Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


This unit considers the way that photography has contributed to new ways of seeing across the globe since its invention in 1839. It addresses the emergence, dissemination and legacies of photography, a globalised and culturally diverse technology and social force, within a range of historical and social processes. We explore how historians draw on photography to understand the past, applying this disciplinary focus to diverse cultural settings - including industrializing and war-time Europe, colonial sites in South Africa, Canada and south-east Asia, international conflicts from Europe to the Middle East, the application of the apparatus of Human Rights to diverse contexts, and a myriad of local, vernacular uses around the world.

Through investigating photography across disciplines, historical periods, and global settings, the unit explores a range of debates about the status of photographs as a historical source. The unit considers photography's promise to represent the 'real' world, and practices in which the real is manipulated; the ‘pre-history' of photography and the desire to fix the image; and its potential to monitor and control, but also to communicate across social boundaries and argue for human rights.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) understand the globalised and culturally diverse social impacts of photography within a range of historical and social processes, and demonstrate familiarity with case studies drawn from diverse cultural settings; (2) understand how historians have used photography to interpret the past through diverse case studies drawn from a range of global and cultural settings; (3) develop an understanding of the personal, social and ethical framework that guides learning and analysis in a culturally diverse world; (4) identify and evaluate the key historiographical issues in this field; (5) gain the bibliographical skills necessary to find appropriate sources and produce a viable research proposal in order to undertake a research essay; and (6) develop critical skills in visual analysis and argument.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay based on course reading; (2) visual project report; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Jane Lydon
Unit rules
any one level 2 History unit
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week for 10 weeks from week 2
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.