Postgraduate module in Visual History, 2020-21 (HIS 735/835)


Patricia Hayes (SARChI Chair Visual History & Theory);

Photojournalist: Eric Miller


This postgraduate module course may be taken by students registered for Honours and MA degree programmes and can also be audited by doctoral students. It offers students the opportunity to become skilled in both the historical and cultural analysis of images, and their production. The focus is particularly on photography and its relationship to African history. There are two sides to the course: one theoretical and the other practical. Practical sections of the module are taught by photojournalist Eric Miller (


The ten theory classes cover a range of topics, starting with recent critiques of the master narratives of the invention of photography in the 19th century and the dissemination of the medium around the globe. Colonial uses of photography on the continent are explored, including the relationship between anthropology, museums and photography. The ways in which African subjects have taken up the medium range from early studio practices to radical photojournalism, documentary and art, up to the digital dissidence of the present day in social media. The course also takes up important debates about vision and violence, civil engagement, and the tensions in Africa and elsewhere between the visible and the invisible that extend into questions of spirituality and sexuality.

Practical photography:

A series of eight practical workshops accompanies the theory class, promoting visual literacy and imparting the necessary skills for all-round competence in both analogue and digital photography. The module also provides training in Photoshop and related software for storage, metadata and archiving.  Students are taught the basics of the DSLR camera, and conduct their own assignments in portraiture, movement, still life, landscape and street life. Between 2016-19, assignments and projects have been undertaken within a specific area of Cape Town, the historic Voortrekker Road, resulting in several exhibitions. In 2020, Covid-19 restrictions have produced more intimate, interior and meditative work by students.

Student Exhibitions:

Voortrekker Gateways, 2016

New Jerusalem, 2017

When we left the world, 2020 (in progress)

Please note that in 2021, the Visual History module will not be available. It will resume in the first semester of 2022.

For all enquiries, contact