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PhotographyBA (Hons)

This programme is designed to provide you with the skills, knowledge and experience to become a highly skilled, creative and distinctive professional photographer.

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Course details


Important You can read a comprehensive guide to this course containing full details in our Course Information Guide.

The programme provides you with a broad knowledge and experience of photography and post-production techniques across a range of genres, approaches and contexts. The photography degree is designed to provide you with the skills, knowledge and experience required to become a confident and successful image maker within photography, creative media and fine art. Photography is an exciting creative profession that is continually undergoing changes in response to significant technological developments and the resulting demands from both established and new emerging media that enable creative content to be widely distributed and consumed by a potentially vast audience.

Talented and skilled photography graduates are continually sought to provide the industry and fine art sectors with fresh ideas, new perspectives and innovative approaches to creative problem solving in visual communication. The programme aim is to develop and refine distinctive aesthetics that will engage audiences who have increasingly sophisticated levels of visual literacy. Whilst on the programme you will engage with experienced lecturers who come from a wide range of creative and professional disciplines enabling you to increase your technical ability, expand your commercial, cultural and critical understanding of the photographic world and most importantly, enable you to develop your own personal ideas.

Year one

Year one offers an introduction to photography and its key concepts, themes, genres and approaches. You will receive both practical and theoretical teaching in lens-based media alongside historical and contemporary studies and cultural theory. You will gain a wide range of skills to underpin their study, offering you the opportunity to develop an awareness of photography and its uses in contemporary media, art and society whilst acquiring additional skills in communication, presentation and problem-solving.

Year two

Year two builds upon the skills and knowledge you will acquire during the first year, with emphasis on developing a deeper understanding of ideas and concepts. This will be a time for you to work on more self-directed projects taking your practice in particular directions. You will work on 'live' projects to enable you to gain work experience and develop industry contacts, alongside entering national professional photographic competitions. You will also explore personal career development and the relationship between commercial practice and other visual arts.

Year three

Year three places particular emphasis upon independent learning and the ability to take responsibility for managing your own personal development and planning for your chosen career pathway. These skills are key to supporting your final major project and dissertation. You will complete a substantial body of photographic work that will be presented in an exhibition. You will also work on producing a professional photographic portfolio that is to be supported by a website and other marketing materials that will help you secure employment or further your studies.

The programme is a member of the Association for Photography in Higher Education (APHE).

What's covered?

Year one units

Explore and experiment

This unit aims to introduce a diverse range of practical research and other techniques that support innovative ideas generation, visual exploration of ideas and concepts, experimental image creation (with and without a camera), and encourage you to reflect on your work regularly to refine your production and presentation techniques. These skills will be acquired through a series of practical workshops and set tasks that offer exposure to a wide range of digital and analogue materials, techniques, processes and procedures, but with the emphasis being on experimentation with the medium’s qualities and exploration of the creative potential of these aspects.

Historical and contextual studies

This unit offers a broad introduction to contemporary and media development of cultural studies and its link into more traditional art and design movements. Focusing on theoretical methodologies, you will explore areas of contemporary interest relevant to art and design, at the same time linking and comparing these with historical developments in these fields. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the subject but to introduce you to sufficient themes and discourses within this area of study for you to explore areas of personal interest.

Visual persuasion

This unit aims to introduce you to historical & contemporary critical thinking and visual practice in relation to constructed imagery. Reference will be made to a varied selection of artists, designers, advertisers, film makers, graffiti artists and others, who use visual media to communicate specific ideas and concepts in order to sell products, influence voters, campaign for, or against, a topical issue (social, political or moral), to educate, entertain, or simply express themselves.

Fashion and identity

This unit aims to foster an understanding of the fundamental forms and characteristics of fashion and trends across a broad range of contexts. The central focus of this unit is specifically related to the image and representation of identity and social applications, e.g. portraiture, visual typologies, documentary, commercial and fine art. The theoretical, cultural, aesthetic and ethical aspects integral to genres of photography that inherently feature documentation, typology or imagery of groups of people, other individuals and self will be studied and reflected upon.

Photojournalism and documentation

This unit will explore a genre of photography that has had an impact upon society and culture, either historically or from a more contemporary viewpoint. The unit will require you to analyse how photography influences us and how it may have informed us or changed our world view. Through a combination of textual analysis and critical review, you will be required to demonstrate an effective overview of the contribution of photography to the character of today’s society.

Cinema and the constructed image

This unit aims to introduce the concept of narrative in photographic contexts and examine the role narrative can play in single image and moving image in documentary and storytelling contexts. The cinematic image will be explored through the study of historical and contemporary paintings, films and photographs, examining how the intended message is represented and intended meaning understood by the viewer within a diverse range of contexts. The key roles and responsibilities associated with image-makers, ‘clients’ and audiences is to be reflected upon.

Year two units

Time and memory

This unit aims to build on the foundation of theoretical, historical & contextual study of photography from the first year of study and encourage you to adopt as good practice the routine embedding of these important aspects into your working practice in order to be able to realise critically informed creative work. It consolidates some of fundamental theoretical debates and related contextual considerations through research and study of historical and contemporary visual and textual references that are associated with still and moving image photography.

Sound and vision

The unit helps you to gain confidence, develop the ability to conceptualise and visualise. You will then experiment with, and select, the most appropriate equipment, materials, techniques and processes to realise distinctive photographic imagery. Two assignment themes are used to stretch and challenge the way you interpret briefs, seek understanding of concepts and gain inspiration, prior to project development. These themes (sound & vision and the unseen photographer) are deliberately open, inviting you to be imaginative and daring. This will encourage you to use a more conceptual and critically aware approach and be more autonomous through your responses to a diverse range of non-visual stimuli.

Professional development project

The unit introduces the theoretical aspects of working as a professional photographer or as an imaging-professional, supporting image-makers or working with images in some other capacity. You will study the methods photographers use to approach clients and pitch for work. These include; negotiation skills, how to interpret briefs, estimate, plan and organize photography jobs. You will learn how to practice developing ideas for projects that consider the client’s requirements for a brief, who your target audience is and the context of final usage. You wlll relate this to the photographer’s vision & technical abilities. This will ensure you understand what is required of you in order to ensure professional standards are met. You will also create images that will be submitted to student photography awards.

Professional studies

The unit will allow you to develop an insight into the vocational and professional aspects associated with photography and related arts or media sectors, with the longer-term aim of highlighting potential job roles that could be worked towards in your final year. You will be supported in negotiating opportunities for suitable work experience, assisting, internships, or interview meetings with practitioners that are of specific relevance to you. This will provide an opportunity for you to undertake primary research, gain valuable first-hand experience and insider knowledge of what it is really like to work in the industry.

Cultural contexts and dissertation proposal

The purpose of this unit is to assist you in developing appropriate research, statistical and critical methodologies to support your dissertation, and construct an appropriate proposal for your dissertation. You will be required to engage with a range of critical and analytical methods; to consider your underlying assumptions and to assess your limitations.

Work placement

This unit will provide the opportunity to develop an understanding of working as a photographer in a commercial setting. Following the delivery of relevant theory, you will work with an ‘approved’ client’ or obtain work experience practicing your newly acquired skills on a ‘live’ creative brief, gaining first-hand experience of collaborative working, communication within a professional context, interpreting a professional creative brief, generating ideas and technical solutions (problem solving) and producing photographic images that are technically, conceptually and aesthetically competent, as well as being fit for the intended purpose and context.

Year three units


The dissertation provides you with the opportunity to work on a sustained and self-defined piece of critical writing. You will develop an extended line of enquiry into an area of interest which impacts on or relates to your artistic or design practice. The dissertation will test powers of research, observation, data collection, analysis, understanding, organisation and presentation. It will draw on research and analytical skills developed in previous semesters of study to produce a report of depth that demonstrates an ability to work independently.

Refinement of photographic intentions

This unit will encourage you to investigate a range of new approaches to self-generated ideas, challenging individuals conceptually and refining your professional practice to develop practical skills. Throughout the unit, exploration and experimentation is essential and you will be encouraged to collaborate with peers and others to build confidence and stretch your abilities. Research methodologies and reflective skills will aid the development of a wide ranging body of works exploring personal interests with refinement for Subject Realisation.

Subject realisation

This unit will provide a platform for you to produce an extended body of imagery that could well constitute a significant proportion of your professional photographic portfolio. You will focus on professionally identifying, defining and developing their specialism, individualism and personal identity within your work. This body of work should show an advanced level of practice conceptually, aesthetically and technically. It will consolidate the learning delivered during the programme, and you will implement and synthesise a range of skills and knowledge, culminating in a sophisticated outcome reflective of the course content and your specific interests and expertise.

Professional development and portfolio

This unit is designed to focus on the development of your personal, transferable, specialist and employability skills to meet the demands of professional practices in contemporary photographic and imaging roles. The unit provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your learning and plan a personal career strategy. The reflective process involves critical analysis that will enable you to consolidate thoughts on your development throughout the programme of study to date and assist you to identify potential progression routes that are viable and appropriate.

Work placements

Work placements are encouraged throughout the duration of the course. However there is particular emphasis on this aspect during year two in relation to the Work Placement unit. On this unit you will work towards securing a work placement for a minimum of 60 hours over the year. Some students take this in one block others over a number of weeks, both in term time and during the holiday period; this is usually negotiated with the placement provider. You will be assisted in gaining a placement, however the emphasis is on you to secure it as part of this unit. Should you not be able to secure a placement a suitable live or competition brief may be taken on to fulfil the requirements of the unit. This live brief will be negotiated with your unit Leader.


Timetables are normally available one month before registration, though we endeavour to let you know an outline as soon as possible. Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week. Typically year groups are expected to attend for 13 hours a week spread over two and a half days. We expect students to build on this learning through Independent Study for at least a similar period. For this time we usually have space available within the campus or at the Forum in Southend.


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops, which enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of the discipline of Photography.

You will use industry-standard Macs and film scanners with Creative Suite software and will have access to various facilities including Darkrooms, Printmaking & Photographic studios. You also have access to 3D applications should you decide to work with mixed media. You will be introduced to a wide range of industry standard camera and lighting equipment including:

  • 35mm film cameras
  • Medium format film cameras
  • Large format film cameras
  • Full frame DSLR cameras
  • Medium format digital cameras
  • Professional studio flash lighting
  • Professional continuous lighting
  • Professional Super8 Cine

Emphasis is upon small group delivery in lectures and seminars. A key aspect of study is the opportunity to engage in academic debate through group critiques to deconstruct student work in progress. Equipment induction and technical workshops form an integral part of the course, using our well-equipped photographic studios, black and white darkrooms and digital editing facilities. Teaching methods involve demonstration, seminar activity, problem-solving, lectures, personal enquiry, and research. One to one tutorials are conducted throughout the course and are integral to the close support network that we can provide.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations. A range of excellent facilities, including the library, the Learning Resource Centre and the Forum, supports your independent learning.


The College has a permanent gallery space and students have the opportunity to organise and participate in exhibitions in preparation for the final year exhibition at venues such as Brick Lane in London as part of the Free Range series of graduate shows.

Field trips

You will have the opportunity to engage with numerous field trips, including The Photographer’s Gallery, Saatchi Gallery, Michael Hoppen Gallery, National Portrait Gallery Tate Modern and many more.

Contact hours

13 hours per week, over two and a half days in years one and two, and over two days in year three.

How will my work be assessed?

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including portfolio and sketchbook submissions, group presentations, written essays and research folders. There are no examinations.


You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.

We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment. For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Major Project unit.

What can I do after this?

The programme will give the range of skills and understanding to enable you to progress onto a variety of visual career pathways such as photographic assistant, freelance and self-employment as commercial photographers, post production and image retouching, picture researchers, gallery curation and fine art practice and marketing roles.

Following the degree, you may also wish to study at postgraduate level.

Additional costs

In addition to the course fees, there will be other costs associated with studying on the programme such as photographic materials (film, photographic paper etc.) and in-house/externally supplied printing and photocopying, alongside field trips. This amount will vary depending upon the materials and techniques which you choose to use and the locations visited. As you progress on the programme there will be an expectation that you will purchase a professional portfolio and appropriate presentation materials.

Graduate destinations

Previous graduates are working for magazines, photo libraries, within the fashion industry, press and music industry and events. Many graduates also set-up their own successful businesses. Employers include the NHS and Bonhams auctioneers.

You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:

  • At least two A-levels
  • BTEC/UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma/Diploma/Subsidiary Diploma/Certificate [RQF]
  • BTEC National Award/Certificate/Diploma [NQF]
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma (minimum of 15 credits at merit or above)
  • International Baccalaureate
  • AQA Baccalaureate
  • Progression Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma

You will also need GCSE English at grade C (old specification) or Grade 4 (new specification) or above OR a Level 2 equivalent such as functional skills qualification.

You will also be required to undertake a portfolio-based interview. Portfolios should include examples of recent project work and may reference a variety of media.

Exceptional Entry

Applications from mature students who do not possess the entry requirements as listed above, but who possess related professional experience or professional qualifications are welcome to apply. You will need to demonstrate by interview, exceptional entry portfolio (this is likely to include evidence of paid or unpaid work experience) and/or written assessment that you are suitable for the course.


Open Event - Higher Education Degrees, HNCs & HNDs

Saturday, 05 October 2019

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Our Higher Education Open Events are held at the Southend Campus on Luker Road. These events are the perfect opportunity to find out all you need to know about degree, HND and HNC courses on offer at South Essex College.


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The following course-related costs are included in the fees:

  • Third Year students will show their work at an industry event such as Free Range, this will be covered by the Faculty of HE but may incur additional costs (ie: printing) depending on the work you produce
  • International trips to European cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Budapest may be planned within your second year of study. The cost of travel and accommodation will be covered by the Faculty of HE
  • Venue Southend Campus
  • Starts Monday, September 30, 2019
  • Attendance Full time
  • Duration 3 years
  • Provision Higher Education
  • Cost £8000.00
  • Cost details Fees are per academic year for home and EU students.
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