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C LIT 597 B: Special Topics in Cinema and Media Studies

Film and the Photographic Imaginary

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SAV 140
Sudhir Mahadevan

Syllabus Description:


C LIT 597 B: Graduate Seminar: Film and the Photographic Imaginary

Sudhir Mahadevan, Padelford C -506, sudhirm@, TTH 2-4 and by appointment


At least 4 reading summaries – 40 %

Classroom presentations in weeks 9 and 10 – 20 %

One final research paper – 40 %

  1. 1.    Indexicality

Key texts:

Bazin, Ontology of the Photographic Image (pdf)

Barthes, Camera Lucida, read Part 2 (pdf)

Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries


Gunning, What’s the point of an index, in Beckman and Ma, eds. Still Moving

Mulvey, Death 24x, Chapter 3, The Index and the Uncanny (PDF)

Margulies, Exemplary Bodies: Reenactment in Close-Up etc, in Margulies, ed. Rites of Realism

Iverson, Following Pieces: On Performative Photography, in Elkins, ed. Photography Theory.

Films: The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris), Close Up (Abbas Kiarostami), Mothlight (Stan Brakhage)

  1. 2.    Stillness and Movement – Formal and Historical Perspectives

Mulvey, Death 24x, chapter 4 (PDF)

David Campany, Photography and Cinema, Introduction and Chapter 1

Marta Braun, Picturing Time, chapters 4 (Animating Images: the Cinematographic Method) and 6 (Marey, Muybridge and the Motion Pictures).

Close readings (Chris Marker):

          Kawin, Time and Stasis in La Jetee (pdf)

          Marker, La Jetee (pdf)

          Urlow, Photography as Cinema (pdf)

Films: Eureka, La Jetee (Chris Marker), Eureka (Ernie Gehr), Cache (Michael Haneke), Paul Sharits


Thierry de Duve, Time Exposure and the Snapshot (PDF)

Elsaesser, Stop/Motion, in Rossaak, ed. Between Stillness and Motion (pdf)

Campany, The Cinematic, Section: Photography at the Cinema, 102-139 (pdf)

Garrett Stewart, ch. 1, Photogravure.

Sean Cubitt, The Cinema Effect, chapters 1 and 2 (pdf)

  1. 3.    Modernism

Key Texts:

Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting (pdf)

John Szarkowski, The Photographer’s Eye (pdf)

Mary Ellen Bute, Light*Form*Film*Sound, in Scott Mackenzie, Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures. (pdf)

Eisenstein, a Dialectic Approach to Film Form (pdf)

Lazlo-Moholy-Nagy, Photography (pdf)


Michael Fried, Why Photography matters as Art as Never Before

Andrej Kovacz, Screening Modernism, Part 1 (pdf)

David Campany, Photography and Cinema, ch. 2, p. 60-93

Esther Gabbara, Errant Modernisms, Introduction, Chapters 3 and 5


Rosalind Krauss, the Photographic Conditions of Surrealism (pdf)

Rosalind Krauss, Photography’s Discursive Spaces (pdf)

Susan Sontag, Photography, ch. 3, Heroism of Vision (pdf)

Films: Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein), October (Sergei Eisenstein)

  1. 4.    Postmodernisms: the Tableau and the Portrait

Jeff Wall, Marks of Indifference: Photography in and as Conceptual Art (pdf)

John Tagg, The Burden of Representation, Introduction and Chapter 1 (pdf)

Michael Fried, Jeff Wall, Wittgenstein and the Everyday (pdf)

Shelley Rice, Inverted Odysseys, chapter. 1, and chapter 6 (Ted Mooney, Cindy Sherman: An Invention for Two Voices) [pdf]


          Charlotte Cotton, Photograph as Contemporary Art, Chapter 2       

          Rosalind Krauss, Bachelors, chapter 5 on Cindy Sherman (pdf”)

Martha Buskirk, Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, chapter 3 Medium and Materiality (and Chapter 5, Contingent Objects) (pdf)

Paul Arthur, No Longer Absolute: Portraiture in American Avant-Garde Doc, in Margulies, ed. Rites of Realism.

Artists: Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman

Films: Portrait of Jason, Zidane

  1. 5.    Modernisms: South Asia

Pinney, Camera Indica

Ajay Sinha, Pushpamala and the Art of Cinephilia in India

Kajri Jain essay in Edge of Desire

Gayatri Sinha, Pursuit of Dreams: Contemporary Contexts in Photography and Video Art in India, in India: Public Spaces/Private Places

Contemporary Indian Art, other realities: plenty of essays on modernisms and post-modernisms.


Jyotindra Jain, Image Mobility in India’s Popular Culture, in India’s Popular Culture: Iconic Spaces and Fluid Images.

Anuradha Kapur, Optics for the stage: Curtains for the Surabhi Company, in same as above

Christiane Brosius, The Enclaved Gaze: exploring the visual culture of world class living in urban India, same as above.

Films by Tejal Shah and photography by N. Pushpamala

  1. 6.    Medium Specificity and the Digital Moment

Sean Cubitt, Analogue and Digital (pdf)

WJ Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye, chapters 3 and 9 (pdf)

Manovich, Language of New Media, pdf

Yuri Tsivian, What is Cinema? An Agnostic Answer (pdf)

John Belton, Digital Cinema: A False Revolution


Moran, There’s no place like home video (pdf)

Jeffrey Skoller, Shadows, Specters, Shards, last chapter on post cinema and Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

Gruzinski, Images at War (last two chapters)

  1. 7.    Film, Photography and Affect

Key Texts

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, Part 1 (pdf)

Balazs, The Face of Man, in Theory of the Film (pdf)

Christian Metz, Photography and Fetish (pdf)

Walter Benjamin, the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (pdf); A Short History of Photography (pdf)


Michael Fried, Barthes’ Punctum (pdf)

Annette Michelson, Kinetic Icon and the Work of Mourning (pdf)

Annette Michelson, Towards Snow (pdf)

Rielle Navitzsky, Spectacles of Violence and Politics (pdf)


Jean Epstein, Photogenie (pdf)

Barthes, Third Meaning: Research Notes on Eisenstein’s Stills in Image, Music, Text (pdf)

Film: Finished (william e. jones); Wavelength (Michael Snow); El Automovil Gris (Enrique Rosas)

  1. 8.    The Political and the Ethical

Susan Sontag “Regarding the Pain of Others (pdf)

Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (pdf)

Ariella Azoulay, the Civil Contract of Photography (chapters 2, The Civil Contract of Photography and 3, The Spectator is Called to Take Part) (pdf)

Zahid Chaudhury, Afterimage of Empire

Catherine Russell, On Maya Deren and Ecstatic Ethnography

Ranciere, the Distribution of the Sensible (pdf)

Kimberly Brown, Regarding the Pain of Others, in Brown and Phu, ed. Feeling Photography.

Damian Sutton, Photography, Cinema, Memory: the Crystal Image of Time, ch. 1 (pdf)

Films: Standard Operating Procedure, Waltz with Bashir

  1. 9.    History on film and photography: Kracauer, Critical Theory

Rosen, History of Image, Image of History, in Rites of Realism

Kracauer, The Past’s Threshhold (pdf?)

Carlo Ginzburg, Threads and Traces: True False Fictive, chs. 12 -14.

Ulrich Baer, Spectral Evidence, the Photography of Trauma (see chapter 4 on Holocaust documentary) (pdf)

Films: Calendar (Atom Egoyan), Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)

  1. 10.  Images and Words

Michael North, Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth Century Word ( (pdf)

Ranciere, The Future of the Image, Chapters 1 and 2 (pdf)

Laura Marcus, The Tenth Muse, chapter 2 (Virginia Woolf and the Cinema) (pdf)

Jacques Aumont, Chapter 4, Cinema and Language















Additional Details:

This seminar introduces students to the theories, histories and creative practices that link film and photography. To what extent has the photographic imaginary influenced portraiture, reenactments, the tableau in the cinema? In what instances have the overlaps between film and photography informed visual ethnography or produced new reflections on historiography? Is the digital still image obsolete or do still images invite new reflections on duration and the phenomenological aspects of viewing pictures and watching films? What other ontologies of the moving and still image can be found in non-Western contexts?

The readings in this seminar belong to three broad areas of inquiry that significantly overlap with each other.

The first is a survey of the historical links between photography and film that take us from late 19th century chrono-photography, to the intersection of film and photojournalism in the first half of the twentieth century, to the emergence of digital photography and its relation to film. Readings for this section include Marta Braun, Rielle Navitzky, Serge Gruzinsky, Paula Amad, Teresa Castro.

The second area focuses on photographic and film theory with reflections by modernists, critical and film theorists, filmmakers (Lewis Hine, Andre Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer, Sergei Eisenstein among others) as well as more contemporary writers, including historians (Rosalind Kraus, Laura Mulvey, Annette Michelson, WJT Mitchell, Thierry de Duve, Carlo Ginzburg).

The third is an introduction to issues around the ethics and politics of representation, particularly as they pertain to photographic practices in art, political reportage and ethnography (in for instance the writing of Ariella Azoulay, Christopher Pinney, Catherine Russell, Fatima Tobing-Rony).

Films include Atom Egoyan's Calendar, Chris Marker's La Jetee, Agnes Varda's La Pointe Courte, Antonioni's L'Aventura and Blow Up, Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason, Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up, Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure, and we will also read about the work of artists such as Jeff Wall, Bill Viola, Cindy Sherman and N. Pushpamala.

This seminar and its readings cut across disciplines and is intended to be of potential interest for students in the departments of history, literature, art history, photography as well as film studies.

Written assignments will include detailed summaries of readings, and a substantial research essay.  Readings will be available online and where available, books will be on reserve in the library.

Required Texts: 

Beckman, Karen R, and Jean Ma. Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008
Trachtenberg, Alan, and Amy W. Meyers. Classic Essays on Photography. New Haven: Leete's Island Books, 2000
Campany, David. Photography and Cinema. London: Reaktion, 2008

Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:02pm