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Photographic Studies (MA)

Course Description

This highly successful photography course offers a dynamic and exciting environment for studying Independent practice and critical theory of photography at Masters level. You will develop a high level of expertise and scholarship in visual practice techniques and written research. The course explores the different relationships between photographic practice and photography theory in a flexible scheme. You will develop your practice in the context of thinking about photography as a broad social and historical phenomena in art, popular culture and global mass media. Students develop their own project work and graduate with a solid portfolio of work that shows awareness of the social, ethical and critical issues involved in photographic representation.

Course content

Throughout the course you will work on projects designed to develop and extend your practice and skills. Critical theory modules contextualise the practice of photography and enable you to develop personal areas of research interest, extending and often transforming your own visual practice.

Image and Language and Uncommon Practices are practical modules that provide a tutored framework for your work, the former developing a specific practice, the latter introducing new practical and critical approaches to visual work.

The Text and the Body and Aesthetics and Rhetoric are lecture/seminar-based modules engaging in the fields of criticism and cultural theory relevant to the study of photography. The module Contemporary Debates, supported by distinguished guest speakers, develops the relationship between theory and practice and provides a pivotal focus for the later stages of your work. In theory modules you will write and be assessed on 3,000-word essays.

You will complete your study with a major body of visual work, a dissertation, or a theory/practice option.

Core modules

- Image and Language
You will consider the notion of the ‘purely visual’ image in relationship to meaning, and explores the function of language in relation to photography, producing new work along the way.

- The Text and the Body
This module will develop your understanding of critical debates in the theory and history of photography. It challenges assumptions about the production and consumption of images, through an examination of the relationship between authors, pictures and readers.

- Uncommon Practices
You will have the opportunity to deploy new strategies in the realisation of a body of practical work. You will be encouraged to question and extend the use of visual images, and experiment with different photographic production techniques. The module draws on a range of visual strategies drawn from the historical avant-garde, conceptual art and recent contemporary practices.

- Aesthetics and Rhetoric
Through this module you will explore a critical history of modernism and postmodernism in relation to photography, and consider the questions of cultural aesthetics and rhetoric informing such discourses.

- Contemporary Debates
This module will enable you to address contemporary problems within the field of photography and culture in a shared programme of seminar-based study. It will place photography within a wider perspective of cultural theory and criticism through exploring questions of culture and history in our period of change and uncertainty.

- Dissertation
This project will give you the opportunity to consolidate your use of theories and concepts introduced on the course in a written form. You will develop a thesis argument in a self-generated programme of research work with tutorial support.

- Major Project
This provides a framework for you to undertake sustained photographic inquiry, and produce a final body of photographic work at an advanced level, which will usually be exhibited in a public venue.

- Practice Research
This module will help you to develop a photographic project through research in practice, and identify potential strategies for the Major Project.

- Theory/Practice
The Theory/Practice module provides a framework for you to produce a body of photography-based work, in conjunction with a theoretical paper related or parallel to your practice. The final visual work is usually exhibited in a public venue in London in the September of the graduating year.

- Theory Research
You will take the Theory Research module if you are looking to complete your course through either the Dissertation or Theory/ Practice path. This module will help you to identify an area of research that leads to the production of either of those two pieces of work.

Associated careers

The course prepares graduates for a range of career paths in the arts, media and photography. Many successful graduates work as artists/photographers and also develop careers in related work within the creative industries. Graduate opportunities range from picture agency work, curators and as innovators of independent projects. Many also pursue careers in lecturing and teaching of photography. Graduates have a high success in developing their research work at doctoral level and the MA also has a high reputation amongst potential employers within the sector.


At Westminster, we have always believed that your University experience should be designed to enhance your professional life. Today’s organisations need graduates with both good degrees and employability skills, and we are committed to enhancing your graduate employability by ensuring that career development skills are embedded in all courses.

Opportunities for part-time work, placements and work-related learning activities are widely available, and can provide you with extra cash and help you to demonstrate that you have the skills employers are looking for. In London there is a plentiful supply of part-time work – most students at the University of Westminster work part time (or full time during vacations) to help support their studies.

We continue to widen and strengthen our links with employers, involving them in curriculum design and encouraging their participation in other aspects of career education and guidance. Staff take into account the latest data on labour market trends and employers’ requirements to continually improve the service delivered to students.

Visit the Photographic Studies (MA) page on the University of Westminster website for more details!

Student Profiles

Entry Requirements

Successful applicants usually will have a good BA or BFA degree in photography or fine art, art history, cultural and media studies. Applicants with a good professional experience of photography or related practices in television, film, and the wider visual arts are also welcome. Applicants without these may be accepted in exceptional circumstances, provided applicants can demonstrate their ability to meet the demands of the course. An interview is normally held and a portfolio of practical work demonstrates the applicant's skills, passion and ambition for developing their own photographic work is essential.

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