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Master Class I: The Perplexing World of Contemporary Art Photography

Amanda Dahlgren, MFA

This series of five lectures will demystify contemporary art photography, such as that seen on museum and gallery walls and in art books. If you have ever scratched your head reading an artist’s statement or wondered whatever happened to craft and technical skill in photography, then this is the series for you. Topics will include the dramatic shift from modernism into postmodernism and contemporary strategies used by photographic artists, such as The Directorial Mode, the Deadpan Aesthetic, The Snapshot Aesthetic, and Appropriation.

January 10: How Did We Get Here? This introductory lecture will cover the “classic” way of creating and judging photography — according to craftsmanship, composition, and content — which comes from a Modernist tradition. The lecture will discuss the historical reasons for the dramatic shift from Modernism to Postmodernism and will include an introduction to what Conceptual Art did to the practice of photography as an art form.

January 24: The Deadpan Aesthetic

This lecture will address the origins of the dispassionate and detached mode of photography that is so often seen on museum and gallery walls. From the work of early German photographers such as August Sander and Albert Renger-Patzsch in the 1920s to the New Topographics in the 1970s to contemporary photographers such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Rineke Dijkstra, and Joel Sternfeld, we will follow the common thread of objectivity, detachment, and sharpness. February 7:Staged Photography/The Directorial Mode

This lecture will cover contemporary photographers who create elaborate scenes for the camera, challenging the idea that photography records the real. From the first staged photograph created by Hippolyte Bayard in 1840 to contemporary work by Sandy Skoglund, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Thomas Demand, and Gregory Crewdson, we will see meticulous attention to detail and a strong narrative quality that is often described as cinematic.

February 21: Intimate Life and the Snapshot Aesthetic

In this lecture we will discuss Robert Frank’s influence on a generation of street photographers, such as Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. We will also discuss the ways in which contemporary art photographers use seemingly unskilled “snapshots” to signal an intimacy between them and their subjects, for example in the work of Nan Goldin, Larry Sultan, and Tierney Gearon. We will also look at artists like Martin Parr and Nikki S. Lee who use the Snapshot Aesthetic for other conceptual reasons.

March 7: Appropriation

The final lecture will cover the controversial use of appropriation by artists such as Martha Rosler beginning in the late 1960s; Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince in the early 1980s; and contemporary artists such as Doug Rickard, Eric William Carroll, and Penelope Umbrico. We will discuss why these artists tend to get away with what many see as copyright infringement.

Instructor: Amanda Dahlgren is a college photography instructor and a gallery educator at the Museum of Photographic Arts. She is passionate about helping people not only to understand photography but also to create their own meaningful work. She is herself a photographic artist, co-producer of Open Show San Diego, and Chair for the West Chapter of the Society for Photographic Education.

Coordinator: Marsha Korobkin

Course Number: OSHR-70134   Credit: 0 units

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