A black and white image of a men in tactical military gear holding binoculars, sitting in a desert landscape with dust and rocks

An-My Lê, Colonel Greenwood (detail), 2003–2004, Carnegie Museum of Art. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, Gift of the Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe

Crash Course: Photography and Conflict


Adults: $40 (Members: $32; Students: $20)

The words “war and photography” conjure images of embedded journalists documenting active conflict. This art history course takes a different tack, focusing instead on contemporary landscape photographers who take aspects of the military-industrial complex as their subject.

Unfolding in four online presentations, the course begins with the dramatic works of Timothy O’Sullivan, which deployed photography as a strategy for scientific exploration for the US Geologic Survey in the 19th century, and traces the evolution of photography into a tool for state power. Discover examples of photographic technology developed for the Manhattan Project’s Trinity Test, the work of contemporary artists concerned about nuclear armament, 9/11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Examine the work of contemporary photographer An-My Lê featured in our celebrated exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain and Trevor Paglen, who will be the subject of an upcoming exhibition that includes landscape photography overlaid with the technology of artificial intelligence. Come away with an understanding of the ways in which visual knowledge enabled by photography motivates our reception, reactions, and critique of contemporary warfare.

Event Registration

Please register below. You will receive an email with the Zoom link before the event.

About the Instructor

Lily Brewer is a Ph.D. candidate in History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh specializing in modern and contemporary portrait and landscape photography in the United States southwest. Studying the concurrent development between photographic and weapon technologies, Brewer traces the contours of visual culture and history as it relates to war operations, military preparedness, conflict, and weapons testing during and after the Second World War and its visual articulations today. Her dissertation, Nuclear Citizenship: Mary Kavanagh and Photography as Civic Resistance, investigates the artistic practices of Kavanagh—as well as Richard Misrach, Carole Gallagher, An-My Lê, among others—and the role of photography in framing civil political space. She is editor-in-chief and founder of sedimenta.org.

About Crash Course

Crash Course is an ongoing series of topic-specific art history courses hosted by Carnegie Museum of Art. Past courses have focused on artists' depictions of urban industry, Renaissance and Baroque art, and many others.