Reading Contemporary Photography of the Developing World
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
Department: International Affairs
Course Number: NINT 5419
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
In a world ever more saturated by images, understanding how to read pictures has never been more important. The immediacy of photos can be used to spread information or misinformation, to emotionally manipulate, give a sense of the “real” to otherwise abstract events, explain other places or cultures, create the photographed “other,” and more. When examining photographs of the developing world; critically interpreting their content and agenda is key to understanding the people, institutions and circumstances. This class will provide the theoretical frameworks and analytical skills needed to intelligently understand photos of the non-Western world. We will discuss strategies used by photographers, publications, and writers as well as looking at individual pieces as part of the media system. We will look at work that runs the gamut from creating context to reinforcing stereotypes and mythologizing the other. Special emphasis will be given to places where representation is contentious, including extended discussion about photography of Africa and elsewhere. Each student will also select a country, compose a survey of photographs of that country, and undertake a photo project of their own focusing on a New York based diaspora group. The project will be an opportunity to put critical thinking skills about image making into practice. Students should have a basic working knowledge of digital cameras. Technique and ethics will be discussed in class, and while knowledge of SLRs is preferred it is not necessary. Students will leave the class with a better understanding of how to interpret and analyze photography and understand its impact on policy, advocacy, and public opinion.