Social Documentary photography is a form of documentary photography that looks at and records how the world looks from a social angle or environmental focus. “While each picture then had its own backing of data, its own internal story, it took its meaning ultimately from the larger story” (Trachtenberg, 1981, p.250).
The aim of the research is to look at social documentary style photography through the last century and look at its key practitioners, e.g Lewis’s Hine, Don Mc Cullin, Bill Brandt and understand, the why, the how and its importance in term of photography and design.
Social documentary photography has been used through out design since the early days of advertising, with each image acting as a visual storyteller, weaving a story through visual information and supporting the text it’s accompanying. In her book ‘The Whole truth and nothing but the truth’ Natasha Christopher suggests “the social, political and ameliorative objectives in historical social documentary photography are not dissimilar to some of the imperatives in ‘participatory’ art practice trends. These social and political aspects referred to relate to the desire to work with a social or political cause.”
There is vast academic research and writings into the effect and importance of documentary style photography, this research will look at the effect and use within the advertising and design industry. Christopher goes further to state – “The ameliorative has to do with the wish to correct a situation by drawing attention to it, making it visible, and the desire to ‘correct’ a situation, which, I have suggested, operates within a ‘liberal’ domain, representing a desire to ‘bring good and truth to the world’ -
For example, photographer Marcus Bleasdale has been documenting the consequences of natural resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2000. Human Rights Watch worked with Bleasdale to create a report and exhibition that eventually forced a Swiss company, Metalor Technologies, to stop buying Congolese gold in Uganda. As a result of these efforts and the work of other organizations, nearly $100 million in funding for warlords dried up overnight.
This documentary style has changed through the ages, driven by content, technology and societies acceptance or rejection of social issue. The responsibility of meaning still lies with the photographer. Lewis Hine always stated of his work “a responsibility to the truth of his vision” (Trachtenberg, 1981, p.240). Social Documentary photography, plays a major role in design, advertising and propaganda, this has shaped the path of this genre of photography.
This research will look to document the style, look at the influence, examine how the style affects the content its aside, and breakdown its rationale for existing. Look at how design / advertising has influence the style over the years and see where it currently sits.
Methodology will be a mixture of qualitative interviews with existing photographers and practitioners to understand the documentary style itself.
It will involve a number of interviews with creative groups and photographers to gauge the reason for the use of certain styles and their effectiveness within the industry. These practitioners will be involved within a certain area of design, usually within social / charity campaigns.
It will involve extensive research through literature and exhibition catalogues to track and trace its origins and evolution.
It will involve a body of experimentation photographic work using various techniques and technologies.
The outcomes will include a documented report, regarding the influence of social documentary style photography on design and advertising, its uses and effects and impact.
It will also include a body of work that will attempt to emulate the style. Using existing style and applying to a contemporary body of work, which will involve a final exhibition.
The course explores documentary practices and photojournalism as exciting and developing mediums, through a combination of practice-based teaching and discussion of critical contexts.
We take each applicant on their own merit. This can include students of documentary photography or photographers in general who are interested in specialising in this area. Also welcome are artists who wish to focus their activities on a more social practice, and individuals from other disciplines, who wish to explore the subject area at post grad level.
The course builds on the international stature of the photographic and journalism departments of the University and is designed to equip you with an awareness of contemporary documentary and photojournalism, drawing on a variety of related media.
The course can be taken in full-time or part-time mode.
The Documentary and Photojournalism MA allows students to explore ideas of society through photographically related practice and within critically informed ways that maintain connections with the issue, yet also consider fresh visual approaches to the subject matter.
We approach photography as a social practice, situated within its own history, but also drawing on various discourses. We explore the idea that documentary practice and photojournalism may take many forms in the 21st Century.
Importantly, from your arrival, we emphasise the development of your own practice, through experimentation, critique and theory, and encourage analysis of practice through contemporary perspectives.
The course leads towards the Final Major Project, which is a consolidation of student learning into a high profile event in a central London exhibition space.
You will be taught by practising professional photographers, artists and writers, within a supportive course atmosphere. Technically, the course resources are equipped to the highest professional standards for both analogue and digital production of still and moving image.
All modules involve classroom teaching, tutorials, seminars, workshops, group work and your own fieldwork and are designed to equip you with advanced ways of working and negotiating your practice. We take the view that the work you make from the beginning of your studies with us is potentially valid currency for external use.
We encourage you to explore production of a body of documentary/photojournalistic works through the development of personal practice in the real world by:
Students take the first four core modules below and choose from either Final Major Project or Dissertation as their fifth core module. Students choose one option module from those listed below.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.
The emphasis of the course is on the development of your practice, through experimentation, and knowledge creation as understood within contemporary approaches to documentary, as well as many related practices such as critical and journalistic and collaborative practice.
In addition to the Skills acquired of photographers enabling the production of works this will also involve competent use of a variety of hardware, software, social media, presentation and production skills.
The MA will involve the development of various hard skills such as management of large and small scale projects, direction (either within film or theatrical modes) facilitatory methods (such as in educational or community roles), advocacy, effective social networking and experience of group and collaborative working. We intend that the student will be able to function as a still photographer, documentary film-maker, activist, artist and writer. We would imagine our graduate to be well rounded and confident individual with adaptability facilitating new ways of seeing.
The course is taught by experienced and practising photographers, publishers and writers whose extensive network of contacts in all areas of photography is accessible to students. We actively encourage work experience during the course and will advise on possible limited time internships and placements, providing these do not interfere the course work. Any internships or placements will be arranged by the students.
The Photography Arts MA offers a dynamic mix of photography practice and research to support your development as an artist. In an open-minded educational environment you will expand the boundaries of your photography, advancing your own distinct visual and conceptual approach. Students are fully supported by our internationally renowned photography staff and inspired by an exciting range of prominent visiting photographic artists and thinkers.
Situated in Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design, you will have access to extensive photographic facilities and a wealth of inter-disciplinary expertise. You will be part of a world-famous centre for photography research.
The Photography Arts MA is a recently revalidated course, which builds on the former Photographic Studies MA (1996-2016). The course champions a long, proud tradition of cutting-edge photography pioneered at the University.
The course has an open definition of photography, encompassing a wide range of approaches and forms. We encourage free experimentation in the development of ideas. You will advance your practical work choosing new or traditional techniques, digital or analogue forms, in work that may extend beyond the traditional boundaries of wall, page or screen into other modes including moving image, installation and performance.
The research components of the course are tailored for the needs of the contemporary artist photographer, and allow you to focus on the lines of inquiry that will be most productive for your own development. Your progress through the course will be supported with one-to-one tutorials with a personal tutor.
This is the right course if you are highly motivated and excited to develop your independent practice alongside critical research within a rapidly changing field. Working with our experienced staff and a group of peers drawn from all over the world, you can discover your own future working with the most contemporary approaches to photography.
The course is structured to develop your practice, informed by research. Throughout the course, students make work with great attention to how it will be presented in a range of modes including exhibition, book and/or screen. The practice modules provide a framework for developing and testing new approaches and establish a foundation for your future independent work. Students write three short research essays during the course, each aimed at broadening knowledge of photography, contemporary art and related histories, theories and criticism. Content for these assignments is led by the student’s own research interests. The course is unusually flexible in that a dissertation is not required, but can form an optional part of the final master’s project.
The course enables students to become independent practitioners, generating up-to-date, informed work. You will be empowered with visual, critical and practical skills that culminate in the Masters Project, exhibited in a central London degree show at the end of the course.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.
Option modules from Documentary Photography and Photojournalism MA
An MA in Photography Arts is an unusually versatile qualification that prepares you to be an artist/photographer working at the highest level of ambitious contemporary art, and also gives you a range of transferable skills vital to twenty-first century creative industries.
Graduates of the course work as independent artist/photographers and also as writers, educators, critics, publishers, curators, gallerists, picture editors and researchers. A number of graduates go on to pursue their research at doctoral level.
Alumni from the course (under the former title Photographic Studies MA) now work all over the world in a range of careers requiring creativity, research skills and critical analysis of visual images
This course will engage you in the challenging task of making sense of the multitude of photographic images that shape the world today.
It is the first MA in the UK to combine the history and theory of photography with practice and curation in a genuinely interdisciplinary context.
You’ll explore the pivotal role of photography over the past two centuries across diverse global contexts – from the ways in which photography represents the complexities of 19th-century world views to the ubiquity and power of photography in our digital age.
You’ll also develop your practical skills, working with expert practitioners and leading photography curators.
Choose to study this course full time or part time, to fit around your work and family life. Modules for the full-time course are listed below.
For details about the part-time course, contact course co-ordinator Sophie Heath at [email protected]
You may choose to study this course full time over one year, or part time over two years to suit your work schedule or other commitments.
You’ll learn from our faculty and also external experts and professionals. Teaching is by lectures, seminar debates and visits to collections of photographic materials across the south of England.
The MA is structured for you to explore theoretical and practical aspects of photography in core modules during the autumn term(s). In the spring term(s), you choose from a range of options on topics such as:
During the summer, you choose to either write a dissertation or develop a practice-based project.
Assessment methods include essays and practice-based projects, encouraging you to develop a portfolio of practical and critical skills and expertise.
This course is currently subject to validation, in line with our procedures for assuring the quality of our degrees. This means that some course detail may change. The validation process will be concluded before the course starts.
Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.
Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work
You’ll gain academic and research skills as well as a crucial range of professional skills directed at working in the cultural, creative and heritage sectors – an arena in which millions of people are employed worldwide.
This MA prepares you for a variety of exciting careers across:
It also provides an ideal foundation for doctoral research.
Photography at Brighton is taught within the context of the fine arts and oriented around the development of individual projects.
The aim is for you to develop a strong and sustainable artistic practice and body of work that you can confidently exhibit and publish. This will give you a strong foundation for developing a career as an independent photographer/artist, or alternatively for more commercial or community-based activities.
The course has a strong theoretical component, as we believe all students should understand how to conceptualise and contextualise their practice and communicate it clearly to a variety of audiences.
We encourage students to engage with the latest developments in photography, fine art and wider media culture, and to constantly challenge the limits of the medium. Work that crosses technological boundaries and engages with film, video, sound and installation is encouraged – but so is photography's engagement with performance, painting and sculpture.
More than anything, we are committed to an exploratory and thoughtful form of picture-making that is adequate to representing our experiences of the modern world.
Practice-based projects are supported by briefings, tutorials, lectures, seminars and technical workshops. Workshops include demonstrations in the latest digital and traditional analogue processes, involving camera use, lighting, and black-and-white and colour printing. Key professional practice sessions include talks and seminars by photographers, artists, writers and other professionals concerned with commissioning, publishing and exhibiting photography.
Making sure that what you learn with us is relevant, up to date and what employers are looking for is our priority, so courses are reviewed and enhanced on an ongoing basis. When you have applied to us, you’ll be told about any new developments through our applicant portal.
The following resources are exclusively for MA and BA(Hons) photography students:
The university’s art and design library has a well-stocked photography area and provides access to a wide range of online resources.
Our Photography MA has led to students developing strong portfolio careers in the field of the arts and gaining considerable recognition for their work through prizes and exhibitions. Many of our students have gone on to do doctoral study or take up lecturing posts in higher education; others have developed roles working in galleries, publishing, picture editing and community projects.
Alumni include Lisa Barnard, Corinne Silva, Virgilio Ferreira, Matt Henry, Stephen Vaughan – successful artists in the world of contemporary photography who exhibit internationally and produce challenging new work.
Programme structure MA Documentary Practice is currently available for one year full-time study or two years part-time study.
Our core modules provide you with a rich set of practical and intellectual skills. Documentary Theory & Practice gives you the essential research and practical abilities necessary for the MA, covering modes of factual representation, exploring crew roles, production planning, and providing training in camera, sound and editing. Documentary Production takes these skills deeper, encouraging you to experiment with form and take risks with what you think a documentary can be and do. The Dissertation Production is your chance to realise an in-depth, high production, festivals-ready film.
A range of option modules in film practice, theory and history enable you to choose specialist areas relevant to your research interests and ambitions
Film Studies Research Project
The Department of Film Studies at Queen Mary is an exciting and vibrant department. The documentary genre is becoming increasingly popular with both cinema, TV, online and art world audiences. This programme will allow you to develop a career and skills in production, documentary making, or develop an academic career.
The Department of Film has its own postgraduate production company which produces documentary and fiction work, as well as its own studio facilities and well appointed 41-seat cinema.
You will have access to facilities and equipment, including:
* Film studios
* Edit suites
* Professional production equipment
Our graduates emerge equipped with a portfolio of films, a plethora of practical skills, and in-depth knowledge of the many approaches and contexts of documentary filmmaking. Students leave well prepared to succeed in the creative industries and academic sector, in areas such as broadcast television, independent film production, contemporary art, doctoral research and teaching.
This unique MA programme is based in a university but run by leading film practitioners, ensuring that you not only receive the highest-quality practice-based learning, but you do so in a university research environment where you learn to understand the world we live in. You have your own camera equipment throughout and there are two dedicated Mac Editing suites for this degree.
Students will learn to devise a visual research project; to apply anthropological and social science approaches to documentary film work; to think critically about the relationship between form and content in ethnographic/documentary practice; using our professional level equipment, to master the technical skills needed to produce different kinds of films of different lengths for varied audiences; and to critically view and review film material.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of one core module (60 credits), two optional /elective modules (30 credits) and a project/diary (90 credits).
Students choose two of the following:
A major practical film project and diary allowing the students to demonstrate their mastery of the skills of documentary film-making in a film of 20–35 minutes.
Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of practical tutorials, seminars and masterclasses and assessed by camera and editing exercises and a written piece.
We facilitate two types of placements. Firstly, we will enable short-term internships at the film companies with whom we already have relationships through Open City Docs. Secondly, as opportunities arise students can work on collaborative or other film-making projects, such as the Doc in a Day workshops or UCL film productions.
Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical) MA
The programme equips students for careers in:
The increasing demand for social and scientifically trained moving image specialists in the years ahead will continue, if not accelerate. Many of the graduates of our existing programmes now work in organisations such as Ipsos Mori film unit, independent production companies, BBC World Service and BBC Education.
This MA will allow you to benefit from UCL’s unique position in the heart of London, and from the many activities in film within UCL Anthropology. The programme is unique in using professional film-makers to teach within a truly pan-disciplinary university research environment. It provides outstanding access to camera and editing facilities.
UCL now houses London’s Global Documentary Film Festival, Open City Docs Fest, created by Professor Michael Stewart. You can participate in the curation and delivery of this festival; gain experience in the delivery of a major public arts event; and benefit from established partnerships with world-famous institutions such as the the Science Museum and the British Film Institute.
This degree provides three strands: non-fiction cinema and reportage based documentary; a 'Mixed Realities' strand (including VR, Augemented; and interactive documentary production).
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: Anthropology
68% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.
The MA Commercial Photography course offers you the opportunity to enhance your practice with the aim of becoming a photographer at the forefront of the industry.
This course is founded on the assertion that commercial photography is a powerful form of mass communication that can connect with an audience of millions.
What defines it as commercial is that it is conceived and created with a specific audience in mind, conscious of how meaning is affected by sociopolitical criteria. It can be utilised in a variety of ways: to stimulate commerce; promote new trends; deliver complex narratives; and inform and express opinions. In the process, opportunities arise for creative practitioners working in commercial contexts to produce innovative work.
The course is structured in such a way that learning develops systematically and with an emphasis on the independent learning abilities required for continuing professional development and the advancement of your career.
The course allows you to undertake advanced study in a wide range of areas including advertising, documentary, editorial, fashion and portrait photography. Through originality in the application of contemporary academic research and professional practices to the production of new complex work, you will challenge the accepted conventions of the genres.
By a combined approach of practice, theory and professionalism, the course will provide a challenging and stimulating environment in which you are able to develop your full potential, with the aim of becoming a practitioner at the forefront of the discipline.You will expand your commercial potential by applying genre practices across contexts; for example, the aesthetics of documentary can be applied to advertising, editorial, and fashion outcomes.
The course enables you to develop an in-depth and critically informed understanding of the commercial photography industry.You will engage with key themes in emerging and established critical analyses that underpin each professional genre. This will equip you with the theoretical understanding to progress your practice and effectively articulate your concepts through the production of advanced outcomes to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
You are encouraged to make industrial links across a broad range of organisations relevant to your chosen professional specialism. Using these links you will learn to manage and exceed client expectations through the application of your new academic understanding to the production of inventive commercial work.
The course is designed for ambitious photography graduates, or experienced photographers who wish to develop their knowledge and expertise in order to reach the very top of their field. We look for students with a passion for the subject and who are willing to take risks, and in doing so push themselves to new heights.
Whether you want to develop a strong commercial portfolio or test the boundaries of your creative practice, our photography postgraduate course offers a unique opportunity for talented practitioners to work with highly experienced award winning staff and to use state of the art facilities.
You can see examples of our student work on the course gallery page.