Experiments in Photography: Science + Art

Spring 2021
Freshman - Sophomore
Class Size: 40
12 Credits per quarter
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The chemistry and physics of optics that create photographic images were once considered the work of magic. How do light and chemistry work to depict visible and invisible worlds? What magic can we find in making creative work informed by scientific principles? Can experiments that allow us to understand the science of photosensitive and photographic processes also be art?

This 12-credit one quarter interdisciplinary program will combine exploratory concepts in the relevant fields of physics and chemistry with the practice of experimental photographic image making both with and without cameras. Students will have the opportunity to explore image making from home in a remote-learning setting with a combination of home experiments, kit-based image making and non-toxic household and natural product photochemistry. We will learn about historical analog photographic processes from photography's earliest years, experiment with “home brew” chemistry and explore the image-making properties of more common household materials. We will push the boundaries of photographic image making to bring experiment, surprise, and abstraction into our practice.

Our study of physics will include the principles of light and lens optics as applicable to image formation and transformation, and our study of chemistry will include principles of inorganic and organic photochemistry as applicable to the capturing of light imagery. Students will also learn about the history of the study of visual perception, including its relationship to the study of optics, that led to the invention of photography. Students will learn to improvise natural and household items for their photosensitive and light manipulating properties.

Due to the remote learning nature of this program, students will be expected to access the technology requirements of online-learning including:  computer or mobile device with access to Zoom, a web browser (for access to Canvas and OneDrive and the web) and a digital photo viewing application, a webcam/video capability, and medium to high speed internet. Students will need to have at least one form of photodocumentation equipment in the form of a digital camera (in a device or standalone). Students will be expected to purchase a program kit with materials necessary for completing projects (students will additionally need to be able to access household items to utilize the kits, including but not limited to liquid measuring containers of varying sizes, light blackout materials for windows).

Synchronous learning hours will be approximately 6 hours per week, with asynchronous interaction as a complement to synchronous opportunities. Our approach will emphasize participation in synchronous (live) sessions; however, if students find themselves unable to participate due to technology, caregiving obligations, economic disruption, health risk, or illness, they can work with faculty to pursue alternate options to earn related credit.


Spring 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (12): 30241
So (12): 30242

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

visual art, art history, education

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$100 for required project supply kit

Special Expenses

Students should expect to spend around $20 on added items such as apps for their phone, storage jars, aluminum foil, sheet glass etc. 


In Person or Remote
In Person
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting



Date Revision
2021-01-04 This program is now 12 credits (was 16)