History of Photography classes in Tokyo

To understand the history of photography or even to be able to recognise some photos by a few of the great photographers of each significant ere of photography’s history is to understand your own place as a photographer in the grand scheme. It’s a chance to understand the development of photography, from the earliest techniques and cameras, to the high-tech digital cameras and imaging methods of today.

Studying a little about photography’s history – its pioneers, the great names of photography who have made their mark upon each generation – is undoubtedly going to help your own work, too.

Along with visual literacy, some study of the history of photography is going to dramatically broaden your perspective of photography as a whole.

There are various ways to soak all this up and make a study of the history of photography: exploring the study of various genres of photography through the history of technique overall; looking along the timeline of photography, picking out key the players and their seminal works and contributions. We did some of both.

I think the study of the history of photography is the study of culture, life, people, place, things and the response – over time and through various phases of time – of people to the potential and the process of photography. Photography has changed the world but it has also changed the way people understand the world.

One question remained as contentious at the end of the classes as it did at the start: is photography art?

Last Saturday I began a series of classes on the history of photography. The first two were tasters; photography has been around for more than 175 years and one can’t absorb that amount of history in two, three-hour classes. The aim of these first two sessions is to give you a broad understanding, to introduce some of the key moments, the main protagonists and – most of all – some of the finest pictures from each era.

There were reading-lists and pointers as to where to go and find out more about the photographers whose work we saw or who cropped-up as key parts of the documentaries we watched and books we looked at.

These two introductory classes were a pre-cursor to a series of lectures which will cover individual eras and specific key moments in the history of photography.

They were split into two parts. For those who missed them, I shall be running these taster sessions again soon.

Intro to the History of Photography Pt.1 | The Early History, up to the beginning of the 20th Century

This class covers work, techniques and key moments in the pioneering years of photography – from 1839 up until the end of the 19th Century. The photo at the top of this article – of cannonballs strewn across the battlefield, by Crimean War photographer Roger Fenton – fits into this period. Understand Fenton and his techniques and it’ll make you see the Nikon and Leica-carrying war-correspondents of WW2 and Vietnam seem as revolutionary as the iPhone-toting correspondents which have emerged from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These were some of the famous photographers whose work we saw and discussed:

  • Fox-Talbot
  • Louis Daguerre
  • Joseph Niepce
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Roger Fenton
  • Mathew B. Brady
  • Hippolyte Bayard
  • Nadar
  • Edweard Muybridge

Class fee: 3000Yen. Two-class package is 5000Yen.

Venue: The Gotanda Cultural Centre – a brand-new and wonderfully appointed venue ten mins walk from Gotanda JR station.

Intro to the History of Photography Pt.2 | The 20th Century to present-day

In this era photography moved from the preserve of the rich to the hobby of the masses – with the advent of Kodak’s ‘Brownie’. It also turned from black and white into colour. The Leica brought the revolution of compact, 35mm photography. We saw the rise of National Geographic Magazine and Magnum. Advertising and fashion photography took photography beyond simply record and into style and the idea of an idealizing vision. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ and the FSA revolutionized social documentary photography. Mainstream digital photography was still, then, more than 60 years away. It was a busy century and we did well to cover what we did.

These were some of the famous photographers whose work we saw and discussed:

  • Edward Steichen
  • Robert Capa
  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • Man Ray
  • Lazslo Moholy-Nagy
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Edward Weston
  • Ansel Adams
  • Bill Brandt
  • Walker Evans
  • Eugene Atget
  • Alexander Rodchenko
  • Gary Winogrand
  • William Klein
  • Diane Arbus

Class fee: 3000Yen. Two-class package is 5000Yen.

Venue: The Gotanda Cultural Centre – a brand-new and wonderfully appointed venue ten mins walk from Gotanda JR station.

Drop me a line if you are interested in coming to a repeat of these classes.

About Japanorama

Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

We also welcome submissions of photos and articles for this site, so please get in touch via our contact page. Thanks.

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