Joel Sternfeld

The Noble Foundation Chair in Art and Cultural History

BA, Dartmouth College. Photographer/artist with exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships and a Prix de Rome. Author of American Prospects, On This Site, Stranger Passing, and 10 other books. SLC, 1985–

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

Visual and Studio Arts

Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week of the first semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form through slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics include personal dress-up/narrative, composite photography/photographic collage, the directorial mode, fashion/art photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction/”new photography,” the typology in photography, the photograph in color, and the use of words and images in combination. In the second semester, the emphasis will shift as students choose to work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas that they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any special equipment. A desire to explore, to experiment, and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

Faculty

The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

A photograph presented alone and without a fully descriptive caption is like a simple utterance. “Ooh,” “Aah,” and “Huh?” are its proper responses. When pictures are presented in groups with accompanying text (of any length) and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies, however, any statement becomes possible. The photographs can begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire treatise. Whether working in fiction, in nonfiction, or in a fictive space, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Ronie Horn, and others have been in the process of transforming photography with their work for the past 30 years. Or perhaps they have created a medium: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will initially study the work of these narrative photographers and either write about their work or make pictures in response to it. The culmination of this experience will be the students' creation of their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make or a phenomenon that you wish to study and describe, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to forge a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

Faculty

New Strategies in Documentary Photography

Open , Concept—Fall

In the early 1980s, in response to a mounting critique of so-called “documentary photography,” a number of photographic artists turned to alternative methodologies to express their ideas and their concerns. Prominent among them was the artist Martha Rosler, whose writings were central to the critique of photographs as conveyors of truth. Using photographs in combination with text, video, installation, sculpture, and performance, her work has communicated feminist and antiwar messages in novel and powerful ways. The late Allan Sekula also coupled words with photographs. His most notable work, Fish Story, constitutes a political and philosophic examination of globalization in a manner that permits “the social referentiality of photographic work” while making important historic and theoretic points that are nowhere seen within the photographs themselves. Other exemplars of new documentary photography to be studied include Susan Meiselas, whose use of the personal photographs and writings of her subjects changes the very nature of the documentary process and gives a voice to those who have previously been spoken for. Her Kurdistan, In the Shadow of History will be studied as an exemplar of this form. The artist Jim Goldberg also employs his subject’s words, oftentimes painting them directly on the image of the depicted in a highly expressionistic manner. His work is concerned with inequality and global displacement, among many other things. A number of “new documentarians” have turned to installation, using still photographs and video to create powerful, immersive experiences that forward their ideas and concerns. We will study the work of Alfredo Jaar in this regard. The  work of La Toya Ruby Fraser will also be studied, as it represents a model of how picture-making may be combined with community activism, whether it be the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or the health care system in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Weekly readings will be assigned, films will be screened, discussion will be held—but the primary work of a student in this course will be in the making of artworks in response to prompts.

Faculty

Art for Good

Open , Concept—Spring

Some 60 or 70 years ago, the idea of art as a comfort to middle- and upper-class tastes and values, a kind of visual soporific to be occasionally consumed as needed, began to come under assault. The methodologies of the Fluxus Movement, the happenings of the 60s, and various conceptual practices of the 70s provided a ground from which artists such as Hans Haacke or Neo Rausch could make work that was critical of prevailing economic or political realities. In 1971, when a pointed artwork by Hans Haacke caused the Guggenheim Museum to cancel his retrospective, the then director of the museum wrote to Haacke to say that the institution’s policies “exclude active engagement toward social or political ends.” Unfortunately for the museum, a constantly expanding and ever-more vital ocean of such work has ensued. Using curator Nato Thompson’s Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century as our text, we will examine the work of artists whose work has intentionally called for a different social or political order. Exemplars to be studied may include (in no particular order) David Hammons, Ana Mendietta, Carolee Schneeman. Felix Gonzalez Torres, Marthe Rosler Alfredo Jaar, Pussy Riot, Barbara Kruger, Francis Alys, Suzanne Lacy, Fred Wilson and Ai Weiwei, and Doris Salcedo, to name but a very few. In addition to readings, each student will write a short-to-medium length paper and also make an artwork.

Faculty

Previous Courses

First-Year Studies: The New Narrative Photography

Open , FYS—Year

A photograph presented alone and without a descriptive caption is like a simple utterance: “ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” When pictures are presented in groups with accompanying text and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies, however, any statement becomes possible. Collectively, photographs can begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or a larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Collectively, they have created a medium: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to forge a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is a hybrid. Each week of the first semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form through slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics include personal dress-up/narrative, composite photography/photographic collage, the directorial mode, fashion/art photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction/”new photography,” the typology in photography, the photograph in color, and the use of words and images in combination. In the second semester, the emphasis will shift as students choose to work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas that they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any special equipment. A desire to explore, to experiment, and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

America as Photographic Art

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, students will study the work of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, and the many others who have made the American scene their primary subject. At the same time, using the local landscape as a surrogate for the country as a whole, students will make their own photographs and studies of the look and meaning of the American experience. America was young when photography was invented in 1839. The “old world” had been depicted in painting, but the sights and sounds of the new nation were different from anything that had come before. Photography and America grew up together—and they made good companions. Much of photography's development as a medium in the 20th century took place in America and under American terms. While this special relationship may be at a conclusion, the perpetually evolving American physical, social, and political landscape yet remains rich subject matter open to everyone with a desire to investigate and express their understanding.

Faculty

The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

A photograph presented alone and without a fully descriptive caption is like a simple utterance. “Ooh,” “Aah,” and “Huh?” are its proper responses. When pictures are presented in groups with accompanying text (of any length) and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies, however, any statement becomes possible. The photographs can begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire treatise. Whether working in fiction, in nonfiction, or in a fictive space, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Ronie Horn, and others have been in the process of transforming photography with their work for the past 30 years. Or perhaps they have created a medium: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will initially study the work of these narrative photographers and either write about their work or make pictures in response to it. The culmination of this experience will be the students' creation of their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make or a phenomenon that you wish to study and describe, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to forge a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

Faculty

The Ideas of Photography: Moving Beyond Influence

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present forms through slide lectures and readings. Each week, students will respond with photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics include personal dress-up/narrative, composite photography/photographic collage, the directorial mode, fashion/art photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction/new photography, the typology in photography, the photograph in color, and the use of words and images. In the final portion of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students choose to work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they are most compelled to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any special equipment. A desire to explore and experiment and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

Faculty