module specification

SM5066 - Documentary Photography and Photography Journalism (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Documentary Photography and Photography Journalism
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
105 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 85%   Portfolio
Coursework 15%   Critical Journal
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Friday Morning

Module summary

This module introduces students to the history, theory and practice of photojournalism and documentary photography. The module is slanted towards practice, and provides an opportunity for students to enhance their existing photographic skills as well as their understanding of journalistic and documentary photography. The module will provide practical tuition in the skills of street photography, portraiture, photographing objects in motion, and narrative photography, and will encourage and support students in the conception and development of their own documentary photographic projects. The module will also provide historical and theoretical contexts for students’ developing photographic practices, enabling them to critically reflect of their practice.

Module aims

This module aims to provide students with a rigorous understanding of the history, theory and practices of photojournalism and to enable them to develop key photographic skills pertinent to the practice of photojournalism


The module is organised around a combination of practical photography skills and the development of historical and theoretical knowledge of the origins and development of documentary and photojournalistic practices. The module engages with contemporary photojournalistic trends and practices, including ethical and legal constraints on the practices of documentary photographers and photojournalists. The module encourages students to actively pursue engagement with areas of social experience through the medium of photography and empowers students to adopt a critical and reflective stance towards their own creative work and that of other photographers.

Learning and teaching

This module will be delivered through a combination of modes of delivery, including formal lectures, seminars, practical workshops and photographic sessions, and individual tutorials. The mixed-mode module delivery will used to encourage a supportive environment for individual and peer-group learning. 

A blended learning strategy will be employed to enhance the learning experience, facilitate communication between students and tutors and develop collaboration among students. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will be used as a platform to support online activities including on-line discussions, evaluation of online resources, and access to electronic reading packs. The VLE will also be used to facilitate formative assessment and related feedback, as well as a tool to integrate useful online learning materials provided by research institutions, academic publications, professional organisations and other relevant sources.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will be able to:

  • Position contemporary documentary and photojournalistic practices within historical and theoretical contexts.
  • Explain the ethical and legal issues that arise in contemporary photojournalistic practice
  • Critically appraise their own images and those of other photographers.
  • Produce a portfolio of high quality images.

Assessment strategy

Students will submit a portfolio of ten images. This will directly demonstrate achievement of LO4 and will also show evidence of understanding of the relation of the work produced to the theory and history of documentary photography and photojournalism (LO1) and legal and ethical concerns (LO2). Students will also produce a critical journal relating to the production of the portfolio, which will demonstrate a critical approach to their own practice (LO3) as well as providing further evidence of the achievement of LO1 and LO2.


Kieran, M (1998) Media Ethics. London: Routledge.
Modrak, R. and Anthes, W. (2010) Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
Newton, J. H. (2001) The Burden of Visual Truth: The Role of Photojournalism in Mediating Reality. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Wells, L. Ed (2002) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge.
Wells, L Ed. (2004) Photography: A Critical Introduction, Third Edition. London: Routledge.
Wheeler, T. (2002) Phototruth or Photofiction? Ethics and Media Imagery in the Digital Age. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Zelizer, B. (2010) About to Die: How News Images Move the Public. Oxford: Oxford University Press.