Spring 2009

ARTS 626
Landscape Photography/Cultural Geography


01/28/2009 - 05/06/2009
Wednesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Zilkha Gallery 106

We will explore the definition of landscape photography as it relates to the realities of the 21st century where wildness is contained within boundaries or otherwise controlled, developed, or contaminated. We will consider the medium of photography as a visual force within American culture by surveying landscape photography from the nineteenth-century photographers who accompanied geologic survey teams and developers to the unsettled West, to current landscape photographic practice. Through the viewing of slides, books, and prints, the photograph will be studied as a specific medium that excels both at description and as artistic expression. We will begin by viewing the images by Timothy O'Sullivan, who photographed along the Fortieth Parallel as part of Clarence King's first survey in 1867. Remarkable in their formal beauty, O'Sullivan's photographs portrayed the frontier with an unflinching clarity, seen only rarely until much later on, in the work of Evans, Weston, and Strand of the 1930s. The concept of the frontier had become a relic by the turn of the century; photographers have since portrayed the land as pastoral impression (Steichen), as expression of self (Stieglitz), as formalist investigation (Weston), and as an optimistic drama of light and majesty (Ansel Adams). The New Topographic photographers of the 1970s looked at sites such as industrial parks and land development in the West with a cool reserve. Current photographers such as Burtynsky and Misrach make gorgeous color pictures of industrial sites and of land tortured by human use.

Texts include: John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape; The Center for Land Use Interpretation, The Lay of the Land (complete back issues) and a packet of readings.

One roll of film (36 exposures) or the equivalent is required per week. Either digital or film cameras with manual controls may be used. Class critique will be an essential aspect of the course. Students will be required to complete weekly photographic assignments pertaining to "landscape," two short response papers (2--4 pages), weekly critiques, one presentation on a landscape photographer, and a final project consisting of ten technically competent and visually compelling images.

There will be at least one visit off-campus to view landscape images within a museum archive. Students will supply their own cameras and should know the preliminaries of camera operation.

Enrollment is limited to 16 students. This course is not open to auditors.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Marion Belanger (B.F.A. Alfred University; M.F.A. Yale University) is a widely exhibited photographer whose current projects focus on visualizing ecology. Her photographs were recently shown in the main terminal of the Tampa International Airport, and in Germany as a part of Contemporary American Photography, 7. Internationale Fototage Mannheim/Ludwigshafen. She has been awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and from the Connecticut Commission Culture & Tourism. Her book Everglades: Outside and Within, was published by Center for American Places at Columbia College in 2009. View her work at www.marionbelanger.com.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 16

Texts to purchase for this course:
Robert Adams, ALONG SOME RIVERS (Aperture), paperback

John Brinckerhoff Jackson, DISCOVERING THE VERNACULAR LANDSCAPE (Yale University Press), Paperback

The Center for Land Use Interpretation, THE LAY OF THE LAND (www.clui.org), complete back issues.


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