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Photography: A Hands-on History

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Photography: A Hands-on History

6-Session Daytime Course

Friday, October 16, 2020 - 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1V00GY
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

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 through 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.

For this virtual class, each session will begin with a presentation focused on a specific movement or genre of photography and then move on to a hands-on project related to that lecture. Among the activities: students will build a camera obscura; create cyanotypes and a surrealist-inspired collage as well as learn to experiment with approaches to portrait and landscape photography. Students will have the opportunity to share their projects and to explore the Smithsonian photographic collections, gaining insights into the historical context and current applications of these processes.

The instructor will observe the creation of hands-on projects and give feedback and guidance. Students will be provided with a list of materials well in advance of each class. Most are house-hold items with the exception of cyanotype paper which can be ordered on-line.

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.

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World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

Other Information

  • The instructor is Patricia Howard.
  • 6 sessions, 2.5 hours each
  • This studio arts program is a Zoom Meeting to allow for patron and instructor interaction.

Patron Information

  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.