First Year Seminar: The Liberating Lens
This course traces a history of image making by Jews in the twentieth century, focusing on Europe and the United States. Jewish photographers participated in many different aspects of photography as it developed different specialties—including fashion, portrait, journalism, war, art, landscape, still life, and documentary photography. Although the course seeks to be representative, it emphasizes those photographers whose pictures often resonated beyond their immediate moment. While the course will consider many types of photographers, it will pay particular attention to documentary photography because Jewish photographers innovated in this field. As a course in both History and Judaic Studies, it will address historical dimensions of photographers' lives and the multiple lives of their photographs, how photographers do their work in one context and then subsequently find themselves and their pictures in another. The impact of World War II and the Holocaust changed how Jews looked at photographs and how they shot photographs. For example, pictures taken of European Jewish life prior to World War II acquired different meanings after the Holocaust because they were seen as describing a lost world. Thus the course will address questions of memory culture and the role of Jewish photographers in shaping collective Jewish understandings of the past.