Class Syllabus

Professor Sandra Cheng
Office Hours: 
   Tues/Thurs 9-10 am and by appointment
Office: Namm 602B
Email: (best way to contact me)
Phone: 718-260-5003

Download a PDF of the Syllabus here

Class Time/Location: Tues/Thurs 11:30 am Р12:45 pm, Atrium 631 (3 credits)

Course Description:¬†¬† This course surveys the history of photography from its beginnings in the early nineteenth century to the present.¬† We will examine the use of photography for aesthetic, documentary, and ‚Äúscientific‚ÄĚ purposes, stylistic shifts in photography related to aesthetic concerns, and varying interpretations of subject matter based on social and cultural concerns at specific moments in history.¬† We will also consider the relationship between photography and the visual arts in general, which culminates with the primacy of photography as a medium by the late twentieth century.

Required Textbook:    Mary Warner Marien, Photography, A Cultural History, 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall, 2010  (OK to use the 2nd Edition, several copies of the 2nd Edition are on reserve in the library)

Learning Outcomes:

Students will,

  • learn the analytical techniques used by art historians,
  • become familiar with key works in the history of photography, the photographers, diverse styles, and working methods,
  • become knowledgeable about the major photographic works linked to historical events, intellectual history, and scientific and cultural trends,
  • acquire a working knowledge of the specialized vocabulary used in art history,
  • enhance their visual literacy and critical thinking skills

Class Expectations: Look and think about what you’re looking at!
Students are responsible for the following: images, names, and vocabulary on the slide lists, information presented in lecture and assigned readings, including the general historical context for all stylistic periods.

Class participation will be considered in determining final grades.

Website:  You must access the class website by logging into CityTech’s OpenLab via  To access the OpenLab, you will need to register with your CityTech email account (if you haven’t activated your CityTech email, you will need to go to the helpdesk in the 6th Floor Computer Lab of the General Building).  Instructions on how to start your account on the OpenLab will be provided in a separate handout.

Slide lists for the lectures will be posted online.  Go to the Class Downloads tab on the website.  The slide lists have the works of art and vocabulary that you are responsible for on the exams.  You will also have access to image files and readings under Class Downloads but these are password-protected (passwords will be provided in class).  Although I will show slides that are not on your slide lists or in Marien’s Photography, these unlisted works will not be on the exams.


Writing Assignment #1: Critical Analysis of Sources       15%
Midterm                                                                                     25%
Writing Assignment #2: Exhibition Review                       25%
Final                                                                                            25%
Web/In-Class Assignments                                                    10%

PLEASE NOTE: Failure to turn in a paper or submit an exam/assignment 
will result in a zero (0), not F.

Important Dates:
Feb 16, Thursday                       Last day to drop without W grade
March 6, Tuesday                      Writing Assignment #1 DUE
March 20, Tuesday                    Midterm Exam
April 19, Thursday                     Last day to withdraw with W grade
April 24, Tuesday                      Writing Assignment #2 DUE
May 17, Thursday ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Final Exam, 11:30 am ‚Äď 12:45 pm
no incomplete work accepted after this date

Exams:  Exams consist of slide identifications (artist name, title of works, medium, dates, significance of work), short answer questions, comparative essays, and definitions of terms/concepts.  Make-up exams will only be given for reasons of documented emergency.

Written Assignments: Students are required to write two papers.  Information on required papers will be given in separate handouts.

  • Response paper (3 pp)
    After reading/viewing several articles online (including a chapter of Fred Ritchin’s After Photography), you will write a short paper on the impact of digital photography on media.
  • ¬†Exhibition Review (4-5 pp)
    You will be given a list of approved photography exhibitions in New York City.  Choose one exhibition to visit and review.  Write a review based on your interpretation and analysis.  The objective of this review will be to determine the goal of the curator in putting the exhibition together and then to evaluate the extent to which the curator was successful in achieving this goal.

Late papers will be accepted only if students have received prior approval for late submissions.

Web homework/In-Class Assignments: Your homework consists of blogging on the class website.  Each week, I will post a Discussion Topic.  You may choose to submit a blog post or comment on a fellow student’s post.  Instructions for how to post or to comment are located online under Blogging Guidelines.  You are responsible for 10 posts or comments.  Throughout the semester, you will have the opportunity to work in small groups for in-class assignments.  Participation on the blog and class work is mandatory.

Extra Credit:  Over the course of the semester, you will be given an option to do several extra credit projects worth 1-3 points each.  The projects have specific due dates.  These are short written assignments of approx. 500 words.  If you complete all the projects well, it is possible to increase your final grade average by 10 points.   You will find extra credit assignments posted online.

Attendance:  Students are expected to attend all classes. More than 3 absences will result in course failure.  Excessive lateness will affect your grade.  Three late marks equal one absence.

Plagiarism and Cheating: Presenting work by others as your own is completely unacceptable.  Plagiarism includes using material from books or the Internet without acknowledging the source as well as submitting something written by someone else.  Either will result in a 0 (zero) for that particular assignment/exam. A second instance will result in an automatic F for the course.

Decorum: Please turn off your cell phones, beepers, alarms, etc. and no sleeping, internet surfing, txt msgs while in lecture.

New York City College of Technology Policy on Academic Integrity:
Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. The complete text of the College policy on Academic Integrity may be found in the catalog.

*Syllabus is subject to change.

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