Photo Gallery


AR137/Documentary Photography and the Great Depression               

Professor Gary M. Green


Fall 2009               Office: Bixler 082A
Miller 08               x5643 /

Tuesday & Thursday 2:30 –3:45               Office Hours: Tues. / Thurs. 4-5 by appt.

This class will explore the nature of documentary photography and its strong presence during America's Great Depression. Through readings, writing assignments, image viewing, and a curatorial project using the online photographic archive of The Library of Congress, the course will explore the photographers and filmmakers who documented this country during hard times. Who are the people behind the work, how did the work affect New Deal policies (and vice versa), how does the work hold up to our scrutiny today? These are just a few of the questions we’ll be considering.

Texts in Bookstore:
Doing Documentary Work, Robert Coles, Oxford University Press
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans, Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin

On Reserve:

Books and articles will be available in the reserve sections of Miller and/or Bixler libraries. Articles may also be assigned to be read as electronic reserves (e-reserves can be found by going through the library’s home page).


Web Sites: / Library of Congress archive of prints and photographs





Please note that this schedule is subject to change. Changes will be posted on the course wiki site, which you are required to check regularly. The address is:



Thursday, September 10: Introduction



Tuesday, September 15: Documentary Photography in America (Riis, Hine, Brady, O’Sullivan,

Thursday, September 17: Documentary Photography: True or False

Readings: “Liar, Liar…” and “Which Came First …” Errol Morris, New York Times Blogs, on reserve in Bixler or e-reserve.

Assignment #1/Two-page paper due: What does this photograph tell us, What doesn’t it tell us?



Tuesday, September 22: Roy Stryker: The Man and his Mission.

Thursday, September 24: The Photographers: Part I

Readings: Robert Coles, Doing Documentary Work , introduction, chapters 1 & 3)



Tuesday, September 29: The Photographers: Part II

Thursday, October 1: The Photographers: Part III (John Vachon’s letters home)



Tuesday, October 6: Arthur Rothstein & The Dust Bowl

Thursday, October 8: Margaret Bourke-White / guest lecturer Sharon Corwin will discuss and show us photographs from the series “We Have Seen Their Faces,” by Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White.

(for this class we will meet in the photography classroom, which is directly downstairs from the museum lobby before we head to the museum’s viewing room.)






Tuesday, October 13: No Class/Fall Break

Thursday, October 15: Dorothea Lange

Reading Assignment: “The Assignment I’ll Never Forget,” Dorothea Lange, Photography: Essays & Images , Beaumont Newhall, ed. (on reserve in Bixler)



Tuesday, October 20: Midterm

Thursday, October 22: Picturing Faith

Due: Writing Assignment #2: Lange and Bourke-White (TBA)



Tuesday, October 27: Walker Evans Pt. 1

Thursday, October 29: Let Us Now Praise Evans and Agee
              Reading & Viewing: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men , Walker Evans and James Agee, view Evans’s               photographs and read all text through page 166 (or up to the section “The Woods’ House.”



Tuesday, November 3: Non-government photography: Vernacular and other forms of photography during the depression era.

Thursday, November 5: Twelve Photographs that Matter: The Library of Congress and the legacy of the Farm Security Administration aka: The Final Project



Tuesday, November 10: An Introduction to Documentary Film (possible guest TBA)

              Due: Writing Assignment #3: Walker Evans

Thursday, November 12: Robert Flaherty and propaganda films



Tuesday, November 17: Pare Lorentz: The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River

Thursday, November 19: The City



Tuesday, November 24: Draft of Final Project Due

Thursday, November 26: No Class/Thanksgiving



Tuesday, December 1: Final Projects and production logistics of the catalog

Thursday, December 3: Contemporary thoughts on—and approaches to—documentary photography

              Reading: “In Around, and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography),” Martha Rosler, Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings 1975-2001 , Bixler reserve.



Tuesday, December 8: Coda: Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Roy Stryker move on to other projects

Thursday, December 10: What Comes Next?


















Attendance: Students are responsible for all course material covered during all classes. Because of the amount of work that we will cover and produce in class, good attendance is of great importance. Three unexcused absences from class will result in the reduction of one letter grade. More than three unexcused absences may result in being dropped from the course and may also result in a failing grade. If you cannot attend class for a legitimate reason, you are still responsible for the material missed as well as any assignments given. Please arrive on time, as it is disruptive to everyone when you walk in late. Repeated lateness will also reflect on your grade.

Important: Please turn off all cell phones during class time. Also: Headphones, earbuds, etc. are not permitted during any class activities.

Academic Honesty: All students are expected to know and honor the college’s code of academic honesty. Any suspected case of academic dis honesty will be reported to the Dean of Students and ultimately can result in the failure of the course. Trespasses include, but are not limited to, plagiarism of written material and false authorship of artistic material.

Grading: Grades will be based on the level of commitment to the course and the extent to which finished assignments reflect genuine understanding of the course content. Effort will be taken into account but will not be considered equal to tangible growth in both skill and visual awareness. Factors to be considered include attendance, quality of assigned projects, level of interest and enthusiasm, and classroom behavior and participation in discussions. In addition to assigned essays, there you may also be asked to write short pieces during class in response to readings and/or viewings. While these will not be letter graded they will be graded as check, check+, or check-.

Grades are based on:

Written assignments 10% each (three total: 30%)

Class Participation 20%

Midterm Exam 20%

Final Project: 30%

Course grades are defined as follows: A, the student has mastered the material of the course and has demonstrated exceptional critical skills and originality; B, the student has demonstrated a thorough and above average understanding of the material of the course; C, the student has demonstrated a thorough and satisfactory understanding of the material of the course; D, the student has demonstrated a marginally satisfactory understanding of the basic material of the course (only a limited number of D grades may be counted toward the requirements for graduation); F, the student has not demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of the basic material of the course.*



Problems and/or  questions: Students are encouraged to see me to discuss any and all problems concerning their work in this course. I am available to meet with you on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (see office hours), when I will have open office hours between 2:00 and 4:00 by appointment and availability on other days during the week. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to make an appointment or to stop by my office . I will do my best to accommodate your needs.