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Graduation project 'Thirty-seconds Love Songs' | Kimmo Virtanen Bachelor Photography 2016</h5>

Image: Installation view graduation project 'Thirty-seconds Love Songs' | Kimmo Virtanen, Bachelor Photography 2016,
Winner Photography Department Award & KABK Bachelor Thesis Award, Winner Overduin Award and Winner Steenbergen Stipendium 2016

Within our society, people are increasingly using the medium of photography without worrying about the technical quality of the images. In response, professional photography appears to be moving in the opposite direction. Each genre or specialism is developing increasingly specific requirements. The professional practice of the photojournalist has become more clearly distinguished from that of the conceptual documentary photographer. This trend has emerged across the entire field of photography (including the domain of fictional photography). Young professionals are therefore being confronted with increasingly greater and more specific demands. In order to achieve professional recognition, aspiring photographers should be well informed about how they would like to enter the field and about the platforms on which they can present their work.

In the first year of programme (the propaedeutic year), students receive a thorough introduction to these areas. Thereafter, students choose to complete the remaining three years in either Documentary or Fiction, positioning their work in one of these areas based on subsequent choices.

The department aims to train students to become self-aware and independent photographers, each with a recognisable visual language and personal vision, along with the ability to work independently, as well as on commission. They develop their own concepts and initiate projects. Their motivations, themes and ethical standards are clear to others. They know how to engage their clients or audiences and are creative in finding a business model for their work.

An important characteristic of our programme is that we use the contemporary professional field as central point in our educational approach. Students are given assignments resembling, or based on, professional assignments, and they are usually working on several projects simultaneously. We pay close attention to the ways in which students develop their initial ideas, which ultimately result in a series, complete with all the accompanying production activities. Another characteristic is the strong emphasis that is placed on the development of intellectual and visual qualities. We ask students to approach their subjects with curiosity and an open mind, and then to investigate them thoroughly. This requires an interest in the content, background and diverse ways of representing a subject.

In the process of investigation, students develop their own visual language and discover how their visions on various subjects and on the profession of photography relate to the visions of others. Our goal is to teach students how to become independent thinkers, constantly searching for authentic images from a personal perspective on both the medium and the world.

The dynamic curriculum consists of an alternating series of work discussions, seminars, workshops and lectures. Within a short period, students gain knowledge of various fields and develop skills to operate independently. Because their subjects are often situated outside the academy, students regularly work on location. In the Academy, they practise in studios and darkrooms, editing their images, working on prints and participating in collective work assessments and the preparation of publications and presentations. The students thus do not learn only from their lecturers, but also from their peers. The educational process is dominated by a commitment to continuous effort for research, authenticity, depth and professionalism. It is supported by a programme of electives and guest lectures by as well national as international professionals. Expertise from other disciplines is employed when necessary, allowing students to develop strategies for presenting their work optimally and in suitable contexts.

The primary goal of our programme is to train our students to become the professionals of tomorrow, connecting their own visual language with a professional way of working at an international standard.

Documentary specialisation

‘Documentary’ is the over-arching term that we use for the professional practice of documentary photojournalists and conceptual documentary photographers.

Although the practice of photojournalists differs from conceptual documentary photographers, they have similarities in the way they choose their subjects, either with a general news value or with a specific significance for a target group. This practice is most commonly used to reflect on contemporary history. Photographers specialising in documentary are curious and engaged towards social processes and concrete subjects.

Photographers who proceed from facts offer a window on reality. Subjectivity is essential to their individual styles, however, and position statements are important to the impact of their photography. These photographers must pay attention to the preliminary phase of research. They must read about and empathise with their subjects, consult specialists and tap into new markets.

The artistic autonomy enjoyed by these photographers is closely linked to the policies of the platforms for which they work. Photographers who employ photography as an informative medium focus their loyalty on the user of the photos: the public.

Despite many common features, however, there are clear distinctions between photojournalists and conceptual documentary photographers. Although both disciplines revolve around reality, photojournalism emphasises reporting with direct news value, while conceptual documentary photography is used to reflect on particular aspects of the subject.

Fiction specialisation

At the KABK, ‘Fiction’ consists of all imagery that enlarges reality. Fiction photographers are photographers who produce high-quality work from staged situations or with the suggestion of staging. Most fiction photographers possess an artistic gift for fantasy, having impressive technical skills that allow them to represent their subjects appropriately. They are strongly committed to their assignments, whether at their own initiative or commissioned by others.

The work of fiction photographers is the result of intensive research into the nature of the image in general, and particularly with regard to photographic visual language. It is intended to be distinct within the contemporary torrent of images. For this reason, fiction photographers are increasingly developing their own concepts from which to work. Based on their authorship, they are active in a variety of contexts, which they creatively adapt to suit their needs. They have a rich imagination, representational skills and clear minds. Their work emphasises the creation of concepts and the pursuit of the right visual presentation, combined with sophisticated technical execution. Fiction photographers often collaborate in multidisciplinary teams. We distinguish between photographers who concentrate on staging people and those who concentrate on environmental situations (e.g. mise-en-scène), from tabletop to landscape.

Final qualifications for Photography

Graduates are expected to meet the following qualifications:

  • Students are able to develop and implement distinctive imagery in a meaningful way resulting from their research and artistic ambition (creative ability) 
  • Students are able to contextualise and critically reflect on their own work and on work of others, and they are capable to utilise external feedback and positively implement this in their own work (capacity for critical reflection) 
  • Students are able to continuously investigate and analyse their own ambition, vision and working methods as well as the professional practice around them. Their innovate position constantly challenges the photographic medium in general (capacity for growth and innovation) 
  • Students are able to organise an inspiring and professional working ambiance. They are capable of practically organising their profession and are ambitious in marketing their work (entrepreneurial and organisational ability) 
  • Students know where to reach and how engage their audience and clients. Students are able to present their vision, research and work in a convincing manner, as well written as orally (communicative ability) 
  • Students understand how their work relates to the professional artistic and societal context (external awareness) 
  • Students understand group dynamics and are able to make independent artistic contributions to a collaborative work. Students are also capable of organising collaborating partners for their own practice (capacity for collaboration)


Graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Arts (BA).

Post-graduate studies

After completing the Bachelor’s degree, graduates are eligible to enrol in a Master programme in design (MA Design) or art (MA Visual Arts), another Master programme at an art academy, or the MA in Photographic Studies at Leiden University.

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Last updated: 2016-11-02

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