module specification

SM5072 - Documentary Photography (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Documentary Photography
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
25 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
80 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 85%   Portfolio consisting of 10 images of publishable quality
Coursework 15%   Critical reflection of no more than 200 words per image on each image contained in the portfolio
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module aims to provide students with a rigorous understanding of the history, theory and practices of documentary photography, and to enable them to develop key photographic skills pertinent to the practice of documentary photography. The module will introduce students to the history, theory and practice of contemporary documentary photography. The module is slanted towards practice, and provides an opportunity for students to develop photographic skills or enhance their existing photographic skills, as well as their understanding of 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 on their own practice as documentary photographers.


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 photography. The module engages with contemporary trends and practices, including consideration of ethical and legal constraints on the practices of documentary photographers. 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 Outcomes LO 1 - 4

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Weekly sessions will provide students with critical feedback on their work and will introduce students to areas of the theory, history and practices of contemporary documentary photography. Each week also includes a practical photography session, in which students will have the opportunity to develop their photographic skills and practice. Web based resources will be used, in addition to print based materials, to enable students to access a broad range of materials pertinent to the subject. Students are expected to devote time to developing their practice in between weekly sessions in order to obtain a substantial body of material that can be used to develop their final portfolio.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will be able to:
1. Position contemporary documentary photographic practices within historical and theoretical contexts.
2. Explain the ethical and legal issues that arise in contemporary documentary practice
3. Critically appraise their own images and those of other photographers.
4. Produce a portfolio of high quality images.


Wells, L. Ed. (2004) Photography: A Critical Introduction, Third Edition. London:
Modrak, R. and Anthes, W. (2010) Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Other Texts:
Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography. London: Quadrille.
Berger, J. (2008) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
Bohm, D (2010) A World Observed: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm. Manchester: Philip
Wilson Publishers.
Durden, M. (2014) Photography Today. Phaidon.
Freeman, M. (2013) Michael Freeman’s Photo School: Street. Lewes: ILEX.
Kieran, M (1998) Media Ethics. London: Routledge.
Larsen, J and Sandbye, M. eds. (2014) Digital Snaps: The New Face of Photography. London: IB Tauris.
Newton, J. H. (2001) The Burden of Visual Truth: The Role of Photojournalism in Mediating Reality. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Sutton, D., Brind, S. and McKenzie, R. eds. (2007) The State of the Real: Aesthetics in the Digital Age. London: IB Tauris.
Wells, L. Ed (2002) The Photography Reader. 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.

British Journal of Photography
Photography and Culture
Visual Sociology

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