This program is over.

Hope you didn't miss it!  Find more programs here.

Photography: A Hands-on History
6-Session Weekend Course

Sunday, October 29 to December 10, 2017 – 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (no class Nov. 26)
Code: 1K00PW

Text Size
- +
Cyanotype by Patricia Howard

“If I’d had the nerve, I’d have become a thief or a gangster, but since I didn’t,  I became a photographer.” —Man Ray

Delve into the fascinating history of photography as an art form in this unique course in which you create your own imagery using the techniques and processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Art historian and photographer Patricia Howard presents an overview of photography’s development, tracing it from the earliest experiments though its growth to its emergence as tool for artists of all kinds.

As she explores the work of influential creators over the span of more than two centuries, Howard discusses topics such as pictorialism and realism in 19th-century photography; how surrealism embraced the photograph; the portrait from tintype to digital selfies; and the range of forms and styles expressed in contemporary photography.

Sessions are comprised of hands-on projects enhanced by lecture. Among the activities, students build a camera obscura; create cyanotypes and surrealist-inspired ray-o-grams; learn to retouch and hand-paint photographs; and get insights into the historical context and current applications of these processes.
The class is appropriate both for photographers of all experience levels as well as non-photographers interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the form’s technical and artistic evolution.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit


Oct. 29

  • Lecture: The beginnings of still photography
  • Project: A portable camera obscura

Nov. 5

  • Lecture: Pictorialism and realism; Clarence White, Gertrude Casebier, Ansel Adams, Imogene Cunningham, Edward Weston.
  • Project: Cyanotypes

Nov. 12

  • Lecture: Surrealists in photography: Man Ray, Laszlo Maholy Nagy, Andre Kertész, and others.
  • Project: Ray-o-grams

Nov. 19

  • Lecture: The portrait in photography
  • Project: Retouching a portrait in Lightroom

Dec. 3

  • Project: Retouching and painting photographs

Dec. 10

  • Lecture: Contemporary photography

6 sessions, 3 hours each (no class Nov. 26)

Other Connections

Washington Post columnist John Kelly recounts how attending a lecture on 19th century photography deepened his appreciation for the art as both a viewer and an amateur photographer.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
Room 3035
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)