The phrase ‘visual culture’ appears sporadically in literatures of the twentieth century, generally referring to cultures of practice and consumption associated with a range of visual artefacts and experiences. However it is not until the 1990s that visual culture becomes a defined subject and area of study. Nicholas Mirzoeff's An Introduction to Visual Culture (1999; 2009) and edited volume The Visual Culture Reader (2002) were pivotal in establishing visual culture as a properly interdisciplinary field. Like cultural studies, which ‘sought to understand the ways in which people create meaning from the consumption of mass culture’, visual culture can be said to ‘prioritize the everyday experience of the visual from the snapshot to the VCR and even the blockbuster art exhibition’ (Mirzoeff, 1998, p.7). In one of the key introductions to The Visual Culture Reader (2002, pp.24–36), Irit Rogoff characterizes the emergent field in the following way:

‘At one level we certainly focus on the centrality of vision and the visual world in producing meanings, establishing and maintaining aesthetic values, gender stereotypes and power relations within culture. At another level we recognize that opening up the field of vision as an arena in which cultural meanings get constituted, also simultaneously anchors to it an entire range of analyses and interpretations of the audio, the spatial, and of the psychic dynamics of spectatorship. Thus visual culture opens up an entire world of intertextuality in which images, sounds and spatial delineations are read on to and through one another, lending ever-accruing layers of meanings and of subjective responses to each encounter we might have with film, TV, advertising, art works, buildings or urban environments.’

(Rogoff, 2002, p.24)