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History of Art with Photography (MA/PGDip/PGCert)

Course Description

Photography has become the major form of image-making and visual communication since its development in the nineteenth century. Its importance has been recognised in many areas of scholarship: history of art, media and cultural studies, literature, memory and memorialisation, gender and identity, philosophy and law. Its role in all fields of the arts and sciences, including those most personal, is being expanded, renewed and questioned by the mushrooming of digital culture.

This programme enables you to learn about - and to negotiate your individual path through - historical and contemporary photographic cultures, in order to develop your interests, whether your engagement with the medium is academic, artistic, personal or vocational.

After an initial introductory core module, and with tutorial guidance, the programme allows you to specialise through your selection of option modules and topics for your research project and dissertation. Options cover a wide range of photographic practices and cultures, past and present, and allow you to explore diverse methodologies and internationally 'local' practices. The course also offers opportunities for work placements with London museums, galleries and archives.

You will develop subject-specific and transferable research, critical and writing skills that will enhance your career opportunities in the field and beyond, whether in academia or teaching, photography as a practice, galleries and museums, or in the media. The programme is also ideally suited to preparing students with a practice-based background considering a PhD, academic or practice-based.

We offer taster events and information evenings for prospective students interested in our history of art programmes throughout the year.

As well as regular museum and gallery visits, the department offers an exciting study trip every spring.

Students are encouraged to become involved in the lively research culture of the department through the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre, the Architecture, Space and Society Centre and the Vasari Research Centre, which has pioneered the field of digital art history. In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, students benefit from many events in the department of History of Art at Birkbeck, including: the postgraduate Research Seminar, which brings art historians from all over the UK and beyond to speak at Birkbeck; the biennial Murray lecture; the Murray Seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art; and the programme of exhibitions and displays at the Peltz Gallery, the School of Arts' purpose-built exhibition space. Students are also welcome to attend other seminars and events across the School of Arts and at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Staff teaching on this programme

Dr Patrizia Di Bello (Course Director)
Dr Suzannah Biernoff
Dr Fiona Candlin
Professor Annie E Coombes
Professor Mark Crinson
Professor Steve Edwards
Dr Tag Gronberg
Dr Akane Kawakami
Dr Gabriel Koureas
Dr Luciana Martins
Professor Lynda Nead
Dr Leslie Topp

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
Unique international coverage of photographic cultures, making use of modules offered across the School of Arts.
Taught by renowned research-active academics and writers from a variety of disciplines, including history of art, media and cultural studies, journalism, modern languages and the humanities.
Cross- and interdisciplinary approach to the study of photography in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Research culture and networking opportunities offered by the Birkbeck History and Theory of Photography Research Centre.
You will have access to the Birkbeck Library and an in-house slide library and self-access centre (including the Vasari Digital Media Research Centre).
You will also have access to the Jo Spence Memorial Library and Terry Dennett Archive.
There are opportunities for you to become involved in curating and organising exhibitions in the Peltz Gallery in the School of Arts.
Our location in Bloomsbury offers excellent access to specialist libraries and archives in the University of London. These include the University of London Library, Institute of Historical Research, Warburg Institute and School of Oriental and African Studies, together with the major national resource of the British Library.
Exclusive visits to photographic archives, and group visits to exhibitions, talks and events.
You will also have easy access to specialist libraries and photographic archives, including the Courtauld Institute of Art, the National Art Library and the photographic collection in the Prints and Drawings Study Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the National Portrait Gallery (Heinz Archives), the Photographers’ Gallery and the Tate Gallery. We are also near many commercial galleries, photography book specialist dealers and exhibition spaces such as the Barbican, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Hayward Gallery, INIVA and the many other places that exhibit photographs from time to time.

Visit the History of Art with Photography (MA/PGDip/PGCert) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Emma Rawlings

4088.jpg 'I looked at several History of Art Master’s courses at London universities and was impressed by the broad range of modules that were offered at Birkbeck. I appreciated the variety and the fact that I could study periods ranging from the Renaissance to the Victorians. The fact that the lecturers are leaders in their fields was an added bonus and the digital facilities were excellent too.

'While I was studying I worked part-time in the students’ union and also undertook some marketing internships and volunteered in museums and galleries. These days, employers expect you to have work experience when you graduate and the part-time study at Birkbeck means that you can balance study, paid work and internships.

'As well as giving me the opportunity to gain work experience while studying, the skills and knowledge that I gained at Birkbeck have also helped me to secure a graduate position in an advertising agency. As part of an assessment day which I attended I had to give a presentation on a subject which I was really passionate about. I used knowledge from my Birkbeck MA to talk about Victorian advertising, and how this was the start of the advertising industry as we know it. I’m sure this helped me to secure the job.

'The Master’s enabled me to develop my critical thinking skills further than at undergraduate level and taught me to analyse visual culture – which is at the heart of a career in advertising.

'I went into the Master’s straight from my undergraduate degree and found it inspiring to be in class with older learners who were incredibly enthusiastic about and committed to their studies. I would definitely recommend Birkbeck to people my age who want to access good teaching, good resources and develop in other areas at the same time.'


Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Good honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent. For students with a degree in a subject other than history of art, the 1-year, part-time Graduate Certificate in History of Art and Architecture can be used as a conversion course. Students who successfully complete the graduate certificate with merit will normally be guaranteed a place on this programme and do not need to complete an admissions exercise. The requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each of the sub-tests.

Last Updated

07 August 2017

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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Recipient: Birkbeck, University of London

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