A History of Photography 1835 - 1920

Ref: C2423205

Beginning with William Henry Fox Talbot’s famous photograph of the latticed window of Lacock Abbey in 1835 we will look at the development of photography – both in terms of its progression from using salt and silver nitrate to the developments in plastic manufacture that allowed for lightweight Kodak brownies in the early 20th century. This course will trace developments in technology alongside the social and political impact of photography including battlefields of the Crimea to Albert Kahn’s plans to ‘capture the world’ in 1909 using autochromes (early colour photography). No other medium has changed the way that we view the word – it was at once documentary and yet these images were also posed and planned. We will interrogate the way this new, nineteenth-century technology was used to document society, create propaganda and allowed viewers to place themselves in the world in a way that had previously been unimaginable.

Course aim

Photography was a radical new way of seeing the world - we will explore the technological competition and innovation of developing the medium as well as how it frames the way we view the world today.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • We will look at the chronology of how photography developed and its various technological innovations including Daguerrotypes, Cyanotypes and ‘Moving Pictures’.
  • We will explore the contributions of men and women to the field including Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron and Felix Beato.
  • We will explore innovations and competition in technological advances such as colour photography
  • We will consider how photography has informed out knowledge of other cultures and how it frames the way that we view the world.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Exploring the Science Museum 'Revelations' Exhibition on photography will give a good background on some of the subjects and ideas we will cover: https://www.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/what-was-on/revelations-experiments-photography

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

A History of Photography 1835 - 1920


This course is funded by the Greater London Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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