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Photographic History MA

Focusing on analogue and digital photographic cultures, Photographic History MA is taught by expert staff members from DMU’s Photographic History Research Centre.


Reasons to study Photographic History MA at DMU:

  • Digital and analogue photographic histories
    practices, images, theories and research methodologies are all elements that will be learnt on the course
  • Investigate social and cultural roles
    in Photography throughout its history as well as its significance in present-day cultures and societies
  • Work alongside a renowned team of expert scholars
    from the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) and beyond
  • Attend conferences, seminars and research activities 
    organised by the PHRC, and benefit from its outstanding links with major photographic museums, archives and collections in the UK and abroad
  • “A significant contribution to the landscape of photographic education”
    as referred to by the External examiner Prof Darren Newbury, University of Brighton

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. Using digital and analogue primary sources, such as archival photographic materials and manuscripts, digital databases, and a range of photographic objects, 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. Working within the PHRC’s vibrant research environment, you will gain an in-depth understanding of the relationship between photography, history, society and culture, and enhance your material handling and research skills.

Aimed mainly at social, cultural and visual historians, conservationists, archivists, visual sociologists and visual anthropologists, the Photographic History MA will offer you many opportunities to obtain hands-on research and professional experience, and prepare you for a wide range of careers in scientific museums and galleries as well as for further study.


At DMU, we are committed to helping our graduates enhance their careers and personal development through further study.

Vice-Chancellor’s 2020 Scholarship
Up to 50 per cent of tuition fees offered to Home/EU DMU alumni for students who wish to continue their studies at DMU by enrolling on a Postgraduate taught course. For more information visit our Vice-Chancellor’s 2020 Scholarship page.

Vice-Chancellor's Sports Scholarship
Apply for the Vice-Chancellor's Sports Scholarship, worth up to £6,000.

More courses like this:

History MA

  • UK/EU
  • International

Key facts for UK/EU students

Duration: One year full-time.

Start date: September 2018

Fees and funding: UK/EU: £5,000 (full-time)

Find out more about course fees and available funding.

Additional costs: Here at DMU we provide excellent learning resources, including the Kimberlin Library and specialist workshops and studios. However, you should be aware that sometimes you may incur additional costs for this programme.

Contact us: For more information complete our online enquiry form or call us on +44 (0)116 2 50 60 70.

You can apply to study at DMU directly using our online applications portal.

Key facts for international students

Duration: One year full-time

Start date: September 2018

Fees and funding: International: £13,100 per year

Find out more about course fees and available funding.

Additional costs: Here at DMU we provide excellent learning resources, including the Kimberlin Library and specialist workshops and studios. However, you should be aware that sometimes you may incur additional costs for this programme.

Contact us: For more information complete our online enquiry form or call us on +44 (0)116 2 50 60 70.

International students can apply to study at DMU directly using our online applications portal or direct application form.

Entry criteria

Typical entry requirements 

Successful candidates will have the equivalent or above of a 2:2 UK bachelor’s honours degree in a related subject. A reading knowledge of a 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 6.5 overall with 5.5 in each band 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.

Structure and assessment


Course modules

Teaching and assessments




Photographic Ethnographies
Given that photographs often become loaded with contested social, cultural and historical significance, this module will consider the ethics involved in the study of photographic social and cultural practices, and advance your awareness of the ways in which sociocultural complexities can affect the production and understanding of photographic records.

Theory and Photography
Explores historical and contemporary debates about photography, its veracity, its use and its development. You will read works by leading thinkers and writers from the fields of history, history of art, photography, history of technology, museum studies, history of ideas, philosophy, and the history of science. This module will equip you with the ability to use effective research strategies in your own work while combining hypothetical thinking with empirical evidence.

Photography and Industry
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. You will gain a perspective on the industrial history of photography and learn more of the practices currently in use.

Historical Methodology
This module provides an introduction to advanced historiography. It will develop students' knowledge of traditional historiographical concerns alongside current trends and new directions in writing and thinking about the past. It also aims to enable students to think critically about the way historians have formulated research questions, used sources, and written history, across time and place. It will help students to build up an informed knowledge of recent developments in historical thinking as well as a history of the discipline of History itself. There will be a strong global element to the curriculum.  Topics to be covered will be drawn from the following: nation and state in History; global and transnational histories; empires and colonies; orientalism and occidentalism; social history, structuralism and the Annales; history from below; history in numbers; cultural history and postmodernism; materiality and visual history; body history; gender and history; microhistory.

History of Photography, Images and Practice
Working with photographs and photographic materials in and outside of the archive, you will consider material, social and cultural themes in the history of photography and its practice from the nineteenth century to the present. The module includes an introduction and overview of photographic history, exposure to a wide variety of original photographic materials, and a residency in a museum collection

Combines your research training, your knowledge of photographic history and your ability to employ research strategies, to deliver your master’s thesis on a subject of your own choice. Your dissertation gives you the opportunity to work independently while developing a deep knowledge of a particular element of photographic history.

Note: All modules are subject to change in order to keep content current


Throughout the programme, there are visits to museums, libraries and archives that have photography collections. During these visits, you will meet curators and archivists, and examine materials related to the collections. Previous visits have included major exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, important private collections as well as the Royal Photographic Collection at Windsor. The course is further underpinned by an innovative wiki that serves a space for sharing and collaboration for students and tutors as well as for the presentation of content.

Contact hours

In your first two terms you will normally attend around 5 hours of timetabled taught sessions including lectures, tutorials and workshop and studio sessions each week, and be expected to undertake at least 30 hours of independent study each week. Your third term will be pre-dominantly self-directed (including meetings with your supervisor), during which you can expect to undertake 35 hours of independent study each week 


Facilities and features


You will have access to 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 and the Photographers Gallery Library. These two important gifts of journals combine with DMU's own library resources to give unparalleled resources in photographic history research.


We have 1,500 study places and 650 computer workstations across four sites on campus. These give access to more than half a million publications, an extensive range of DVDs, e-resources and thousands of electronic journals. 

The main Kimberlin Library is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year (other than in exceptional circumstances).

Award-winning staff are on hand to help and there is a café for study breaks. We offer a range of workshops, drop-in and one-to-one sessions, and our Just Ask service provides email and telephone support.


Learning zones

Our comfortable and well-equipped study areas provide a range of environments to suit your needs.

Originally set up in our main Kimberlin Library, the learning zones proved so popular that more were created in the Eric Wood Building and Greenhouse. These flexible spaces are ideal whether you are working as a group, practising a presentation or working quietly on your own.

They feature workstations with power supplies for laptops, plus bookable syndicate rooms with interactive whiteboards and DVD players. Eduroam wi-fi is available across all campus locations.


Opportunities and careers



Starting a business
If you are thinking of starting your own business or working for yourself, the Enterprise Team can help provide you with the right advice and guidance to get your business off the ground.




This is our innovative international experience programme which aims to enrich your studies and expand your cultural horizons – helping you to become a global graduate, equipped to meet the needs of employers across the world.

Through #DMUglobal, we offer a wide range of opportunities including on-campus and UK activities, overseas study, internships, faculty-led field trips and volunteering, as well as Erasmus+ and international exchanges.



Graduate careers

The Photographic History MA provides you with a solid grounding of practical skills, theory and dialectics that will equip you for a wide range of careers in research, archives, scientific museums and galleries. 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.

Find out more about our Humanities MPhil/PhD research opportunities.

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How to apply 

We welcome applications from UK and international students with a wide range of qualifications and experience.

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Vice-Chancellor’s 2020 Scholarship
Up to 50 per cent of tuition fees offered to Home/EU DMU alumni for students who wish to continue their studies at DMU by enrolling on a Postgraduate taught course. For more information visit our Vice-Chancellor’s 2020 Scholarship page.


Digital resources

De Montfort University has created an extensive corpus of digital resources for researchers of 19th century photography working from primary materials such as exhibition catalogues and letters. Find out more



The Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) has a unique approach to photography and its social and cultural manifestations. It undertakes innovative research on photography and its practices from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Find out more


Leicester guide

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