This course is a short taster on the topic of the use of Images, Film, and their use in historical interpretation in the 20th century. It is primarily provided for those who have a general interest in history that draws on photojournalism as primary evidence, and films based on historical events.
Once you have completed this course we hope you will be equipped to:
Appreciate the significance of photographs as historical evidence in the twentieth century.
Understand the limitations of the medium, and how we can attribute meaning to these individual records of 'one moment in time' while taking into account the circumstances in which any particular image was taken.
Understand how individuals and institutions have looked to manipulate images to their own ends – through alteration and/or censorship – and what that meant to contemporary interpretation, as well as subsequent historical interpretation.
Put individual images into a wider context, and in particular with reference to history written, or portrayed, beyond academia: public history.
Do be aware that part of the contents of this course regard images and depiction of war. Real wars and real images.
We will explore the issues associated with the use of images as a source for historical research and consider a number of examples where image manipulation has been uncovered
Images and History in the Twentieth Century
We will review a number of cases studies where images have either shaped our opinion of events or have been suppressed from the public at the time, to avoid adverse or negative reaction.
The Air-Brushing of History: Stalin and Falsification
The cause célèbre' of historical manipulation - Joseph Stalin. The 'air brushing' of historical records, and in this case the literal airbrushing of Soviet images in the 1930s and 1940s
Photojournalism, Authenticity and Matters of Public Acceptability: The Battle of Mogadishu
With respect to Reportage and the use of images as a evidential record, should we condemn Stalin in the last 20th and early 21th century? We use an example from 1993 to illustrate this point.
The Power of the Image: Mount Suribachi, 1945
The photograph of the raising of the flag at Mt. Suribachi was a Pulitzer Prize winning image, and the base of the film 'The Flag of our Fathers'. We will explore the use of the still and the motion picture to influence our opinion.
From Page to Screen: Film as Public History
What is 'Public History'? How do photographs and films with an historical theme shape our awareness of historical events and our memories?
Nadezhda Ryabtseva is taking this course right now, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very easy.
I almost dropped the course after viewing the first week section. Already disappointed and discouraged, I grudgingly proceeded to view some of the other videos. I harbored the hope that at least one original thought would eventually surface. I eagerly...
I almost dropped the course after viewing the first week section. Already disappointed and discouraged, I grudgingly proceeded to view some of the other videos. I harbored the hope that at least one original thought would eventually surface. I eagerly anticipated the section about Soviet propaganda posters, in hope that with such a vivid subject the lecturer could not possibly deliver dull results. I was wrong. That section in particular caused me to lose all will to continue the course and withdraw. Being a Russian national born in the Soviet Union, I'd been excited to get an opportunity of an outside view, a foreign perspective of the posters' art and some reflection of the shiver inducing cold-hearted practice of brushing of the historical Stalin's disagreeables. Sadly, all I got was the habitual lecturer's routine of retelling the book written by the photographer/researcher, who had actually done an excellent job.
By the way, the abbreviation “CCCP” reads as “SSSR”, not as “SiSiiPi”. In order to keep my good faith in all rational in this world I can only assume that the lecturer joked about the pronunciation, assuming that MOOC participants, a potentially multi-thousand auditorium, were well aware how the abbreviation of USSR in Cyrillic is pronounced: [SSSR].
There is one good thing about this course – the subjects that it covers. I don't say "themes" because the thought- and discussion-provoking themes as such are absent in the videos, or it could be said that there is only one recurrent theme: "in our days photography plays an important role". It doesn't require much discussion or thought: in the 21t century nobody really needs a university professor to grasp that concept, it's integrated in our lives, almost an instinct. I admit that the list of events and notorious images, put together by Prof. Emmet, is noteworthy and I suggest to download the curriculum and to give it a closer inspection. To my great sorrow, in all other aspects this course is plainly weak: the absence of reflection, the video editing, the ridiculous practice of not showing the photos that are being discussed due to the copyright restrictions, or showing even those that are not copyrighted on an iPad and from an awkward camera angle... With all due respect, professor Emmet an the filming crew, are you kidding me? You recur to this in a digital age, when anybody can whip up a PowerPoint presentation in 5 minutes?.. At one instance the lecturer apologizes that the presented copy of a photo is too dark to really see anything, but if you squint just like that you could probably get the point... I was tempted to call it quits at that, but my curiosity about the section that covers Soviet propaganda posters took over.
The focus of the course is supposedly on images in context, and basing on my own uni experience I naively supposed that it would involve a lot of really eye-opening thoughts on analyzing the images from different perspectives, on teaching people to find a deeper meaning in a seemingly innocuous photo. That didn't happen. The typical "lecture" went like this: the presenter shows an image (and sometimes he doesn't), describes what happens on the photo and concludes with the concept that images really do have significant impact or can be "controversial". That's it. No deeper analysis, no mention of how this fits/doesn't fit with the tradition, no hint of a direction that a student should take to arrive to some conclusion of his/her own, no deeper thoughts from the lecturer. Sometimes the lecturer simply retells what is written in a book of a famous photographer, offering no personal insight. The lecture about "Black Hawk Down" literally consists of retelling the events of the battle and the subsequent work of the war journalist who covered the events. You will gain a better account of this tragic occurrence by reading a Wikipedia article than listening to those 15 minutes of stuttering, badly rehearsed speech. And what does it have to do with the role of images?..
Talk Long, my dear fellow Coursera students, so please bear with a conclusion that is also long:
- On the afterthought, having witnessed the results, the fact that a historian made a series of lectures about images strikes me as a bit bizarre. Why would one want to dabble in the outside of one's professional field and offer the online audience an inadequate learning experience is beyond me.
- Overall, not much of an effort was put into making the course. I apologize in advance in case there was any original, groundbreaking input from Prof. Emmet in the lectures that I didn't watch, but the reason I quit was partly because I got a strong impression there wasn't going to be any. On one of the several Coursera review websites I've seen a comment describing this course as a "university level" one. Believe me, it isn't. It's a decent listing of curious photos.
- The lecturer can't boast deep knowledge about the subjects he brings up, which, I must say, doesn't help his academic credibility. Not to be accused of an empty claim, I have to note that my judgment is based on the Soviet propaganda posters section. Any member of Russian intelligentsia of Soviet times, or even a humanities student educated in Russian Federation (since 1991), whether h/she is a philologist, a historian, or an art researcher, including people from my 20+ generation, could offer a much more thorough explanation of the posters than Prof. Emmet, who contended himself with describing in what Wikipedia calls "Basic English" the images that the students could clearly see for themselves (for once).
- The lecturer has awful presentation skills. I understand that not every university professor should or could be a great orator, I've met some humanities' researches who wrote brilliant monographs but were rendered mush-mouthed at the lectures, but damn! This is a flapping MOOC! The lecturer's incessant stumbling on long words, irritating bouts of repetition and low content to speech ratio could all be smoothed over with a proper filming and editing!
- BAD editing. Have I mentioned that yet?
- The choice of the copyrighted photos that couldn't be shown feels like a disrespect to the student and was one of the things that led to my decision to leave the course. Aren't online, free of charge MOOCs supposed to be accessible to the largest possible number of people, including those who can't afford higher education? Bringing the light of knowledge to all who long for it?
Not showing the images:
a) is a sign of lazy preparation: other significant images could've been picked for the course, there's no lack of them;
b) undermines the glorious concept of free education that MOOCs are all about. In this course the dialogue with the student could be translated as: "I'll tell you a few words about how important this image is, but you still need to buy/rent the book or go to the library to look at it. Oh, the libraries in Ghana don't have the book? Well... you still get what I'm trying to say, right?"
- No original insight form Prof. Emmet, he simply retells somebody else's work.
I'm obviously very disappointed. More so because I had great expectations of this course (the curriculum was captivating)
I would not recommend this to anyone. I'm sure that somewhere out there lurk the courses about art and photography, about the magic and power of a camera shot, created by people who are not only enthusiastic, but also truly professional, courses where the images are treated with attention and understanding that they deserve. And if there aren't any yet, you'd be better off reading a book on the subject of visual arts than wasting time on this course.
Heather completed this course, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
I was very disappointed with this course as it was not at all what I was expecting. Do not have any expectations when taking this course.
Anonymous completed this course.
It was more a course about the history of wars (Guernica, WW1, Iwo Jima, The Battle of Mogadishu) than a discussions of images. The best parts were the discussion about Stalins use of images and an interview with photojournalist Julio Etchard. The lecturer,...
It was more a course about the history of wars (Guernica, WW1, Iwo Jima, The Battle of Mogadishu) than a discussions of images. The best parts were the discussion about Stalins use of images and an interview with photojournalist Julio Etchard. The lecturer, an eloquent british economic historian, seems a bit too fascinated by wars, which shone through, when quoting elaboratively his knowledge on different weapons and aircrafts. It's still an interesting course though. But the bummer is the way the quizzes are designed: They will aks about certain irrelevant numbers in the reading material rather than comprehension of that quite comprehensive material. So I decided to just watch the lectures as I did some other courses and couldn't dedicate as much time (11-12 hours if you do the reading at least as a foreigner) on the reading materials (and with the mere output that the understanding won't help you on the quizzes if you can't memorize some odd number).
Martin Waterhouse completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
It was an unexpected delight and had very little to do with the actual title which sounded like it would cover multiple aspects of image fakery. Turned out to be more of a societal study of the use of fabricated images to tell a story (or sell a lie). After taking this course I found myself viewing images and even videos with a much more critical eye. I found I was able to spot the "un-naturalness" of certain presented material. A valuable lesson in reality recognition IMO! Fun course as well.
Bob completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
Instructor is a nut and quite weird. Don't expect too much camera action but pics & endless comments on wars. If I was not clear enough, I would NOT personally recommend it to anyone.
Meta Data is taking this course right now.
Enjoyable class with good pointers to interesting material - books, films, websites.
Do recommend for those with interest in film, photography and contempary history.
Reynaldo is taking this course right now, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
Photography is what is least commented here. I would write a lenghty review but why should i? Some will find this useful, so take a look and drop out if you don't
Aana completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.