MA Photographic History


Photography has shaped the way in which we imagine the recent past as well as the experience of life in many present-day societies and cultures. Addressing a range of sources, such as archival photographic materials and manuscripts, digital databases, and current critical texts in the field, the Photographic History MA will provide you with the practical and conceptual skills needed to explore wide ranging professional, scientific and amateur photographic practices.

The internationally renowned teaching staff bring with them outstanding links with major photographic collections, archives, galleries and museums worldwide. Networking with the Photographic History Research Centre’s (PHRC) vibrant research environment, you will gain an in-depth understanding of the relationship between photography, history, society and culture, and enhance your critical and research skills.

Aimed mainly at social, cultural and visual historians, conservationists, archivists, visual sociologists and visual anthropologists, the Photographic History MA will prepare you for a wide range of careers in the cultural sector as well as for further study.

As this course is delivered online by distance learning, you will need access to the internet and a computer with software capable of reading and writing Rich Text Format documents, such as Microsoft Word.

Key features

  • Flexible module choice allows you to pursue your studies at your own pace, while working around your work, family and other commitments.
  • Engage with digital and analogue photographic histories, practices, images, theories and research methodologies.
  • Investigate social and cultural roles in photography throughout its history as well as its significance in present-day cultures and societies.
  • Gain professional experience with our Fieldwork module which offers the opportunity to work on an independent project for a photographic organisation.
  • Advance your research through a dissertation or heritage project.
  • Work alongside a renowned team of expert scholars from the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) and beyond.

Structure and assessment


Learning Photographic History Online

This module introduces you to online learning at the MA level in photographic history. It serves to introduce students to the platform, help them to navigate the learning tasks, and familiarise them with the expectations of the MA modules, assessment, and resources available. All students must take this module and pass the assessment to commence study. The module will cover aspects of online learning, platform navigation, MA study, and photographic history introduction to enable students to begin a module.

Photographic Historiography I (15 credits)

This module introduces you to historiography in photographic scholarship through examination of key theoretical frameworks and their influence on the development of research in the field. It will develop your knowledge of traditional historiographical concerns alongside current trends and new directions in writing and thinking about photographs. It also aims to enable you to think critically about the way photographic historians have formulated questions, used sources and written photographic history. It will help you to build up an informed knowledge of recent developments in photographic history, as well as the history of the discipline as it has been written across the globe.Topics to be covered will be drawn from the following: global and transnational histories; the canon of photographic history; photographic histories and the history of photography; social and cultural histories of photography; gender and race and the histories of photography; and recent developments in photographic history.

Photographic Historiography II (15 credits)

This advanced module extends your knowledge about the historiography of photographic scholarship through examination of key theoretical frameworks and their influence on the development of research in the field. Topics to be covered will extend and deepen critical knowledge of: global and transnational histories; the canon of photographic history; photographic histories and the history of photography; social and cultural histories of photography; gender and race and the histories of photography; and recent developments in photographic history.

Photography and the Arts (15 credits)

This module introduces you to the many roles photography plays in and as art, design and architecture. Topics covered will draw from the history of photography as an art form; photography in art, architecture and design; photography curation; Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) and photography; fine art and photography markets.

Photography, Science and Technology (15 credits)

This module introduces you to photography through the prism of science studies, considering how photography structures large organizations, how it facilitates communication, and how it comes to have meaning in the scientific world. Topics will be drawn from: The science and technology of analogue photography; the science and technology of digital photography; uses of photography in scientific disciplines; uses of photography as an organizational or scientific tool; current themes in visual science and technology studies (vSTS).

Photography, Ethics and Emotions (15 credits)

This module examines the ethics of photography from historical and practical points of view. Engaging with research in atrocity photography, postcolonial studies and medical humanities among others, it explores how and when photographs are sensitive materials and the ethical responsibilities of photographers, historians and researchers towards historical subjects and the public.

Material Histories 1830s to 1930s (15 credits)

This module offers an introduction to photographic images as objects. With lectures based on objects including those at DMU’s Special Collections, the you will be encouraged to find and use collections local to them. You will be encouraged to learn history through a hands-on approach to primary source material.

Material Histories 1930s to Now (15 credits)

This optional module is about how social, economic, and colonial histories can be told through photographic materials. This module can be taken independently of Material Histories I, and immerses you in the material histories of 20th and 21st century photography, and assesses 20th and 21st century photographic objects for historical information.

Photography and Politics (15 credits)

This module approaches the study of photography through exploration of the medium’s employment in state, national, social, civil and cultural inter-personal relations. Combining considerations of political scholarship with internationally diverse case studies from the nineteenth-century to the present day, it unravels how photography has participated in historical processes and conditioned everyday lived experiences since its very beginnings. The module will discuss themes from: politics and the conceptualization of photography; photography and political realities; the significance of photography to the organization and re-organization of civil society; photography and gender, race, class and queer politics.

Photography and Digital Politics (15 credits)

The emerging prominence of digital technologies at the turn of the twenty-first century and their vast popularisation in the 2010s in particular have arguably transformed the ways in which individuals, communities, social groups and nations understand and interact with one another. Examining concepts and practices such as digital heritage, digital history and digital diplomacy, this module equally explores how photography has participated in this process, how the process itself has reconceptualised what photography means and how it has amended photography’s more traditional uses in the social and national political spheres.

Fieldwork (30 credits)

The fieldwork experience module will involve at least 250 hours of experience with a relevant organisation. Fieldwork experiences may be organised by the programme leader or you can find a reputable organisation or business with which to gain experience.

Dissertation or Heritage Project (60 credits)

You will develop your own research in this long and deep module, either in a traditional written format or in an embedded project. The module is developed around your own research, with help of your personal tutor.

Facilities and features


On campus, the main Kimberlin Library offers a space where you can work, study and access a vast range of print materials, with computer stations, laptops, plasma screens and assistive technology also available.

As well as providing a physical space in which to work, we offer online tools to support your studies, and our extensive online collection of resources accessible from our Library website, e-books, specialised databases and electronic journals and films which can be remotely accessed from anywhere you choose.

We will support you to confidently use a huge range of learning technologies, including Blackboard, Collaborate Ultra, DMU Replay, MS Teams, Turnitin and more. Alongside this, you can access LinkedIn Learning and learn how to use Microsoft 365, and study support software such as mind mapping and note-taking through our new Digital Student Skills Hub.

The library staff offer additional support to students, including help with academic writing, research strategies, literature searching, reference management and assistive technology. There is also a ‘Just Ask’ service for help and advice, live LibChat, online workshops, tutorials and drop-ins available from our Learning Services, and weekly library live chat sessions that give you the chance to ask the library teams for help.

More flexible ways to learn

We offer an equitable and inclusive approach to learning and teaching for all our students. Known as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), our teaching approach has been recognised as sector leading. UDL means we offer a wide variety of support, facilities and technology to all students, including those with disabilities and specific learning differences.

Just one of the ways we do this is by using ‘DMU Replay’ – a technology providing all students with anytime access to audio and/or visual material of lectures. This means students can revise taught material in a way that suits them best, whether it’s replaying a recording of a class or adapting written material shared in class using specialist software.

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