PLEASE NOTE this is a sample reading list for the 2015-16 academic year
– precise seminar content may change from year to year.
Week-by-Week Overview
MAINLY EPISTEMIC
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Introductory overview: foundational intuitions
Automatic Pictures: Bazin & Cavell on automatism and realism
Aesthetic Scepticism: Scruton on representation and intentionality
Transparent Pictures: Walton on transparency and imagining seeing
Depiction & Detection: Maynard on photography as a technology
6. READING WEEK: see exhibition/read Costello & Phillips article
MAINLY AESTHETIC
7.
8.
9.
10.
Experiencing Photographs: Benjamin & Barthes on aura & punctum
Analogue vs Digital: Savedoff on digital and the demise of the document
Fact vs fiction: Currie on fictional competence/incompetence
a) Belief-Independence revisited: Lopes & Costello on the art in photography OR b) The
Ethics of Photography: Sontag et al on Photographers and Spectators
Week 1
The Philosophy of Photography: Foundational Intuitions
The first class is an introductory overview of the kind of questions addressed in the
philosophy of photography, and the kind of intuitions about the nature of photography that
underpin them, with a focus on epistemic and aesthetic issues.
Week 1 will also include an explanation of the coursework, assessment and seminar
presentations.
Required Class Reading
Read one or two of the following broad introductions:
Nigel Warburton, ‘Photography’ chapter 36 in Jerrold Levinson (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of
Aesthetics (Oxford: OUP 2003) pp. 614-626 (*)
Dawn M Wilson, ‘Photography’ chapter 56 in Gaut and Lopes (eds.) The Routledge Companion to
Aesthetics, third edition (London: Routledge 2013) pp. 585-595 (*)
Patrick Maynard, ‘Photography’ chapter 40 in Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.) The
Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (London: Routledge 2001) pp. 477-490
Week 2
Automatic Pictures: Bazin & Cavell on automatism and realism
This week examines two foundational intuitions about the specific nature of photography –
that is, what distinguishes photography – that recur in various forms throughout the literature:
Bazin’s notion of photographic realism, notably the idea of the photograph as a ‘mould of the
real’, that retains a mechanically assured connection (even ‘identity’) with its object, and
Cavell’s conception of ‘automatism.’ That is, the idea that photographs are essentially the
product of an automatic, mechanized, process rather than a product of human intention.
Required Class Readings
André Bazin, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’ in What is Cinema? Volume 1, University of
California, 1971; 9-16 (*)
Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed, Revised Edition, Harvard, 1979. Chapters 2-3; pp.16-25. Also
Chapter 14, pp. 102-8 (*)
The following essays by Bazin and Cavell are also relevant:
Bazin, ‘Theatre and Cinema, Part Two’ in What is Cinema? Volume 1, University of California, 1971;
pp. 95-124.
Stanley Cavell ‘What Photography Calls Thinking’ Raritan, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 1-21, reprinted in Poirier
(ed) Raritan Reading (Rutgers UP, 1990), 47-65.
Relevant Secondary Literature
Bazin
David Brubaker, ‘Andre Bazin on Auomatically Made Images’ JAAC, 51 1993, 59-67
Jonathan Friday, ‘Andre Bazin’s Ontology of Photographic and Film Imagery’ JAAC 63 (4) Fall 2005:
this is a critique of the Currie and Carroll below (*);
Greg Currie, Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, CUP 1995 Chapter 2 ‘The
Imprint of Nature’ pp.48-78
Noël Carroll, Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory (Princeton 1988), chapter 2, pp.94-171
Cavell
Joel Synder ‘What Happens by Itself in Photography’ in Ted Cohen, Paul Guyer, and Hilary Putnam
(eds.) Pursuits of Reason: Essays in Honour of Stanley Cavell, Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press,
1993.
Stephen Mulhall, Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary, Oxford OUP, 1994; pp.
223-230
Espen Hammer, Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity and the Ordinary, Oxford: Polity, 2002 pp.
101-108.
Stephen Mulhall ‘Stanley Cavell’ in Diarmuid Costello & Jonathan Vickery (eds.) Art: Key
Contemporary Thinkers, Berg 2007
Diarmuid Costello, ‘Automat, Automatic, Automatism: Rosalind Krauss and Stanley Cavell on
Photography and the "Photographically Dependent" Arts', Critical Inquiry 38:4. Summer 2012.
Diarmuid Costello, ‘But I am killing them!" Reply to Palermo and Baetens on Agency and
Automatism', Critical Inquiry 41 (Autumn 2014)
Week 3
Aesthetic Scepticism: Scruton on Representation and Intentionality
Bazin and Cavell’s view of photography as essentially automatic and causal suggests that
photography is a mind-independent process. This raises problems for photography’s status as art, if
intentionality, representation or expression are necessary requirements of artistic value. This week
we consider Roger Scruton’s argument that there can be no room for such intentionality in
photography. As a result, Scruton claims, photographs lack aesthetic interest, making it impossible
for photographs to be bona fide artworks.
Required Class Reading
Roger Scruton ‘Photography and Representation’, in Critical Inquiry 7 (3) 1981, 577-603; and
reprinted in Scruton’s The Aesthetic Understanding, Routledge, 1983. (*)
Dom Lopes ‘Aesthetics of Photographic Transparency’ Mind 112 (2005) (*)
The following essays By Scruton are also relevant:
‘Fantasy, Imagination and Screen’ in The Aesthetic Understanding, Routledge, 1983
‘The Photographic Surrogate’ in The Philosopher on Dover Beach, Carcanet, 1990
Relevant Secondary Literature
Peter Alward, ‘Transparent Representation: Photography and the Art of Casting’ JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Dawn Phillips ‘Photography and Causation: Responding to Scruton’s Scepticism’ in the British Journal
of Aesthetics Vol. 49 No.4, October 2009
William King, ‘Scruton and Reasons for Looking at Photography,’ BJA 32 (3), 258-65 [reprinted in Neill
& Ridley eds. Arguing about Art (second ed. only)].
Robert Wicks, ‘Photography as a Representational Art’ BJA 29 (1) 1989 1-9
Nigel Warburton, ‘Varieties of photographic representation,’ History of Photography 15 (3) Autumn
1991, 203-10
Nigel Warburton, ‘Individual Style in Photographic Art’ BJA 36 (4) 1996, 389-97 [reprinted in Neill &
Ridley eds. Arguing about Art (second ed. only)].
Berys Gaut ‘Cinematic Art’ JAAC, 60, 299-312.
David Davies ‘How Photographs “Signify:” Cartier-Bresson’s “Reply” to Scruton’ in Scott Walden (ed.)
Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature, Blackwell 2008.
Jonathan Friday, Aesthetics of Photography, Ashgate 2002 [chapt 4]
Week 4
Transparent Pictures: Walton on Transparency and ‘Imagining Seeing’
Scruton claimed that viewing a photograph is merely a surrogate for viewing the object
photographed. Relatedly, Kendall Walton claims photographs are ‘transparent’ to their
objects. That is, we indirectly but nonetheless literally see the photographed objects when we
look through a photograph. Time permitting, we will also consider what it means to say that
we imagine seeing it directly. If Walton is right and photographs are transparent, what are the
aesthetic implications? Unlike Scruton, Walton does not take his account to deny the
possibility of photographic art.
Required Class Reading
Kendall Walton: ‘Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism’ Critical Inquiry, 11
(Dec 1984); 246-77; a version of this paper was also published in Noûs, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1984, pp. 6772. (*)
An updated version of this essay appears in Marvelous Images: On Values and the Arts OUP 2008
pp.79-109 plus the additional ‘Postscripts to Transparent Pictures,’ pp. 110-116, only available in this
volume. (*) For an overview of Walton’s theory of make-believe see ‘Pictures and Hobby Horses’
also in this volume, pp. 63-78. (*)
The following by Walton, often in reply to his critics, are also relevant:
Walton ‘Looking Again through Photographs: A Response to Edwin Martin’ Critical Inquiry 12, 80110.
Walton, ‘On Pictures and Photographs: Objections Answered’ in R. Allen and M. Smith (eds.) Film
Theory and Philosophy, OUP, 60-75. Reprinted in Marvelous
Images: On Values and the Arts, OUP 2008 pp.117-132 (extract*)
Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe Harvard University Press 1990
Relevant Secondary Literature
Edwin Martin ‘On Seeing Walton’s Great-Grandfather’ Critical Inquiry 12, 796-800.
Patrick Maynard ‘The Secular Icon’ JAAC, 42 (1983), 155-170.
Patrick Maynard ‘Seeing Double’ JAAC 52.2 (Spring 1994): 156-167
Warburton, ‘Seeing through ‘Seeing through Photographs’’ Ratio 1 (June 1988) 62-74
Greg Currie, ‘Photography, Painting and Perception,’ JAAC 49 (1991) 23-9
Noël Carroll, ‘Defining the Moving Image’, Theorizing the Moving Image OUP, 1996
Greg Currie, Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, CUP 1995, Chapter 2 ‘The
Imprint of Nature’ pp.48-78
Jonathan Friday, ‘Transparency and the Photographic Image’ BJA 36:1, 1996, 30-42
Scott Walden ‘Objectivity in Photography’ BJA 2005 45(3): 258-272
Dom Lopes Understanding Pictures, OUP 1996 Chapter 9, pp.174-196
Amy Kind ‘What’s So Transparent about Transparency?’ Philosophical Studies 115 (2003) 225-244
Cynthia Freeland ‘Photographs and Icons’ in Walden, Photography and Philosophy
Jonathan Friday, Aesthetics of Photography, Ashgate 2002 (chapt 3)
Diarmuid Costello, ‘The Question Concerning Photography’ JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Supplementary Reading
the debate over ‘epistemic privilege’
Jonathan Cohen and Aaron Meskin ‘On the Epistemic Value of Photographs’ JAAC 62 (2004) 197-210
Jonathan Cohen and Aaron Meskin ‘Photographs as Evidence’, in S. Walden (ed.) Photography and
Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature Routledge, 2008. On line:
http://www.hps.leeds.ac.uk/Staff/AME/agnosticism.pdf and
http://aardvark.ucsd.edu/perception/agnosticism.pdf.
Scott Walden ‘Truth in Photography’ in Scott Walden (ed.) Photography and Philosophy: essays on
the Pencil of Nature, Blackwell 2008.
Scott Walden, Photography and Knowledge, JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Week 5
Depiction and Detection: Maynard on Photography as a Technology
For Maynard, who builds upon Walton’s conception of ‘imagining seeing’, photography is
conceived as a tool with various functions -- notably depiction and detection. This approach,
by focusing on photography as a technology, generates a conception of photography that
foregrounds its multiple uses. It asks not what a photograph, as an object, is but what
photography, as an activity, does. Is this a more productive approach to photography’s
various uses?
Required Reading
Patrick Maynard, ‘Photography as Technology’ chapter 1 of The Engine of Visualisation, Cornell 1997
(*). Plus chapters IV ‘Imagining Technologies’ and VII ‘Photo Fidelities I: Photographic Seeing’.
(extracts*)
Other Relevant Essays by Maynard include:
Maynard ‘The Secular Icon: Photography and the Function of Images’ JAAC, 42 (1983), 155-170.
Maynard ‘Drawing and Shooting: Causality in Depiction’ JAAC 44 115-29
Maynard ‘Talbot’s Technologies: Photography and the Functions of Images’ JAAC 47 263-76
Maynard ‘Photo-opportunity: Photography as Technology’ Canadian Review of American Studies 22
501-28
Relevant Secondary Literature
Laura Perini, Depiction, Detection, and the Epistemic Value, JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Week 6: READING WEEK NO CLASS
1. For a critical overview of the material covered so far, read Diarmuid Costello & Dawn M.
Phillips ‘Automatism, Causality and Realism: Foundational Problems in the Philosophy of
Photography, Philosophy Compass 4/1 (2009): pp.1-21 (*)
2. Also see one significant photography exhibition. Details to be supplied.
Week 7
Experiencing Photographs: Benjamin and Barthes on aura and punctum
This week we focus on our experience of photographs. Why, for example, do we have such
strong psychological investments in photographs of dead or absent loved ones? Some of these
themes pick up refrains from Bazin about the photograph’s ‘identity’ with what it depicts.
Barthes in particular focuses on photography’s relation to death and its ability to ‘pierce’ us
in ways that other images cannot. In doing so he picks up a theme from Benjamin concerning
photography’s relation to the real. These two writers have been hugely influential on the
literature on photography in art theory and continental aesthetics.
Required Class Reading
Walter Benjamin ‘A Small [Little] History of Photography’ in One Way Street, Verso, 1979, and in
Selected Writings Harvard Vol. 2, part 2, Harvard, 1999 (*)
Roland Barthes Camera Lucida, Fontana, 1981; you are encouraged to read the whole text, but see
especially §§10-11, 17-20, 22-3, 32-6, 39, 45-6 (*)
Other essays by Benjamin and Barthes that are relevant include:
Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility’ [aka The Work of Art in the
Age of Mechanical Reproduction’] in Illuminations, Schocken 1968, and Selected Writings, Vol. 4,
Harvard 2003; especially §§II-IV, VI. See:
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm
Benjamin ‘On Some Motifs in Baudelaire’ in Illuminations, Schocken 1968, and Selected Writings,
Vol. 4, Harvard 2003; §XI
Barthes, ‘The Photographic Message’ and ‘the Rhetoric of the Image’ in Roland Barthes, Image,
Music, Text, Fontana 1977.
Secondary Literature
Barthes
Michael Fried ‘Barthes’s Punctum’, Critical Inquiry 31 (Spring 2005): 539-74
James Elkins ‘What Do We Want Photography To Be?: A Response to Michael Fried, Critical Inquiry,
Vol. 31. No. 4, Summer 2005.
Margaret Iversen ‘What is a Photograph?’ Art History 17: 3, Sept 1994, 450-463
Margaret Olin, ‘Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes’s ‘Mistaken Identification’ Representations 80
(Fall 2002), 99-118.
Geoffrey Batchen (ed.) Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Camera Lucida, MIT 2009.
Susan Sontag On Photography, Fontana 1977
Nancy Shawcross ‘Roland Barthes,’ in Diarmuid Costello & Jonathan Vickery (eds.) Art: Key
Contemporary Thinkers, Berg 2007
Benjamin
Diarmuid Costello ‘Aura, Face, Photography: Re-Reading Benjamin Today, in A. Benjamin (ed.)
Walter Benjamin and Art, London: Continuum, 2005; pp. 164-184
Robert Kaufman “Aura, Still,” October 99 (Winter 2002): 45-80, reprinted in Walter Benjamin and
Art, as above 121-147
Joel Snyder ‘Benjamin on Reproducibility and Aura’ in Gary Smith (ed.) Benjamin: Philosophy,
Aesthetics, History, Chicago 1989
Rodolphe Gasché, ‘Objective Diversions: On Some Kantian Themes in Walter Benjamin’s …’ in A.
Benjamin and P. Osborne (eds) Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience,
Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000, pp. 180-201.
Helmut Schmitz ‘Walter Benjamin,’ in Diarmuid Costello & Jonathan Vickery (eds.) Art: Key
Contemporary Thinkers, Berg 2007
Supplementary Literature
On the reception of Benjamin in art theory, see Jeannene M. Przyblyski, ‘History is photography: the
afterimage of Walter Benjamin’, Afterimage, Sept-Oct, 1998.
Week 8
Analogue vs Digital: Savedoff on digital and the demise of the document
In recent years the emergence of digital photography has posed challenges to traditional
conceptions of photography, particularly the idea of its mind-independent relation to the
world. We will critically examine the notions that there is an essential difference (a difference
of kind rather than degree) between analogue and digital photography and that these might
represent distinct media for art, with implications for the unity of photographic ontology.
Required reading
Barbara Savedoff, Transforming Images: How Photography Complicates the Picture, Cornell, 2000;
chapter 5 (*).
Barbara Savedoff ‘Escaping Reality: Digital Imagery and the Resources of Photography’ JAAC 55 20114 (*)
Secondary Reading:
John Zeimbekis, Digital Pictures, Sampling, and Vagueness: The Ontology of Digital Pictures JAAC
70:1 (2012)
Bence Nanay, The Macro and the Micro: Andreas Gursky’s Aesthetics, JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Christy Mag Uidhir, Photographic Art: An Ontology Fit to Print JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Supplementary Reading:
Jonathan Friday, ‘Digital Imaging, Photographic Representation and Aesthetics’ and Nigel
Warburton, ‘Pixels and Pictorialism: A Reply to Jonathan Friday’, in ‘Ends and Means’ vol 1 no 2, and
vol 2 no 2. (*)
There is also a substantial literature on digitalization in art theory:
William Mitchell Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, MIT 1998, Chapter 3
‘Intention and Artifice’ pp. 23-58
Lev Manovich ‘Paradoxes of Digital Photography’ in H. Amelunxen, S. Iglhaut, F. Rötzer (eds.)
Photography after Photography: Memory and Representation in the Digital Age, G+B Arts, 1996;
reprinted in Liz Wells (ed.) Photography Reader, Routledge 2003
Martin Lister, Photographic Image in Digital Culture, Routledge, 1995 (extracts are reprinted in Liz
Wells Photography Reader, Routledge 2003.)
See also the other essays collected in Liz Wells (ed) Photography Reader, Routledge, 2003; Part V
‘photo-digital.’
See the essays collected in H. Amelunxen, S. Iglhaut, F. Rötzer (eds.) Photography after Photography:
Memory and Representation in the Digital Age, G+B Arts, 1996.
Geoffrey Batchen ‘Ectoplasm: Photography in the Digital Age’ in Carol Squiers (ed.) Over Exposed:
Essays on Contemporary Photography, New York Press 2000
Week 9
Fact and Fiction: Currie on fictional competence and incompetence
Insofar as photographs have a privileged epistemic status (objectivity, realism, fidelity etc.) it
may seem that they are factual. Scruton, for example, argued that photographs are fictionally
incompetent. We will discuss the extent to which photographs may be fictional as well as
factual, and consider why critics have argued that this is essential if photography is to be
considered a medium for art.
Required reading
Gregory Currie ‘Visible Traces: Documentary and the Contents of Photographs’ JAAC 57:3
(1999) pp.285-297 (*)
Gregory Currie, ‘Pictures of King Arthur: Photography and the Power of Narrative’ in
Walden (ed.) Philosophy and Photography: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. (*)
Secondary Reading:
Paloma Atencia-Linares ‘Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Deceptive Photographic
Representation,’ JAAC 70:1 (2012)
Dawn Phillips ‘Photography and Causation: Responding to Scruton’s Scepticism’ in the British Journal
of Aesthetics Vol. 49 No.4, October 2009
Dan Cavedon-Taylor ‘In Defence of Fictional Incompetence’, Ratio 23:2, pp. 141-150, June 2010
Week 10 TBC: possibility 1
Belief-independence revisited: Costello and Lopes on the art in photography
We conclude by considering the prospects for, and upshots of, rethinking the mind or beliefindependence of photography and photographic imaging. Given the difficulties that this
starting point presents for thinking about non-automatic uses of the medium, in particular
artistic uses of the medium, we consider whether photographs can be distinguished from
other means of depicting the world, preserving what’s special about photography, but without
thereby reducing photography to what distinguishes it. Call this a benign, non-prescriptive
notion of ‘medium specificity.’
Required reading
Dominic McIver Lopes ‘We’re All Artists Now’ (‘Jetzt sind wir alle Künstler’ in Julian NidaRümelin und Jakob Steinbrenner (eds.) Kunst und Philosophie: Fotografie zwischen
Inszenierung und Dokumentation, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012) (*)
Diarmuid Costello & Dom Lopes, ‘Photographic Intelligence: Experiment and Expression in
James Welling’ (unpublished draft, available on request) (*)
The following essays by Lopes and Costello are also relevant:—
Diarmuid Costello, ‘The Question Concerning Photography,’ JAAC 70:1 (Winter 2012)
Diarmuid Costello, ‘But I am killing them!" Reply to Palermo and Baetens on Agency and
Automatism', Critical Inquiry 41 (Autumn 2014)
Dominic McIver Lopes, ‘Four Arts of Photography’, forthcoming book.
Dominic McIver Lopes Understanding Pictures, OUP, 2004, chapter 9: §§9.3-9.6
Secondary Reading:
Ted Cohen, ‘What’s Special about Photography?’ The Monist 71 (1988) 292-305
Week 10 TBC: possibility 2
Ethics of Photography: Sontag et al on Photographers and Spectators
Each of the many uses of photography raises its own moral considerations. Given what has
been said about the arguably privileged epistemic status of photography in virtue of the nonintentional nature of the causal process, this raises particular moral considerations about
photography’s employment for artistic ends, both for the role of the photographer and the
spectator. There are various topics we might consider here: photojournalism, feminism,
pornography, portraiture and the ethical implications of digital manipulation, for example in
photojournalism as opposed to photographic artworks.
Required Reading
Susan Sontag On Photography, Penguin 1977 ‘In Plato’s Cave’ pp.3-24 (*)
Jonathan Friday, ‘Demonic Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Photography’ BJA 40 (3), July 2000. (*)
Nigel Warburton ‘Ethical Photojournalism in the Age of the Electronic Darkroom’ in M Kieran (ed.),
Media Ethics, Routledge, 1998
Relevant Secondary Literature
Arthur Danto ‘The Naked Truth’ in J. Levinson (ed.) Ethics and Aesthetics, Cambridge: CUP, 1998.
Scott Walden ‘Ethical Art’ (contribution to an online symposium on Danto:
http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/philosophy/events/.OCA/WaldenDantoConference.pdf
(available on request)
Stephanie Ross ‘What Photographs can’t do’ Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 41:1, 1982, pp.517 (*)
See the essays collected in Part VI of Liz Wells (ed.) Photography Reader, Routledge 2003 as
‘Documentary and Photojournalism’,
Nigel Warburton ‘Photographic Communication’ BJA 28 (1988) 173-181
Supplementary Reading
Roland Barthes ‘Shock Photos’ in The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (trans. Richard Howard)
University of California Press, 1979, pp.71-73.
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PLEASE NOTE this is a sample reading list for the... – precise seminar content may change from year to year.