Event—Adult Education

Capturing a City: Photography and Chicago, 1830s to the Present


Chicago fire, cabinet photograph, Oliver R. Barrett, 1860-1966. Source: The Newberry Library, Call Number: Midwest MS Barrett Sandburg.

Class Description

The City of Chicago and photography had parallel beginnings in the 1830s. Chicago’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan and the banks of the Chicago River marked its potential as a transportation hub. Established in 1833, the city’s opportunities abounded for transporting supplies, developing the railroad network, and related industries. Photography’s potential as an artistic and documentary medium came to the industrial world’s attention with the announcement of the French daguerreotype in 1839 by Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre, followed shortly by William Henry Fox Talbot’s calotype process in England.

Early photographers gravitated to Chicago, opening studios and documenting the city’s growth and its people, places, and events. Explore the parallel developments of photographic process and the City of Chicago, from portraits of Abraham Lincoln to scenes depicting the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1871, all the way to recent events like the Woman’s March of 2017.

Independent historian Margaret Denny earned a PhD in Art History from the Univerity of Illinois Chicago in 2010. For more than a decade she has taught the survey of art and photography history at colleges and universities in Chicago and presented papers at national and international conferences.

Materials List

No Required Materials

Cost and Registration

4 sessions, $225 ($202 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member

We now offer our classes at three different price options: Regular ($225), Community Supported ($215), and Sponsor ($215). Following the models of other institutions, we want to ensure that our classes are accessible to a wider audience while continuing to support our instructors. You may choose the price that best fits your situation when registering through Learning Stream.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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