At the Belfast School of Art we strive to develop unique photographic voices, which sit firmly at the cutting-edge of a contemporary international context, while also mining the specifics of our unique geographical and cultural position.
We have been profiled by the British Journal of Photography as one of the most significant photography schools in Europe. Our graduates work internationally between the book, gallery, web and magazine, continually challenging photography's place within contemporary society and the way we photograph now.
The teaching team is comprised of contemporary practising photographers, writers and thinkers who exhibit and publish internationally. These are Professor Paul Seawright, Ailbhe Greaney, Dr KayLynn Deveney, Ken Grant, and Clare Gallagher as well as two members of the prestigious Magnum agency, Martin Parr and Donovan Wylie. We have a progamme of Guest Lecturers, recently including Hannah Starkey, Guy Martin, and Donald Weber. Throughout the programme students develop an awareness of photography as it exists in a culture of evolving technologies. They are challenged to rethink their practice both visually, theoretically and contextually. Our close links with photographic galleries and photography festivals helps students to build networks and professional practice. The programme is complemented by a series of master classes and advanced skill workshops; an annual field trip to Paris and regular site visits to a variety of cultural institutions such as museums and galleries in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
The MFA Photography has an international reputation and is available for study on campus in Belfast (Thursday delivery) and fully online (eLearning) for students living and working outside Ireland. A Master of Fine Arts degree is a creative degree, which centers around practice in a particular field, in this case Photography. The qualification provides students with a high level of specialisation and allows graduates to teach at University level.
The MFA Photography degree exposes students to key critical debates in photography and offers a dynamic environment in which to develop a major body of photographic work for exhibition and publication. Staff are leaders in the field of photography. Internationally recognised photographers, artists and researchers regularly review student projects, give lectures and critique photographic work.
Guest Lecturers have recently included: Hannah Starkey, Brian Griffin, Mark Power, Anna Fox, Wendy McMurdo, Doug DuBois, Simon Roberts, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Leonie Hampton, Gareth McConnell, Raphael Dallaporta, WassinkLundgren, Rob Hornstra, Raimond Wouda, Lotte Sprengers, Corinne Noordenbos, Stephen Bull, Gerry Badger, Louise Clements, Tim Clark, Adam Murray and Liz Wells.
The course looks to recruit photographers that are serious about challenging their working methods and extending their visual vocabulary. The course has excellent links with galleries and museums and draws on an exemplary network of artists to create a study environment that is stimulating and encourages experimentation.
Structure & content
The programme is delivered through a range of learning methods, including seminars, presentations, tutorials and group critiques, to enable students to acquire the cognitive skills of a self-reflexive independent learner. There are optional exit points for students to exit with a PGDip or MA.
Teaching and learning assessment
The teaching, learning and assessment is developed and delivered through several modes:
The course is orientated around an initial review of student practice and re-visiting key debates in photographic history and theory. This facilitates the development of two project proposals to initially be developed in parallel for review at the end of the first semester.
Weekly lectures and seminars are delivered along with individual tutorials:
To enable you to develop different conceptual models of practice
To enable you to test a variety of different modes of production and resolution
To enable you to extend the parameters of your own research and make use of appropriate methodologies and techniques
To enable you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your practice
Regular individual tutorials provide you with the opportunity to discuss in depth conceptual and practical concerns around your work. They provide an opportunity for a considered discussion of ongoing work and an analysis of feedback and responses to work to date.
Lectures are used to deliver key information and material related to research methodologies and professional practice. Lectures are delivered by staff and invited experts/visiting lecturers from relevant professional fields. Students are expected to use the lectures as a starting point for more intensive and focused study appropriate to their own practice.
Seminars are used to develop your knowledge of, and ability to employ the theoretical tools required for critical analysis in cultural practice. This method of teaching is designed to build confidence in oral communication, and to encourage learning through group discussion and debate.
Student presentations are used to encourage you to undertake independent critical appraisal of your studio practice and its cultural context in order to make use of material presented in lectures and seminars. You are expected to make effective use of research material and to organise and deliver an oral presentation using audio/visual or image/text components.
Studio critiques are used to provide you with an opportunity to evaluate critically the work of your fellow students and to receive critical responses to your own work. Studio critiques are led by a number of core staff and visiting professionals whose role is to encourage the active participation of all students and to contribute to the critical discussion.
These differ from studio critiques in that the generation of the dialogue is led by the subject student.
Feedback is a very valuable element in the course delivery and takes many forms as formative and summative feedback. It is important that you realise that feedback is a two-way activity and that education and art making are part of a continual process of evaluation, feedback and adjustment. This may be between tutor/student, student/tutor, student/student or art-work/artist. Its value is not underestimated and it occurs throughout most forms of delivery but especially in the critiques and tutorials and assessment process.
Exhibition opportunities inside and outside the University are employed throughout the course to extend your understanding of your own practice and professional context.
These include visits to galleries and art events. Field Trips provide important knowledge of art through direct experience and insight into the professional realm.
Demonstrations deliver relevant skills and processes. Technical workshops also include Health and Safety in relation to the operation of machinery and equipment.
Formal assessment takes place at key points within the course and includes assessment of the artwork produced along with written and oral summaries.
Work placement / study abroad
The programme is complemented by a series of master classes and advanced skill workshops; an annual field trip to Paris and regular site visits to a variety of cultural institutions such as museums and galleries in Ireland, the UK and Europe.