ART548 MFA Graduate Seminar in Photography: History & Aesthetics I, Jacopo Santini, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ART548 MFA Graduate Seminar in Photography: History & Aesthetics I, Jacopo Santini, Fall 2019

“The camera is an instrument invented to teach people how to see without a camera”
Dorothea Lange

This Graduate Seminar will focus on an in-depth study of the history of photography and its ideological, representational, technological, historical, and aesthetic ramifications, with emphasis on the profound changes occurring due to the digital revolution. The world of photography will also be analyzed in its relationships to the heritage of Renaissance and contemporary visual and other fine arts. Class time will involve lectures and visits to exhibitions, galleries and photographic/art festivals, such as Paris Photo, Unseen Festival in Amsterdam, the Photography Festival of Rome, Photolux in Lucca, Venice Biennale (every other year), the European Festival in Reggio Emilia, Cortona on the Move, Bologna Arte Fiera, MIA (Milan Image Art Fair), Triennale in Milan, and many others.


By the end of the course students will gain a deep and comprehensive knowledge of photography in its historical development up to the current “digital era,” of how it has been affected by and has affected other media and sciences, society and social behaviors and, more generally, the way we see ourselves.
A fundamental goal of the course is an in-depth analysis of photography’s raison d’etre today and the many different issues that stem from such a question. Thanks to the digital revolution the medium is even more available and affordable to the masses than before. Billions of photographs are taken every day, edited, posted, attached, downloaded and uploaded. And the more images are used (and abused) the less people seem to be able to think about the reasons why they continue, sometimes compulsively, to photograph, to “write with light.” Therefore the unavoidable question is: why do we photograph? Why should we continue to do it? To what purpose? And, finally, will photography survive and, if so, in what form? Studying the past and learning how to be conscious of the present will doubtless help us toward an answer.

Students are required to keep two journals. One in which you will write class notes and keep all handouts. The second will be your creative journal where you will write your personal impressions and analysis about the topics discussed during the seminar. Be as creative and involved as possible!

Field Trips

Field trips in this MFA Seminar are:

  • First step of the project “In the Folds of Italy": The Po Delta
  • Cortona, "Cortona on the Move" Festival
  • Venice, Venice Art Biennale and Ferdinando Scianna at Tre Oci
  • Bologna, MAST: Edward Burtinsky's Anthropocene
  • Paris and 2019 Paris Photo Festival
  • Lucca, Photolux Festival


Attendance: This includes participation/full participation.
Attendance and promptness are mandatory. Two absences will result in one grade less. Two late arrivals are equivalent to one absence. Eight minutes tardiness is equal to one lateness.

Critiques and tests cannot be missed. Check the final exam date on your schedule. No final exam absences will be excused; therefore, no flights can be scheduled before or on this date. Missing the final critique will greatly affect your grade, resulting in a high risk of failure. Only the co-directors and the Dean can make any exceptions to this rule. Please talk to us in advance if you anticipate anything in these regards.


Students can achieve a passing grade by completing all of the requirements, having optimum attendance, participating in the MFA Seminar during critiques, during outside projects and by showing professionalism with guest visitors.


A = Work that far exceeds the minimum requirements in craftsmanship, presentation, and visual/intellectual order. Your concepts, ideas, and insightful participation in class and in critiques have to be of high level to obtain this grade.
B = above average work that far exceeds the minimum requirements. Skillful handling of the materials with good concepts, showing initiative in critiques and in class.
C = Average work completion with only adequate control of the materials. Minimum class and critique participation.
D = Failure to complete assignments resulting from a minimum amount of effort, poor execution, and sloppy craftsmanship in the handling of the materials with little or no class participation.
F = Little or no effort with consideration to the assignments. No participation in class or critiques.

Recommended Reading

In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading. Note: Many required and recommended texts are available for loan or can be consulted in the SACI Worthington Library.

Galassi, Peter, Before Photography. Painting and the Invention of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1981.
ISBN: 9780870702549 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Newhall, Beaumont, History of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1982.
ISBN: 9780870703812 (Retail price: $39.95)

Frizot, Michel, ed., A New History of Photography , Könemann, 1998.
ISBN: 9783829013284 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Jeffrey, Ian, Photography: A Concise History, Thames and Hudson, 1996.
ISBN: 9780500201879 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Batchen, Geoffrey, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography, The MIT Press, 1999.
ISBN: 9780262522595 (Retail price: $40.95)

Batchen, Geoffrey, Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance, Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.
ISBN: 9781568984506 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Marien, Mary Warner, Photography: A Cultural History, Laurence King Publishing, 2014.
ISBN: 9781780673325 (Retail price: £35)

Hacking, Juliet, Lives of the Great Photographers, Thames & Hudson, 2015.
ISBN: 9780500544440 (Retail price: $50)

Benjamin, Walter, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010.
ISBN: 9781453722480 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, The MIT Press, 1992.
ISBN: 9780262531078 (Retail price: $27.95)

Well, Liz, Photography: A Critical Introduction, Routledge, 2007.
ISBN: 9780415307048 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Rosenblum, Naomi, A History of Women Photographers, Abbeville Press, 2000.
ISBN: 9780789206589 (Retail price: To Be Determined).

Heron, Liz, and Val Williams, eds. Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present, Tauris, 1996.
ISBN: 9781860640704 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Muzzarelli, Anna, L’Invenzione del Fotografico. Storie e Idee della Fotografia nell’Ottocento, Einaudi.
ISBN: 9788806215972 (Retail price: €25)

Bailly, Jean-Christophe, L’Istante e la Sua Ombra (from the French L’istant et Son Ombre), Mondadori Bruno.
ISBN: 9788861593626 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Nadar, Felix, and Eduardo Cadava, When I Was a Photographer, The MIT Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9780262029452 (Retail price: $25.95)

Danto, Arthur C., What Art Is, Yale University Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9780300205718 (Retail price: $15)

Peyre, Henri, ed., Baudelaire: A Collection of Critical Essay, Prentice Hall, 1963.
ISBN: 9780130724960 (Retail price: To Be Determine)

Flusser, Vilém, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (available online)

Breton, André, Manifestoes of Surrealism, The University of Michigan Press, 1989.
ISBN: 9780472061822 (Retail price: $20.95)

Breaton, André, Nadja, Grove Press, 1994.
ISBN: 9780802150264 (Retail price: $15)

Gary, Michael, Fox Talbot, Federico Motta Editore, 1998.
ISBN: 9788871791616 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Bellocq, E.J., and Szarkowski, E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits, Scolar Press, 1978.
ISBN: 9780859674881 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Beaumont-Maillet, Laure, Atget Paris, Gingko Press, 2007.
ISBN: 9781584232414 (Retail price: $49.95)

Rodchenko, Alexander, Alexander Rodchenko: Modern Photography in Soviet Russia, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Blossfeldt, Karl, Art Forms in the Plant World, Dover Publications, 1986.
ISBN: 9780486249902 (Retail price: $15.95)

Blossfeldt, Karl, Natural Art Forms: 120 Classic Photographs Dover Publications, 1998.
ISBN: 9780486400037 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Brassai, and Paul Morrand, Brassai: Paris by Night, A Bulfinch Press Book, 2001.
ISBN: 9780821227381 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Sayag, Alain, and Lionel-Marie Annick. Brassai, Centre Pompidou/Seuil, 2000.
ISBN: To be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Abbott Bernice, and Julia Haaften, Berenice Abbott, Könemann, 1997.
ISBN: 9783895086120 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Cartier-Bresson, Henri, Henri Cartier-Bresson Photographe, Delpire, 1979.
ISBN: 9782851071002 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Cartier-Bresson, Henri, America in Passing, Bulfinch Pr, 1996.
ISBN: 9780821223321 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Vermare, Pauline, ed., Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Steidl, 2004.
ISBN: 9783865210722 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Corkin, Jane, Andre' Kertesz: A Lifetime of Perception, Harry N. Abrams, 1982.
ISBN: 9780810912076 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Weston, Edward, The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Aperture, 1990.
ISBN: 9780893814458 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Cravins, R.H., Edward Weston. Aperture Masters of Photography, Aperture, 1988.
ISBN: 9780893813048 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Wilson, Charis, Edward Weston: Nudes, An Aperture Book, 1993.
ISBN: 9780893815325 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Travis, David, Edward Weston, The Last Years in Carmel, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2001.
ISBN: 9780865591920 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Lange, Dorthea, Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime, Aperture, 1982.
ISBN: 9780893818357 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

O’Neil, Doris C., Eisenstaedt. Fotografie 1927 – 1980, Contrasto, 2000.
ISBN: 9788886982238 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Newhall, Nancy, From Adams to Stieglitz: Pioneers of Modern Photography, Aperture, 1999.
ISBN: 9780893813734 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Norman, Dorothy, Alfred Stieglitz, 1997.
ISBN: 9783895086076 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Clarke, Graham, Alfred Stieglitz, Phaidon, 2006.
ISBN: 9780714842554 (Retail price: $27.95)

Nael, Weston, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Publications, 1995.
ISBN: 9780892363032 (Retail price: $19.95)

Whelan, Richard (compiled by), Steiglitz on Photography. His Selected Essays and Notes, Aperture, 2000.
ISBN: 9780893818043 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Horst, Richard J., and Lothar Schirmer, eds. Horst: Sixty Years of Photography, Universe, 1996.
ISBN: 9780789300553 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Jeffrey, Ian, Josef Sudek (55 Series), Phaidon, 2001.
ISBN: 9780714841687 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Sudek, Josef, Josef Sudek: Poet of Prague, A Photographer's Life, Aperture, 1990.
ISBN: 9780893813864 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Naef, Weston, ed., Julia Margaret Cameron, 1996.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Lukitsch, Joanne, Julia Margaret Cameron, Phaidon, 2006.
ISBN: 9780714846187 (Retail price: $27.95)

Wolf, Sylvia, Julia Margaret Cameron's Women, The Art Inst. Of Chicago-Yale U Pr, 1998.
ISBN: 9780300077810 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Bataile, Georges, and Gert Mattenklott, Karl Blossfeldt: Art Forms in Nature, Schirmer Art Books, 1999.
ISBN: 9783888146275 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

d’Astier, Marine, and Kevin Moore, Lartigue: Album of a Century, Thames and Hudson, 2003.
ISBN: 9780500542910 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Frizot, Michel, Le Passé composé. Les 6x13 de Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Centre National de la Photographie, 1984.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

The Photographs of Jacques Henri Lartigue, The Museum of Modern Art, NY, 1963.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Taschen, Angelika, ed. Leni Riefenstahl: Cinque Vite - Taschen, Taschen, 2001.
ISBN: 9783822813034 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Perl, Jed, Man Ray, Aperture, 1988.
ISBN: 9780893813079 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Man Ray: Fotografo , Idea Books Edizioni, 1982.
ISBN: 9788870170160 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

White, Minor, Minor White: Rites and Passages, Aperture, 1978.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Maggia, Filippo, ed., Minor White / Life is Like a Cinema of Stills, Baldini & Castoldi, 2000.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Adams, Ansel, Natural Light Photography, Morgan & Morgan, Hasting on Hudson, NY, 1969.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Coke, van Deren, The Painter and the Photograph: From Delacroix to Warhol, University of New Messico Press, 1972.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Haworth-Booth, Mark, Paul Strand, Aperture, 1997.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Mora, Gilles, Photo Speak. A Guide to Ideas, Movements, and Techniques of Photography, 1839 to the Present, Abbeville Press, 1998.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Clark, Graham, The Photograph, Oxford University Press, 1997.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Goldberg, Vicky, The Power of Photography: How Photography Changed Our Lives, Abbeville Press, 1991.
ISBN: 9781558590397 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Trachtenberg, Alan, Reading American Photographs. Images as History Mathew Brady to Walker Evans, Hill & Wang, 1989.
ISBN: 9780374522490 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Roberts, Pam, Stieglitz: Camera Work, Taschen, 2015.
ISBN: 9783836544078 (Retail price: $19.99)

Hooks, Margaret, Tina Modotti, Aperture, 1999.
ISBN: 9780893818234 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Zavattini, Cesare, Un Paese, Portrait of an Italian Village. Paul Strand, 1997.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Evans, Walker, Cuba, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.
ISBN: 9780892366170 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Evans, Walker, Florida, Oxford University Press, 2000.
ISBN: 9780892365661 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Mora, Gilles, and John T. Hill, Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye, Harry N. Abrams, 2004.
ISBN: 9780810991873 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Rosenblum, Naomi, A World History of Photography, Abbeville Press, 1989.
ISBN: 9781558590540 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Von Hartz, John, August Sander, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Sander, Gunther, ed., August Sander: Citizens of the Twentieth Century, The MIT Press, 1997.
ISBN: 9780262192484 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Hopkinson, Amanda, Martin Chambi, Phaidon Press, 2001.
ISBN: 9780714840338 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

D’Hooghe, Alain, Norbert Ghisoland, Exhibitions International, 2002.
ISBN: 9782873171704 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Kasher, Steven, and Mike Trachtenberg, eds. Original Disfarmer Photographs, Steidl, 2005.
ISBN: 9783865211897 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Weegee, and Allene Talmey (text), Weegee, Aperture, 1997.
ISBN: 9780893817497 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

DVD: The Genius of Photography, BBC, 2009.


(Please note: this schedule is subject to change)

Week 1 - Wednesday, September 11
Introduction to the course.

Week 2 - Wednesday, September 18
Lecture: Eye and Light (lecture by Dr. Massimo Francalanci, engineer specialized in optics) – Photography before photography. Reading: Peter Galassi, Before Photography.

Friday, September 20
Field Trip to Bologna : MAST, Edward Burtinksy’s Anthropocene
Paper (at least 3 double-spaced pages) on Edward Burtinsky’s exhibition. Due by Wednesday, October 2

Week 3 - Wednesday, September 25
Welcoming the newborn: the origins of photography and the reactions of the society and intellectuals: Niepce, Daguerre, Fox Talbot, Herschel and others.
Reading: Walter Benjamin: A Short History of Photography; Online source (about Baudelaire’s approach to photography).

Saturday, September 28
Field Trip to Cortona: Cortona on the Move Photo Festival

Week 4 - Wednesday, October 2
Photography and its inferiority complex: Pictorialism. Stiglietz and Camera Work; Edward Steichen. The opposition to Pictorialism: Group F64 (Edward Weston, Ansel Adams Paul Strand) and Straight photography – Reading: Baudelaire and Van Dyke. Due: Paper (at least 3 double-spaced pages) on one of the exhibitions at Cortona on the Move Photo festival

Week 5 - Wednesday, October 9
Photography and science (anthropology, physiognomy, Reading: Johnathan Crary: excerpt from “The techniques of the observer”).
Online source:

Friday, October 11 and Saturday October 12
"In the Folds of Italy": field trip to Po’s Delta

Week 6 - Wednesday, October 16
A different way of looking: Photography and Modernism. New Objectivity (August Sander, Herbert Blossfeldt – Dadaist photomontage and Surrealist photography).
Work time.

Week 7 - Wednesday, October 23
Midterm Exam – DUE: Presentation by the students of a research paper on “Welcoming Photography” – an analysis on how the intellectual world reacted to Arago’s 1839 speech at the French parliament concerning the invention of photography – a minimum of 5 double-spaced pages.

Friday, October 25
Midterm Review

The MFA Midterm Review will be conducted by: the Co-Directors

Week 8 - MIDTERM BREAK for undergraduates  (October 26 - November 3)

Week 9- Wednesday, November 6
Photography and society. The era of documentary photography (Russian photography and cinema, FSA, Photo League).
If possible view of “The Man with the Movie Camera," 1929, by Tziga Vertov.

Friday, November 8 - Sunday, November 10
Field trip to Paris: Paris Photo

Research paper on one of the exhibitions of the Paris Photo festival (a minimum of 3 double-spaced pages)

Week 10 - Wednesday, November 13
Color photography. An unending story. Dialogue (the topic being "color") between Massimo Francalanci (engineer specializing in optics) and Jacopo Santini (photographer and Co-Director of the MFA in Photography): a subjective view versus an objective/scientific one.
Reading:The Case of the Colorblind Painter, excerpt from Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist on Mars
Richard Mosse, The Enclave

Friday, November 15 – Saturday, November 16: 2019 Art Biennale Field Trip

Visit to Tre Oci Photo Museum for the exhibition of Ferdinando Scianna

Week 11 - Wednesday, November 20
Lecture by Michele Borzoni, photographer of Terraproject collective.
Lecture: The anonymous studios: Norbert Ghisoland, Martin Chambi, Disfarmer.
DUE: Research paper on one of the exhibitions of the Paris Photo festival (a minimum of 3 double-spaced pages) to be discussed previously with the teacher.

Week 12 - Wednesday, November 27
Photojournalism. Humanism and neo-realism. The age of the agencies. The last illusions: Edward Steichen’s Family of men.

Friday, November 29: Field Trip to Lucca: Photolux Festival

Week 13 - Wednesday, December 4
Screening: The Salt of the Hearth: a Journey with Sebastiao Salgado by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Week 14 – Wednesday, December 11
Work Time

Week 15 - Wednesday, December 18
Final exam: Research Paper: at least 10 page-paper with bibliography on a topic to be determined in collaboration with the instructor.

Friday, December 20
Fall Term Review

A final hour-long presentation will be conducted by your Graduate Review Board, consisting of the two Co-Directors of the MFA in Photography program and another instructor selected by the Co-Directors. A draft of the paper will have to be completed and sent to the committee members at least one week prior the presentation.

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