The History of Still Photography

An Online Class - Mt. San Jacinto College - Michelle Pacansky-Brock

(photograph by Lewis Hine)

Course Description

The History of Still Photography offers a comprehensive exploration of the historical progression of fixing a still image, that is to say writing with light. This course starts in ancient times with naturally occurring images, and moves through advances in optics and chemical processes. It then moves through the prolific period of traditional Black and White photography and then covers the birth and advancements of the digital light sensor and its possibilities for the future.

Prerequsite: None

--AA/AS General Education: AA/AS C

--Transfers to CSU only

Student Learning Outcomes

By the completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Explore the camera as a photographic tool over time.
  2. Map historical photographic concepts to current digital references.
  3. Identify a variety of successful photographers and examples of their work.

Meet Your Instructor

Learn more about me here!

Click the CC icon at the bottom of the video  to turn captions ON/OFF.

Instructor Communication Policy

Establishing regular and effective communications with me is foundational to your success in this class and is a shared responsibility of instructor and student. Email is the quickest way to reach me. I will respond to your inquiries within 24 hours Mon-Fri. If I do not reply in this time frame, please assume I did not receive your email and contact me again.


Skype: mpacansky-brock

Phone: 541-862-1212

Click here to leave me an online voicemail!

Class Philosophy


Some online learners start classes feeling isolated but not in this class! This class is a community. Each person in our community has the same objective: to learn. This class is designed to have you learn in community with your peers. When you're a member of a community, you can rely upon others for help and support when you need it, but you must also be willing to step up and contribute regularly, as well! Let’s work together to make this term great for everyone!

Getting Started


Blackboard Essentials (For Everyone!)

  • If you are new to online classes, Blackboard is the "learning management system" that you will log into to access our class and any other online class you take at MSJC.
  • To access our course, log into your MyMSJC account at The course will be made available to registered students 5 days prior to the first day of instruction.
  • If you are a new online student at MSJC, please visit this online student resource site for clear steps to help you get started.
  • All students are required to complete the mandatory MSJC Check-In procedures shared in the course by the end of day two of instruction or they will be dropped.
  • Have a smartphone? Download the Blackboard Mobile Learn app for $1.99 for 1-year license. Search for "Mt. San Jacinto College," log into your account, and access our "most parts" of our course. Adjust your settings to be notified via mobile for important updates!

Student Orientation

(For NEW Online Students)

Online learning is a unique opportunity to advance your education. It is also often a very different experience that many students expect. Sometimes, it is so different that students decide it isn't for them. Other times, students feel like they've finally found a way to achieve their goals!

If this is your first semester taking online classes, you are expected to complete the MSJC Online Student Orientation. Please click below to learn more.

MSJC New OL Student Orientation


What is VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is a conversation tool we will use that creates conversations around images in voice, video, or text. There will be several activities this semester that will require you to comment in voice (speaking online, yes!), while other activities will give you the option to choose your commenting preference. This will require you to have access to a computer with a microphone or webcam (see Necessary Materials area).

I am aware this makes students nervous. I want you to understand that many, many students share that their nerves settle after they leave their first comment and that they feel so much more connected and engaged to their peers when they can hear/see them that they often can't imagine learning online without VoiceThread! Don't believe me? Click here to listen to what my past students have to say!

Important: You will use an MSJC authenticated VoiceThread account that is integrated with Blackboard. Do not create your own VoiceThread account on the web. We'll get this all set up in the first week!



Your required text is:

Seizing the Light - A Social History of Photography

Course Policies

Participation Expectations & Instructor Drop Policy

You only learn if you participate. In this online class, you are expected to log in at least three times per week (once on Tuesday to understand and assess the new unit's requirements), and two more times during the week to engage in the participatory activities.  If you miss class, the points you miss for those assignments may not, generally, be made up (see "Late Policy). Also, you will be missing an essential step in your learning progress when you rejoin with the class the next week.  The units build upon one another.

Students who go two consecutive learning units without submitting an assignment will be dropped from the class.  If there is a situation interfering with your progress, contact me immediately so I understand what is happening on your end. Communication is essential.

Community Groundrules

Being a member of a learning community requires one to understand, accept, and model an important set of community groundrules. These groundrules will be in effect throughout our entire semester together. Each of us (myself included) is expected to uphold these groundrules. Please read them carefully and post any questions you have in the "Ask a Question" area of Blackboard. Click here to read our Community Groundrules.

Late Policy

In general, late work is not accepted unless a legitimate unforeseen situation arises. To receive an extension, students are responsible for notifying me of their situation prior to a due date and receiving an email from me with an agreed upon extension.

Here are a few exceptions to the late policy:

  • Late VoiceThread contributions are rarely accepted, due to the social nature of these activities.
  • Blogs are graded twice and spot checked weekly. When I identify a late blog post, I leave a "nudge" comment on a blog. Each "nudge" equates to an automatic loss of 5 points at the grading period.
  • Late Photographer Showcases are accepted for up to 48 hours for a maximum of half credit.



Point Scale Used for End the Semester Grades:

435-391 - A390-348 - B347-304 - C303-261 - D260 and below - F

Points are earned through a variety of learning activities, assigned throughout the semester. The total number of points earned will determine your course grade. You have access to the Grade Center in Blackboard at all times to track your progress and are always encouraged to contact me with questions or concerns. Activities are designed to develop your learning throughout the class.

The exact points noted below may change slightly during the semester.

Weekly Assignments -- 210 points or 48% of your grade

Weekly Assignments are comprised mostly of VoiceThread activities and quizzes. The assignments are designed to do two things: increase your interaction with your peers and provide you with opportunities to self-assess and demonstrate to me how well you are learning the weekly material.

Blog -- 150 points or 34% of your grade
Your blog is graded twice: once at mid-semester (for 90 points) and once at the end of the semester (for 60 points).Within most of your learning units, you will have an assigned blog prompt to which you will write a 500-word response. The prompts are designed to engage you in creative writing about the history of photography, apply key ideas from our units, and relate content to the real world learning. Blogs integrate writing and images for a rich, multimedia-based learning experience. See the "Blogs" button in Blackboard for more details about how they will be submitted and graded.

Photographer Showcase -- 75 points or 17% of your grade
Due: Week 16.
This project is designed to put you in touch with and learn about the work of an active, contemporary art photographer. You will be expected to independently manage this project in accordance with a detailed timeline I will provide. Your objective is to create an illustrated VoiceThread with your own voice comments that showcases the work of your photographer and includes your own interpretation of the work. Full project overview and samples are available here (dates may not be current).

Necessary Materials


In addition to your textbook (see above), you must have the following items to be successful in this online class:

  • A USB microphone (headset type like the picture to the left is recommended) or a webcam.
    Search Amazon for "USB microphone headset" and click "Under $25" to see some options. If purchasing this device creates a hardship, let me know and I will provide you with the ability to leave voice comments with your telephone (cell or landline).

    Regular access to reliable, high speed internet access on a computer (not a mobile device). I realize mobile devices are awesome and I love to encourage you to use them! There are parts of our class that can be accessed with them. But to succeed, you must have regular access to a laptop or desktop computer with high speed internet access. Consider this the same as your transportation to class!

Technical Skills & Support


Learning online requires you to have a basic level of computr proficiency. To assess your readiness in this area, please click the link below and take the Online Student Readiness Quiz.

OL Student Readiness Quiz

I believe that social technologies today hold potential to bring people together at a distance and build relationships. This is an important part of learning online. I also know that after you graduate from college technology will likely play an important role in your success.

I use technology in this class to improve your learning. I realize that each of you enter this class with different technological skills. Some of you are going to need my support to feel comfortable with the tools we'll use -- and that is fine. I am here for you. Others will jump right in and we'll look to you to be leaders. We are a community.

Here are some links that you may find helpful if you have trouble this semester. If they do not help you, send me an email:

VoiceThread Support

VoiceThread Printable Guides

Ning Sign-In Help

Blackboard Help

Weekly Schedule


Each week, a new Learning Unit will be released on Tuesday at 6am. An Announcement in Blackboard will be shared when the new Unit is available. Unless otherwise noted, the assignments in the unit are due the following Monday by 11pm.

  • Day 1: New Learning Unit opens in Blackboard. Announcement posted. You are advised to log in on to review the Unit's assignments and assess the workload/commitments on Tuesday.
  • Day 1-6: These should be your active learning days! You are advised to plan at least two 2-hour learning sessions between Wed-Sun where you can engage in a quiet place to learn and participate in our activities. Many students like to read and watch the videos (for example) one day and then complete the VoiceThreads and blog on a second day. Or just do the blog on the second day. You need to find what works for you (and remember, each unit will be a little different). Do not schedule your learning sessions on Monday (the final day of the unit). Your goal is to have everything done before Monday. You will have technical problems from time-to-time (that is the nature of online learning -- it will just happen and you must plan for it).
  • Day 7: Monday at 11pm - Learning Unit Assignments are due (unless otherwise noted).

Extra Credit

I offer you the opportunity to earn up to 20-points of extra credit in this class by participating in active learning experiences that support the learning objectives of our course. For example, you will have the chance to visit the UCR/CA Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA, write up a 500-word review of what you learned, and post it to your blog along with a photograph of yourself to document your visit.

I will post other opportunities in Blackboard in the Extra Credit area and I am always open to taking suggestions from students too! So if you hear of a great photography exhbition in your area, for example, let me know.

Masterpiece Blog Awards

The Masterpiece Blog Awards are granted to students who are held in highest esteem by their own peers! That's right YOU pick these winners! Blog your heart out and you may earn one of these awards, which comes along with 10 points of extra credit that do not count towards to 20-point max for the class!

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Mt. San Jacinto College abides by the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits federal and state agencies or programs from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. Students in this course who have a documented disability, that limits a major life activity which may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations should meet with a counselor in Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSP&S) as soon as possible. For more information, please click here to go to the DSPS website.

Student Toolkit 

Text Version of Syllabus

An accessible, text-based version of this syllabus is available for download below.

Enjoy your semester!

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