photographic process. Registration priority will be given to students who have taken Foundations of Photography, however, students who have relevant experience and whose primary interest in this course is related to visual and critical studies will also be considered.


Learning Outcomes:
Discover, articulate, and pursue their own questions and concerns related to photographic portraiture, identity, and representation
Critically read, reflect on, and discuss texts related to photographic histories and practices
Build awareness of photographic practices, practitioners, and contexts
Find new sources of inspiration, deepen their creative work, and enhance their ability to present it
Create new work within short time periods in response to prompts
Create, develop, and revise a sustained independent project
Engage with peers to make observations, ask questions, and give and receive feedback on work in progress
Actively reflect on their own creative and learning processes, and make connections to other areas of interest
Recognize their shared role in cultivating an engaging, respectful, and productive learning community



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should email Liz White (ewhite@bennington.edu) describing their interest in the course, relevance to their plan, and previous coursework in photography.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 14
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: Fully In-Person , Photography , All courses
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