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University of Edinburgh

Photography: A Victorian Sensation

University of Edinburgh via Coursera

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This is a course aimed at introducing you to the history of photography in the 19th century. It combines theory with practice, giving you the option to respond to some of the iconic images we will explore, and to create and share your own images.

It will provide an introduction to the processes, people and images associated with early photography, starting in 1839 when Louis Daguerre announced the daguerreotype image in France, and WHF Talbot unveiled the calotype process in England. You will have the chance to learn about the personalities, processes and social contexts of the rise of photography.

Throughout, you will hear from a range of people who are passionate about photography in the 19th century. We will focus on specific images and techniques, ranging from high end studio portraiture, iconic landscapes and cityscapes and the rise of itinerant and beach photography for the masses. There will be opportunity for you, the course participant, to respond to some of these images with your own photographic experiments and to share your own family album.

The course is linked to a new major exhibition from the National Museum of Scotland called Photography, A Victorian Sensation.

Follow the discussion on twitter: #vicphotomooc


Week 1 - First Images
Introduces the first photographic processes, unveiled in 1839 - the daguerreotype, by Parisian Louis Jacque Mandé Daguerre and the calotype, by Englishman WHF Talbot, which Hill & Adamson used to produce around 3,000 images between 1843 and 1848.

Week 2 - 1851: A Year to Remember 
With the Great Exhibition in London and two major milestones in the development of photography: first, stereoscopy, the 3D sensation and  second, the new, faster wet collodion process that made outdoor photography much easier.

Week 3 - Studio Photography, Amateur Photography 
In 1851 there had been about a dozen photographic studios in London; by 1866 this number had increased to 284.  Photography became extremely fashionable, particularly in the new carte-de-visite and stereo forms.  Amateur photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, photographed the writers, artists, scientists in her social circle.

Week 4 - Stereo Sensation 
Following the presentation of the lenticular stereoscopic viewer at the Great Exhibition, viewing the world in 3D became a Victorian craze. The experience of using a stereoscope was described as ‘mesmerising’. The London Stereoscopic Company, formed in 1854, had as its slogan: ‘no home without a stereoscope’.

Week 5 - Photography for Everyone
We look at how photography rapidly moves from an expensive, amateur hobby, to reaching the masses, with the growth of cheap ‘tintypes’ and beach photography, and end with the impact of the Kodak camera, marketed with the slogan "You press the button and we do the rest".

Taught by

Alison Morrison-Low


4.2 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Photography: A Victorian Sensation

  • Ina Tsitovich
    Nice course about the history of photography. It took me some time to figure out how the materials were organized. I expected that there will be more technical details, but the course was more from a "humanitarian perspective". Maybe I had this expectation because of the course syllabus full of terms. It tells about the historical context, how the photography entered in our lives and changed them. I enjoyed this course very much and would definitely recommend it.
  • Anonymous
    A good course, with many interesting materials about the history of photography. If you like photography, you would like this course.
  • Vijay
  • Anastasia Blita

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