Introduction to the history of photography
CHF 800.-

Starting 1 January 2023 Flexible schedule: daytime or evenings Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays

Introduction to the history of photography

Discover the history of photography

  • Get inspired from pioneer photographers
  • Learn about photography within historical art movements
  • Explore the effect of the new medium on everyday life
  • Study photography’s chemical and technological development

Schedule and pricing

  • Each photo course is comprised of five two-hour sessions
  • Individual course, flexible schedule: daytimes or evenings Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays
  • Schedule your classes directly with Oliver :
  • CHF 800.-
  • Valid 12 months


Photography has become the the main medium for image-making and visual communication since its development in the nineteenth century. This five-part course introduces you to past and present photographic practices and cultures. You don’t need previous knowledge of photography or history of art. We will view images made by important contributors to photography’s histories, as well as images that are important less for who made them than for their power within the discourses of mass culture. We will also learn about various technical processes, the camera’s evolution, and the vocabulary and issues of photographic theory. You will experiment with historical practices and aesthetics by completing four homework assignments.

What you will learn

  • The camera obscura: photography before light sensitive chemical processes
  • The inventors: Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Dageurre, Henry Fox Talbot and Richard Maddox
  • The first one hundred years, from 1826 to 1926: chemical processes, camera technology, aesthetic styles and pictorialism
  • Chemical processes: Daguereotype, Salt, Van Dyke, Albumen, Callitype, Collodian, Cyanotype, Palladium Platinum and Silver Gelatin
  • Pioneer photographers: Roger Fenton, Edward Curtis, Mathew Brady, Eadweard Muybridge, Alfred Steigletz, Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Nadar, Jean-Jaques Lartigue, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Master photographers: Weegee, Robert Capa, Eilliot Erwit, Richard Averdon, Diane Arbus, William Klein, Robert Frank, Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin
  • Photography within fine art movements and styles: Dada, Surrealism, Mixed Media, Pop-Art, Modernism, Abstraction, the California Modernists, Snap-shot Aesthetic and the New Social Landscape,
  • Humanistic photography: the Farm Security Administration, the Family of Man, the Concerned Photographer
  • Photographic genres: portraiture, landscape, still life, documentary, photojournalism, scientific, family and commercial
  • Contemporary photographic practices and cultures


  • Class topics below feature the work of the photographers listed above
  • Classes 2-5: Include a review session of your homework
  • Class 1: Camera Obscura. The inventors. First one hundred years 1826-1926 timeline.
  • Class 2: Chemical processes. Photography within fine art movements and photographic theory 1926-1975.
  • Class 3: Pioneer photographers
  • Class 4: 20th century master photographers
  • Class 5: Contemporary photographic practices and cultures


  • Oliver O’Hanlon Photography
  • 88 Rue de Saint-Jean, 1201 Geneva
  • Public transport: bus 7 stop Ormeaux tram 15 stop Mercier
  • Walking: 4 minutes from Manor department store or 6 minutes Cornavin railway station

Student photographs

What are students saying?

Joining Olivers sessions was the best decision for developing my skills as a photographer. While I have seen many self-proclaimed photographers offering courses on photography here, Oliver is an experienced professional photographer, in fact one of the best I know covering a broad spectrum from portraits and reports to artistic street photography. During the classes I experienced Oliver having great skills in teaching and encouraging people to find their personal best approach to photography. Beside that, he is also fun to be with. If you want to start or develop your photographic skills, join one of his photo walks or individual classes, instead of buying yet another camera.

Jan-Henrik Tiedemann Advanced Course 2016

Absolutely loved it! Assuming my basic knowledge of the subject, this workshop has provided me with enormous boost. It gave me the understanding of many different light aspects. Provided me with training on how to use a variety of handy equipment, such as cobra flashes, backlights, diffuser, etc… I was impressed by the amount of knowledge one can carry out from a class in a day. In many ways thanks to Oliver’s style. Easy to communicate with, yet highly professional he manages to create a relaxing working environment in a group. Good theoretical part followed with tons of useful advises during the practice. Also to mention – I highly appreciate the “follow up” session and Oliver’s ability to provide feedback. Criticism to the point and in a way that you want to go out there, reflect, shoot more, experiment more… Truly inspirational experience for me.

Igor Kazakov Portrait Workshop May 22 2016 and Advanced Evening Course summer August 2016

Antia-Collazo-Ageitos Photo Student

I wanted to develop my skills beyond the typical portrait and landscape photography, so I decided to give Oliver's lessons a try. I liked them so much that I repeated not one, but three times, taking a total of three group courses and one set of one-to-one lessons. Oliver takes you one step further and guides you through photography understood as an art, while helping you hone your technical skills. What I most liked about his teaching style is that he pushes you to explore and try out new things in photography that you might not have thought of before. His feedback is, above all, meaningful--very honest and very encouraging at the same time

Antia Collazo Ageitos Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Evening Courses and individual course summer 2016

Doing courses and photo walks with Oliver helped me in many ways. Firstly, it obliged me to get to know my camera and it's various settings. Secondly, having homework to do on a predefined topic (flash, portrait, movement etc.) encouraged me to think about my photos, and knowing that the group would all be there to review each other's work the following week, concentrated the mind wonderfully! Lastly, I benefited from Oliver's knowledge and experience in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Gregory McBride Introduction, Intermediate and Advanced Evening Courses 2015-2016