The History and Future of American Photography

Learn about the roots and future of contemporary American photography in this course co-taught by curatorial experts from the Houston Center for Photography and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Photography is demonstrably the most contemporary of art forms; it is the most vital, effective and universal means of communication of facts and ideas between peoples and nations.”  — Cornell Capa

Modern life is flooded by a sea of photographs, from our televisions to our computers to our phones. Although photography is ubiquitous, it is one of the least well-understood art forms. Two curatorial experts from the Houston Center for Photography and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, join forces to demystify contemporary photography. This course traces the history of U.S. photography and the critical debates surrounding photographic genres, including documentary, portrait, landscape and more. Gain insight and critical language to analyze photography while considering its social and cultural importance. This class examines photography as an ever-expanding web, influenced equally by its past, new technology and cultural change. No photographic experience is necessary to participate in this lecture-style course.

Image: Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936), iconic photo of the Great Depression


Section Instructor Format Schedule start date
GHUM2003.F18.1 Ashlyn Davis, Lisa Volpe On-campus 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, October 1, 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Ashlyn Davis, Lisa Volpe
FORMAT: On-campus
SCHEDULE: 7-8:30 p.m.
START DATE: Oct. 01, 2018

Instructor: Ashlyn Davis

Ashlyn Davis, M.A., is the executive director of Houston Center for Photography and editor of their biannual magazine, spot. She has held prior positions with The Aperture Foundation, Penguin Books and Newspace Center for Photography. Ms. Davis has curated dozens of photography exhibits, lectures and events and co-edited “Islands of the Blest,” a book of 19th and 20th century photography of the American West. She holds a master’s in American studies, with a focus on the history of photography, from The University of Texas at Austin. 

Lisa Volpe, Ph.D., is the associate curator, photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she has curated exhibits such as “Introducing America to Americans: Depression-Era Photographs.” Previously, Dr. Volpe was the curator of the Wichita Art Museum and oversaw all areas of the museum’s collection. She holds a doctorate in history of photography from University of California, Santa Barbara where she taught the History of Photography, American Art and Museum Studies. She also taught Photography History and Theory in the Master of Fine Arts in Photography Program at Brooks Institute.

Term: Fall 2018

Start Date: Oct. 01, 2018

End Date: Oct. 29, 2018

Schedule: 7-8:30 p.m.

Length: Five Mondays

Location: Rice campus

Fee: $185

Early Registration: $175 if registering by Sept. 17

Rice Alumni: $167

CEUs: 0.75

Oct. 1. “Photography and American Identity.” Ashlyn Davis, M.A., and Lisa Volpe, Ph.D.

Oct. 8. “Documentary and the Documentary Aesthetic.” Ashlyn Davis

Oct. 15. “Looking at Others and Interrogating Self: The Portrait.” Lisa Volpe

Oct. 22. “Time and Place: The American Landscape.” Ashlyn Davis 

Oct. 29. “The Future, New Directions and the 10 Artists We’re Excited About Today.” Davis and Volpe

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