Undergraduate Degree




DP2004 The Critical Eye: Seeing and Understanding in Photo Media

[Studio Contact Hours: 39 hours; Pre-requisites: NIL; Academic Unit: 3.0]




Academic Unit


3 AU

Course Description


Learning Objective

To deliver to students an overview of the key figures and issues of contemporary photographic practice. Besides still photography, the course materials will extend to relevant lens based works including video, experimental film, graphic design,etc. In addition, the timeline of the course contents will span from early 1900s to contemporary photo video related works.


This subject introduces students to current and contemporary photographic practice by means of a series of case-studies of photographers and other artists who use photography in their work, selected around the world to show a range of theoretical and social concerns. The course examines the impacts of the art movements, cultural attitudes and new technologies on photographers. Through assignments and group critiques, students will strengthen their analytical skills and ethical stance regarding their own work. This course is recommended for students in photography, design and media students interested in the roles of photographic images within culture.

Course Outline




• Intro to course

2 - 6

• Aesthetic theories 
• Art worlds
• Art galleries, art critics, artists, and art schools
• The subjective eye 
• Art and feminism, 1970s 
• Gender, politics, sex, and identity in photography


• Mid Sem review of assignments

8 - 12

• Postmodernism and appropriation 
• Documenting the world 
• New technologies
• Strategies of display
• Aesthetics of technology


• Final review of assignments

Learning Outcome

The students will have an awareness of relevant issues within current and contemporary photographic practice. The students will be able to contextualise their own photographic practice by an awareness of the broader context in which it is being made.

Student Assessment

  1. Final Assessment: 30%

  2. Continuous Assessment: 70% (of which at least 15% is participation)

Continuous assessment components may include:

  • Studio-based exercises and projects

  • Individual, group and team-based assignments


Require Reading:

  1. Liz Wells, The photography Reader, Routledge; 1 edition

Recommended Reading

  1. Andy Grundberg, Crisis of the Real: Writings on Photography Since 1974, Aperture

  2. Bright, Suzanne, Art Photography Now, Thames & Hudson

  3. C Cotton, The photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson

  4. Vicki Goldberg (Ed), Light Matters: Writings on Photography, Aperture


  1. John Armstrong, Move Closer: An Intimate Philosophy of Art, Farrar Straus Giroux

  2. John Berger, About Looking, Vintage International

  3. Suzanne Bright, Art Photography Now, Thames & Hudson

  4. Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson

  5. Arthur Danto, Philosophizing Art: Selected Essays, University of California press

  6. Vicki Goldberg (Ed), Light Matters: Writings on Photography, Aperture

  7. Vicki Goldberg (Ed), Photography in Print, University of New Mexico press: Albuqerque

  8. Jonathan Green, A Critical History 1945-Present: American Photography, Harry A. Brams

  9. Andy Grundberg, Crisis of the Real, Aperture

  10. Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography: from 1839 to the Present, MoMA

  11. Naomi Rosenblum, A World History of Photography, Abbeville Press

  12. Carol Squiers (Ed), The Critical Image, Essays on Contemporary Photography, Bay Press

  13. Liz Wells (Ed), The Photography Reader, Routledge

  14. Janet Wolff, Aesthetics and Sociology of Art, University of Michigan Press