For the past month or so, I’ve been listening to a History of Photography podcast when I have some time to fill on a train or airplane. The audio is a recording of the live class that Professor Jeff Curto teaches at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a Chicago-area community college) each week, complete with student questions and discussion. If you have a video-enabled iPod (or the like) or listen over the Internet, his slides are also included; they are synchronized with the audio, so you can see the images he is showing as they are discussed (very cool).
While I think most collectors have a decent general understanding of the history of the medium, what I have liked about this class is that it has both refreshed my memory about some things I already knew and filled in some gaps, especially in the areas of 19th century processes (can you remember how wet collodion and gum bichromate were actually done?) and the relationship between 19th century photography and the other arts and culture of that time. I have listened to the first 7 lectures (so I am not quite current), and most of them have been thematic, rather than chronological in their organization. After setting the context of the course with a whirlwind tour of the invention and history of photography in the first couple of lectures, Curto has focused on portraiture (with a heavy emphasis on daguerrotypes by Southworth & Hawes), transportation (Grand Tour and western exploration photography), the interaction between photography and painting, and most recently, stereoscopic photography and photography of standard subjects (particularly 19th century landscapes). I believe there are 8 more lectures to come.
I have enjoyed listening to this course and would recommend it to you as a collector, unless you have a Ph.D. in photography (in which case it will be completely review).
The podcast website can be found here. There are links on this page to iTunes (for getting the podcast – it’s free by the way), as well as to the class homepage and other resources.
As an aside, if you spend some time digging around on iTunes, you’ll find that many major museums (MoMA, SFMOMA, Tate Modern etc.) are making their artist lectures and interviews, recorded at live events, available for free as podcasts. I have recently listened to some interesting talks given in the past few years by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin and others, dug up from these archives, and I have Jeff Wall, Gilbert & George, Robert Adams, and Dan Graham all queued up for my next plane trip. A good (and somewhat hidden) resource worth exploring.