Photographic History and Practice MA/PG Dip/PG Cert

About the course


The Photographic History and Practice MA is uniquely focused on the social, cultural and material histories of photography. You will explore photographic history through primary source materials, including negatives, photographs, technical apparatus, ephemera, and manuscripts, as well as new developments in digital research under the guidance of internationally recognised scholars, practitioners, and museum professionals.

The programme has been referred to “truly excellent, the best of its kind in the country” (External examiner Dr Jonathan Friday, University of Kent, 2013), and offers you outstanding industry links with major collections including the National Media Museum, Birmingham City Library, and the Pitt Rivers Museum. It is aimed at those from a variety of disciplines including conservation students, archivists, historians of science and from various fields of visual studies, for instance visual anthropology, photography or art history.

Working closely with programme staff, you will enhance your handling skills, research methods, writing and public speaking, that will equip you for a wide range of careers in the heritage industry and research, or for further study.

Key facts

UKPASS code: W63271

Duration:  One year full-time, two years part-time

Location: Fletcher Building

Start date: September 2014

Entry and admission criteria

This course is for those from a variety of disciplines including conservation students, archivists, historians of science and from various fields of visual studies, for instance visual anthropology, photography or art history.

  • Successful candidates normally have the equivalent of a 2:2 or above UK bachelor’s honours degree in a related subject.
  • A reading knowledge of one European language other than English is recommended
  • If you have other professional qualifications and industry experience we will consider your application on an individual basis.  

International Students

If English is not your first language an IELTS score of 6.0 or equivalent when you start the course is essential. English Language tuition|, delivered by our British Council accredited Centre for English Language Learning, is available both before and throughout the course if you need it.

Teaching and assessment

For full-time study, the programme usually meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm. On those days, we engage in a variety of different formats including lectures, workshops and seminars, as well as group activities. For a part-time course of study, you will attend Tuesday classes in the first year, and Thursday classes in the second year. In October and March, there is one week where we are in residence at one of a number of major, internationally recognised, photographic archives, from Tuesday through Friday. Part-time students attend one week-long archival residency in their first year, and another in their second year.

Classes usually run from the last week of September until May. Over the summer months there are regularly scheduled tutorials in consultation with programme tutors. During this time, you will be writing your dissertation, which is due at the end of the summer.

The course is underpinned by an innovative wiki environment that is a space for sharing and collaboration between students and tutors as well as for presentation of content and communication. 

“I continue to be impressed by the development of the Wiki used on the programme, and the engagement with it by students – in particular through the individual student pages – and with the level and range of primary research student are undertaking.” - External examiner Dr Jonathan Friday, Head of the School of Arts, University of Kent, 2013.

Throughout the programme we visit different types of museums, libraries and archives that engage photographic history. During these visits, we meet with curators and archivists and examine materials related to these collections. Our visits often take advantage of special events related to our studies. Previous visits have included major exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, important private collections organising for international exhibition loans and the Royal Photographic Collection at Windsor as it prepared for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Course modules

History of Photography, Images and Practice
Working with photographs and photographic materials in and outside of the archive, we will consider emerging themes in the history of photography and its practice from the nineteenth century to the present.

Photography Resources in a Digital Age
By actively engaging with the principles and practices of cataloguing, digitising, archiving, exhibiting and searching for material, we develop an understanding of how knowledge is constructed and communicated through digital media. The module includes database and website design, field trials, evaluation and the art of critique.

Research Methods
Through this module you will explore different approaches to photographic research in order to answer your own research questions concerning the field.

Photographic Ethnographies
Photographs are often used as evidence to define cultural practices. However, this module asks you to consider the ethics involved in the history of this practice and the ways in which contemporary photographers challenge ethnographic perspectives. 

Theory and Photography
Covering historical and contemporary debates about photography, its veracity, its use and its development, you read thinkers and writers from the fields of history, history of art, photography, history of technology, museum studies, philosophy and the history of science. 

Photography and Industry
Analysing the affect and effect of commerce, this module questions the definition of industry as merely technology, broadening the concept to include motion picture, still and portrait industries, professional and amateur photography, fine art, chemical, scientific and manufacturing industries. 

Academic expertise

The programme is delivered by a team of experienced tutors with international research profiles as well as visiting lecturers from museums, archives, collections and research institutions.

These experts all approach photographic history from different perspectives, presenting important challenges to you. Together we will investigate the role of photography in the history of science, anthropology, gender studies, museum studies, art history and area studies. Alongside practical sessions on historical processes we will consider new technology based approaches to photographic media in teaching, learning, research, information discovery and knowledge construction.

Through the guidance of this unique combination of expertise, the programme aims to study both the materiality of photograph and its relationship with the digital age.

Graduate careers

The Photographic History and Practice MA provides you with a solid grounding of practical skills, theory and dialectics that will equip you for a wide range of careers in the heritage industry and research. Some of our graduates have received fellowships to pursue PhDs here in the UK and abroad while others have embarked upon careers in curating, museum and gallery administration, digital cataloguing and publishing throughout Europe.

Fees and funding

Fees and funding options for 2014/15 entry are still under review and are subject to change.

Postgraduate courses fees £4,200
Students Equivalent or Lower Qualification Status* £5,000
Postgraduate courses fees £11,700
Part-time fees are charged on a credit basis, you will need to complete 180 credits over the course of an MA/MSc programme.
15 credits £350
Students Equivalent or Lower Qualification Status* 15 credits
Continuation UK/EU Fee** £150
Continuation International Fee** £5000

For more information please take a look at our Funding|| section.

* ELQ Student definition - If you are a Home or EU status student and you already have a qualification at or above the level of the programme you wish to study from any country you will be considered as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) student. In 2008 the UK Government decided to stop funding universities for student in this situation and therefore the following fees will apply £5,000. Students from outside the EU are not affected by the policy.

** A fee that is charged on a periodic basis where Postgraduate or Research students need to extend their registration to complete the course.


 Learn more about postgraduate funding and finance|


Access photographs and manuscripts in local, regional and national collections and use the DMU photo-history research library, including many important photographic journals from the Kodak Research Library.

How to apply

Students can apply directly to study this postgraduate taught course at DMU by using our online applications portal|.

You should give full details of your qualifications and relevant work experience. A sample of your written work may also be required.

Contact details

For more information please contact:

Online enquiry form|
UK Study enquiries: 0116 250 6070
International study enquiries: +44 (0)116 2 50 60 70

For course-specific details please contact:

Dr Kelley Wilder
T: +44 (0)116 207 8865

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