Master Photography & Society Year Review 2018-2019

In September 2018, Photography & Society started with fourteen photographers, researchers, anthropologists, artists, designers, scientists from all around the world: Chris Becher, Alexander Cabeza Trigg, Gita Cooper-van Ingen, Walter Costa, Guglielmo Giomi, Mads Holm Jensen, Marica Kolcheva, Dmitry Kostyukov, Nola Minolfi, Ana Nuñez Rodriguez, Olga Roszkowska, Shadman Shahid, Thijs van Stigt and Asya Zhetvina.

In this article, we provide you with an overview of the various experiments, challenges and inquiries our new Master Photography & Society has been up to, over the course of its first year of existence.

Studio I: The Liquid Image

Studio I, Photography & Society, 2018-2019
Ana Nuñez Rodriguez, Studio I, Photography & Society, 2018-2019

6 Weeks, Semester One, led by Shailoh Phillips and Adam Broomberg

Studio I has been a crash course introduction into the contemporary landscape of photography. To get into the habit of reading and making, each of the six weeks comprised of a manageable amount of reading together with a practical task.

False Positives

In this collective publication, produced right after concluding Studio I, students explored the field of tension between what photography claims to be able to do, and the many ways in which it fails to live up to these expectations.

False Positives publication Photography & Society 2018-2019
False Positives publication

Network Week

During the first week of November 2018, the students of Photography & Society were able to make multiple visits into the professional field in The Netherlands. With a combined 80 different possible studio-visits, students picked several and, together with our BA Photography students, gained valuable insight into the working life of various photographers, such as Vivane Sassen, Jaap Scheeren, Sjoerd Knibbeler, and many others. During the Professional Friday, portfolio-reviews were conducted with over 20 professionals who visited the academy, offering critique and feedback into the students’ works.

Studio II: Photography as Social Practice

6 Weeks, Semester One, led by Andrea Stultiens

Studio II, Photography & Society, 2018-2019
Shadman Shahid, Studio II, Photography & Society, 2018-2019

Given the position photographers have, in Photography & Society we find it important to think through our own role as an image-maker in relation to the roles we allow other people to have. The process of making, and the ambiguous assignment ‘to be social’ turned out to trigger many more insights.

Studio III: Platforms of Visual Resistance

12 Weeks, Semester Two, led by Henk Wildschut and Oliver Chanarin

With the working-class suburb Duindorp in The Hague as a starting point, students were encouraged to engage with the citizens of the neighborhood as audience for their work. In the bumpy ride this studio offered, we have made the following discoveries:

  1. Empathy is overrated, but action is not.
  2. You are the first audience of your own work, and that work needs to be public.
  3. We are not solving a problem, we are expressing an attitude.

Studio IV:Graduation Ecologies

4 Weeks, Semester Two, led by Alice Twemlow and Judith van IJken

In anticipation of next years’ Masters project, we took time to have each student map out the contours of a research territory. Alice’s class focused on how to identify a research topic that is urgent, timely and personal, and guided students in the refining of their research questions, methods and theoretical concepts. Judith's class cantered on the photographic practice, focussing on working methods and the structure and documentation of the artistic process.

Flows: The Ugly – Aesthetics and Politics of Taste in Photography

Flows, Photography & Society, 2018-2019
Mads Holm Jensen, Flows, Photography & Society, 2018-2019

Year long, Semesters One and Two, led by Ali Shobeiri

We examined why the ugly is continually preserved, represented, and endorsed in current photographic practices. This culminated in a series of photographic projects that critically engaged with the ugly, thus showing its transgressive and subversive potentials in contemporary photographic discourses.


Theory: Ethics and Aesthetics of Existence and Research: Reading, Writing, Research

Year long, Semesters One and Two, led by Thomas Bragdon and Shailoh Phillips

Theory, Photography & Society, 2018-2019
Dmitry Kostyukov and Asya Zhetvina, Theory, Photography & Society, 2018-2019

How to conceive of photographic practice as a societal practice?

When the act of making photos is central, but also the building of networks in communities outside of the art world, organizing participative projects, providing narrative contexts for imagery, and positioning in debates in the discourse of photography is crucial.

Students discussed, read and wrote about societal topics such as photography and (non-)citizenship, digital imagery and robotics, and socially participative art forms. We developed research methodologies, wrote research proposals and practiced writing skills in various writing styles.

Throughout the year, we programmed a wide range of workshops covering everything from technical skills to week-long, intensive sessions with renowned practitioners. The workshop program affords student to seek and expand upon knowledge from across the academy and fosters collaborations with other MA programmes and students.

Selection of workshops:

Admission Day and Spring Fauna in the Patio

For the next student cohort starting in September 2019, we received well over 100 applications. During our Admission Day, candidates partook in a workshop on collaboration and editing by our current Photography & Society students. The Belgian photographer Max Pinckers made his way to The Hague for a Lunch Lecture. The day was concluded with Spring Fauna in the Patio, hosted by our students, where home-cooked paella was served. For the next academic year, we have invited thirteen students to join the programme: welcome!

Collaboration with FOMU (Photography Museum Antwerp, Belgium)

How can photography function as a tool for environmental change? What is the role of photographs in political debates? Can photography be empowering in difficult social situations?

We team up with FOMU to help them re-launch their photography platform, now to be both a digital resource and a printed magazine published by Fw:Books and FOMU. The completely revised (English!) edition of 2019 will evolve around the topic of IMPACT and will be launched at Paris Photo in November 2019.

Impact talk at Temple Arles Books

Adam Broomberg and Hannah Darabi talk about impact in their practices, moderated by Donald Weber. Wednesday July 3, 15.00-16.00hrs, Temple Arles Books

Upcoming year

In September 2019, we start our second year of Photography & Society. We look forward to see our first cohort of students graduating in June 2020. Other highlights will be a Fall fieldtrip to Warsaw, and a symposium on IMPACT early November 2019. We will keep you updated!

Photography & Society educates socially-engaged photographers of the 21st century, who possess an active interest in the technological, political, environmental and social role of the photograph. We advocate for radical change in the discipline itself by looking into possible strategies, which aim to empower documentary as a field of knowledge and practice of social engagement.

Curious for an impression of our aims and scope of study? In February 2019, our student Gita Cooper-van Ingen conducted a Q&A about Photography & Society with our teachers Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin, Donald Weber and Shailoh Phillips, published in Der Greif. Read the article