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Discover the history of photography at a Royal Academy of Arts weekend course

Discover the history of photography at a Royal Academy weekend course
(Image credit: Royal Academy)

What could be better than spending a leisurely weekend exploring the fascinating history of photography at the Royal Academy of Arts? With all the talk now about megapixels, sensor size and mirrorless vs. DSLRs, it can be easy to forget where this magnificent art form began - with the analog pioneers who first explored photography's revolutionary opportunities. 

One of the central questions considered in this course will be "is photography art?". It may seem as if there's an obvious answer to this, but when it was first created there were many who saw photography primarily as a science. 

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Chief among these was Charles Baudelaire, who famously described it as "art's mortal enemy". As the Royal Academy of Art's page advertising this course says, "For Baudelaire, photography's ability to reproduce nature exactly was its genius but also its fatal flaw. Unlike art, for Baudelaire, photographic representation could not elevate its subject… because it simply mirrored them and made a copy…"

While we very much see photography as art nowadays, camera technology has advanced beyond anything Baudelaire could have imagined when he made this comments in 1859. With powerfully precise cameras able to render scenes in astonishing detail, could there be room to argue Baudelaire's point today? 

Unmarried female (nude) throwing large handkerchief over her shoulders by Eadweard Muybridge

Unmarried female (nude) throwing large handkerchief over her shoulders by Eadweard Muybridge (Image credit: Eadweard Muybridge)

The course also goes on to cover photography's evolution through the 19th and 20th centuries. "The 20th century witnessed the birth of self-conscious modes of photography: straight, staged, abstract, collaged, and camera-less photographic techniques were reinvented…"

The course also "explores photographic histories in relation to art history's own complicated relationship with the medium. Sessions will consider a variety of historical moments were art and photography collide…"

Even as we march on into our high-tech future, it's always useful to have one eye on the past to see how far we've come. With the birth of photography so new compared to other art forms, it's a privilege to be able to extensively study and understand it. 

If you're interested in taking the course, the Royal Academy states that it's suitable for enthusiastic beginners as well as those with previous knowledge who'd like to develop their understanding further. It will be delivered partly by lecture and site visits, but it will also include opportunities for questions and discussion.

The course costs £420 and will run from November 9-10 from 10:00-17:00 each day. All materials, light refreshments and a wine reception at the end of day one will be included in this price.

You can book your tickets here.

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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something she is so adept at that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Before joining the site, her formidable hands-on abilities served her well as features editor for Practical Photography. A freelance photographer in her own right, she is a proud Nikon DSLR shooter.