MoMA plans Mandarin online photo course
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is acknowledging the size of its Chinese audience with plans to offer an online photography course in Mandarin.
MoMA is going to launch its first free online course in Mandarin, Seeing Through Photographs, available on online education website Coursera.org starting Oct 31.
“Even before we launched Seeing Through Photographs in English, we had hoped and planed to translate it into Mandarin, because the Chinese audience is very important to the museum,” said Sarah Meister, the curator of the museum’s Department of Photography.
“Once we launched it, we saw the extraordinary success that it had, hundreds of thousands of students around the world (have taken the course); we knew that it’s important to us to be able to make this content as much as possible accessible to a Mandarin-speaking audience,” she added.
Using works from MoMA’s collection as a starting point, the course will aim to address the difference between seeing and truly understanding photographs by introducing a diversity of ideas, approaches and technologies.
The American photographer Philip-Lorca di Corcia once said, “Photography is a foreign language everyone thinks he speaks.”
“There is a difference between seeing a photograph and really understanding it. And I think that is a difference that audiences around the world are interested in understanding better,” she said.
“This (course) is different then a traditional history of photography because it is more interested in looking at what photographs mean in 2016 and in using MOMA’s collection as the point of departure for understanding that,” Meister said.
The course was launched online in English in February.
To date, 212,070 learners from more than 180 countries on six continents have taken the course in English. A certificate of completion is available for a fee upon successfully completing the free course.
The museum immediately began working on the complex process of translation, but because the course is so multifaceted with videos, slideshows and artist voices, it took considerable time for the Chinese version to be finally available on line.
Led by Meister, audiences will be able to learn the firsthand perspectives and ideas from artists and scholars about what a photograph is and the many ways in which photography has been used throughout it nearly 180-year history and into the present day: as a means of personal artistic expression; a tool for science and exploration; a method for documenting people, places, and events; a way of telling stories and recording histories; and a mode of communication and critique in an increasingly visual culture.
Course content includes short films, dynamic conversations, artist studio visits, and a close look at works from MoMA’s collection featuring renowned photographers, artists and curators.
“The reason we chose to translate this course in Chinese is that we feel that there is particularly urgent interest in developing a more critical framework to approach photographs and images that is something that stands beyond languages and alphabets,” Meister said.
“So it seems that this would be a great first way to develop content that would be really applicable and of great interest to Chinese audiences.”
Still from the Katy Grannan: Boulevard video, from Seeing ThroughPhotographs.