It is impossible to design a complete course syllabus without first seeking the feedback of my new colleagues, so please accept this site as "notes." This is a pedagogical continuation of several assignments that I have designed and tested the context of the courses I taught as Artist in Residence at Georgia Tech's College of Design. My students had access to a chemical darkroom, a computer lab and (equipment that is now commonly found in) a maker space. It is a contemporary blending of 3 traditional perspectives:



In his essay, Techniques of the Observer, Jonathan Crary describes how the progression of our understanding of the human body parallels the development of modern cinema. Today, we know that this correlation did not stop with the invention of photography and cinema, and we continue to parallel that knowledge with the invention of new cameras and optical devices. It can also be viewed in the context of a VISUAL THINKING pedagogy, in which students will be encouraged to experiment with all the aspects of image-making, including line, composition, scale, text/type, performance, collaboration, narrative, design, sound, software, and other materials.

The list to the left combines the best of 3 different courses that are sometimes offered in 3 different schools:
  • Pre-Cinema - Werner Nekes collection of 17th - 19th century toys and optical entertainments demonstrate our historic desire to transform and animate the still image and expand new modes of story telling within a theatrical setting. Such devices are said to precede the technology of modern cinema, but we will place them in the context of understanding new technologies.
  • Fine Art Photography - The 20th century canon on photography is tapped for critical content, with lectures and readings on memory and representation, and reflections on society through the still image. The chemical lab will be re-contexualized as a site for learning through physical processes.
  • New Media - Digital media is at the forefront of new perceptual experiences, but how can they be used as post-modern critique? An understanding of machine vision, the interactive image and the cyber-self will be explored through critical readings and studio exercises.


A Concepts in Photography course can be comprised of core photography concepts and expanded with one or more of the units to the right. Within the unit, we will place historic optical experiments alongside new visual technologies, from the Phantasmagora to the Oculus Rift, without feeling a "speed bump" between centuries. The object it so focus on a way of seeing and not consider them in an hierarchical relationship. The results are a blending of research techniques in student work and in multidiscipline presentations.


The list of subject areas in the navigational menu on the right can be considered as possible "units" lasting 2 - 3 weeks. Each unit may have one assignment, in which students choose from an array of choices. Not all the units listed here can be accommodated in one semester. Depending on the capabilities of your labs, and any potential overlaps with other courses in your curriculum, there is more than enough to choose from. Students should be able to move fluidly between a digital lab, chemical lab and maker space.

Unit Assignments(variable year to year):
CAMERA OBSCURA - monocular perspective; inverted projection; pinholes
PANORAMAS - horizonal crankes; vertical stage depth; gigapan photography; panoramic theaters
3-D VISION - stereographic cameras; photography and viewers; photogrametry (3D printing); 360 degree cameras; oculus rift (VR)
PERSISTENCE OF VISION - after images; praxinoscopes; zoetropes; thaumatropes; flip books; stop action digital animation
TRANSPARANCIES - orthographic film; dioramic prints (laser cutter); fabrics
PRINTING - cyanotypes; photograms; BW mural prints
PROJECTIONS - phantasmagoria; ombrascope; magic lanterns; overhead projections


These would satisfy a Concepts in Photography requirement. Prerequisite in computer applications (introduction to CC) would be helpful. It might be taken around the Photo 2 or 3 level, where students already have some grasp of their critical content but are shopping for the best means to exhibit, interact, display or perform their ideas. This course is designed to be expansive and broad, while conceptually deep. It is not meant to replace advanced thesis studios or independent study.


Charlotte Cotton, Photography is Magic (2015)
Steven Johnson, "Natural Magic," New York Times Magazine, Nov 6, (2016)
Jonathan Crary, "Techniques of the Observer," October, Vol. 45 (Summer, 1988), pp. 3-35.

Rosalind Krauss, "Antivision," October, no. 36 (Spring 1986), pp. 147-154.
Margaret Morse, The Body, The Image and The Space In Between (2009)
"Where's Poppa," in Marcel Duchamp Centennial Conference at Nova Scotia School of Art, Thierry de Duve, ed., Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.
Sir David Brewster, Letters on Natural Magic, New York, J. J. Harper, 1832, pp. 15-21.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Stereoscope and the Stereograph," Atlantic Monthly, vol. 3, no. 20 (June 1859), pp. 740-752.
Roland Barthes, "L'effet de reel," Communications, no. 11 (1968), pp. 84-89; trans. as "The Reality Effect" by Richard Howard, in The Rustle of Language, New York, Hill and Wang, 1986, pp. 141-148.
Steven Johnson, "Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World," 2016