Postgraduate MA

Socially Engaged Photography

School of Arts and Media





One year

Two year

Next enrolment

September 2020


In a nutshell

Photography has become the most pervasive medium through which individuals share their lives on a daily basis. This new programme explores the power of photography when working with real communities to co-author meaningful culture.

This course will be delivered through a partnership between University of Salford and Open Eye Gallery. You will work with active practitioners and academics to rethink the role of photography in society today, to develop your creative practice and your professional profile.

The course will give students support in producing creative projects with both arts and non-arts commissioners in mind, exploring how to create socially engaged art that is meaningful to both audiences and participants. Students will develop and deliver live projects with partners working in health, youth, community and justice, all embedded within a critically engaged and ethical framework.

We will provide professional practice surgeries, from understanding legal, ethical and safeguarding frameworks, to developing your professional profile, the latter including a free year-long membership and digital profile awarded by partner Axisweb.

You will have opportunities to engage directly with national debates and Open Eye Gallery’s national network for socially engaged photographic practice.

You will:
  • Develop career-enhancing theoretical and practical knowledge and skills.
  • Undertake a profile-raising practice-based research residency and showcase with Open Eye Galley.
  • Validate your artistic practice within a bespoke national network.

students accepted

This is for you if...


You have a commitment to your ongoing career as a practising artist


You have a background in creative skills and an interest in utilising photography


You have worked within a social or community-based setting

Course details

All about the course

This is one of the first MA programmes in socially engaged photography worldwide. Socially engaged photography practice focuses on the process of building relationships with communities. The photographer’s practice is developed through this process - they bring their creative expertise together with the life experience of communities to co-author culture.

This programme is part of a new group of four programmes, each dealing with the principles of socially engaged practice across various mediums. Students will share a number of modules across the wider MA programme, encouraging different disciplines to engage in collaborative practice, experimental learning and critical debate. Across all programmes, students will learn key research concepts, practice based approaches, ethical considerations and methods.

Whilst on this programme, you will have opportunities to develop your practice and critical framework through live projects and critical thinking. You will also participate in active debate around photography’s socio-political history, art theory and photography’s current position within today’s digital society. You will benefit from both the academic rigor of University of Salford and Open Eye Gallery’s track record of facilitating professional programmes with communities.

You will receive gallery support and be in regular contact with the Open Eye Gallery team, including the curator, director, and creative producer. There will also be an opportunity to exhibit at Open Eye Gallery in a socially engaged photography group show. The course is designed to enable students to graduate as professional artists, curators, producers and creative practitioners. It is open to both photography graduates and humanities or social science graduates with a strong photographic portfolio.

This course embraces a range and diversity of practices and aims to:

  • Provide the skills needed to professionalise careers through embedded creative placements and live projects with industry and community organisations.
  • Develop creative, critical, analytical and intellectual competencies appropriate to Masters level degree study, which is informed by current industry practice.
  • Develop advanced understanding of research methods in the context of contemporary art & design practice and to understand how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research
  • Enhance your knowledge and understanding of professional, contextual and collaborative frameworks appropriate to their experiences and objectives by establishing intellectual debate to enable the articulation and dissemination of their propositions.
  • Assist students at an advance level in developing bespoke approaches to co-authoring culture with communities, understanding complex strategies for process-based collaboration, and embedding appropriate methodologies to validate your practice within critical frameworks relevant to the community and both art and non-art world commissioners.


Semester one

Creative Research Methods

This module focuses on the understanding of and the application of a range of practice based research methods. You are initially encouraged to develop an individual line of inquiry that will be explored through a variety of creative research methods of which you are supported through lectures, seminars and tutorials.. This module has 2 assessment points at week 6 and 12 and submissions will generally be project based (70%) with an underpinning written component (30%).

Exploring Theory and Practice

This module deals with the theoretical and practical issues faced by practitioners in the context of socially engaged practice and the creative and cultural industries. The module supports you in developing new ideas through research and practice and through an appraisal of the context in which they operate. Particular emphasis is placed on contexts that emerge from international perspectives and from contemporary debates around creativity and collaboration.

Semester two

Developing Socially Engaged Photography Practice

This module looks at the agency of photography now, its position alongside text and the written word as the main medium by which people curate and share their lives on social media. It provides historical and theoretical knowledge from socially engaged practice as well as an exploration of ethical considerations and guidance upon developing individual approaches. You will take part in workshops and seminars focusing on methods of engagement and collaboration and how these impact upon your own creative practice.

Real World Context

Through the Real World Context module you will undertake a placement in a relevant work place to gain new experiences and test out developing ideas and activities. The creative and cultural industries embrace a range of professional subjects. Given the transversality of these industries, it is important for you to have sufficient knowledge about the sector and its wider contexts, enabling you to identify and acquire professional skills within and across relevant sub-sectors. It is also important to enable you to understand and have experience of working in a multidisciplinary environment and an international context.

Semester three

Definitive Practice

The aims of the major project are to offer you the opportunity to critically engage in a major project in which the emphasis will be on defining and analysing through action research, and developing a constructive practical response to a line of inquiry or research question while formulating your own resolutions or conclusions from your body of work. The culmination of this module could be a community based event or presentation of a sustained body of activity within a particular setting. During the major project you are provided with a supporting supervisor, in developing concerns and practice-drivers accrued throughout your programme, via a programmed series of tutorials. Individual tutorials and peer interaction/group discussions are integral to the development of the major project.

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What Will I be Doing?


Practical projects


Reflective writing


Presentations and exhibitions


This course uses a range of teaching and learning settings including lectures, seminars/workshops, tutorials, situated learning (e.g. ‘live’ projects) and independent learning. The combination of these aims is to develop an environment that allows you to progressively take ownership and direction of your learning so that you may develop as independent, life-long learners. The process of master's level study, relating to an individual and independent arts practice, is one of dense critical self-reflection; this is achieved by including self-directed projects where you have the opportunity to negotiate your learning and assessment requirements.

You will take five core modules and will study one day a week. Full-time students will have concentrated module delivery in both the morning and afternoon. If studying part-time, you will have concentrated module delivery in the mornings alongside full-time students.

Indicative to the course are:

  • formal lectures
  • seminar presentations
  • workshops
  • critical analysis and independent learning

Award specific learning activities include exercises; team and peer-based learning, studio practice and critical seminar-events, site visits, visiting professionals, work placements, online activities and critical debates.


You will be assessed throughout the course on:

  • Body of work and contextual research: e.g action research/publication/exhibition etc.
  • Reflective journals: log or sketch-book/statement/critical writing/seminar or other presentation*

All submissions are comprised of a body of practice plus a contextual and critical research portfolio, and reflective logs/journals and case studies. As the ‘thesis’ is embedded in the action research there is no requirement for a separate, written dissertation - although you may elect to do so, if appropriate, by negotiation with final award Course Team.

*You can negotiate the format of your submissions, in response to the needs and priorities within your practice, and in line with contemporary professional practice habits.

School of Arts and Media

The School of Arts and Media is the largest School at the University of Salford with more than 4,000 creative students. Across sites at MediaCityUK and the University's Peel Park campus, we offer a huge variety of courses, from fashion image making and styling, television and radio, creative writing and music to journalism, animation, design and performance.

This broad range of disciplines offers enhanced opportunities for specialist and interdisciplinary study, including collaborative work across subject areas.


Students working on site have access to their own studio space. You will also have access to facilities in New Adelphi Building.

These include:

  • 2D and 3D printing facilities
  • 3D workshop
  • Fibre workshop
  • Photography studio which includes a lighting set-up
  • Computer suites
  • Gallery spaces

You will be inducted into the workshops, which covers how to use all the machinery, by trained workshop technicians.

Employment and stats

What about after uni?

This course is built around preparing students for a career in the arts, applying your expertise in socially engaged photography and visual representation to real life projects. Graduates may join Open Eye Gallery’s Associates programme, meeting with fellow practitioners to share learning, best practice, and opportunities for collaboration.

Those leaving the course may choose to develop specialist knowledge in specific settings such as prisons, youth centres, hospitals and schools. There will be opportunities within the course to look specific routes to establishing professional practice and profile in these areas.

Photographers/artists leave the course as professional freelancers, understanding the opportunities to work in a variety of formal and informal project settings, including residencies. They will have an understanding of both arts and non-arts funding opportunities and a similar range of commissioners, as well as approaches to profile their work and develop useful networks.

The school co-ordinates a range of enterprise projects and initiatives that can benefit graduating students, in order to assist their career opportunities or routes into self-employment.

Graduates from this course pursue professional practice via a range of enterprise, employment and self-employment strategies and contexts. Continuing practice-based and driven research is supported via MPhil/Phd courses at the University of Salford.

Graduates can become associate members of the School of Arts and Media Research Centre or other research centres as appropriate to individual practice drivers.

A taste of what you could become

A freelance photographer

A creative producer

A creative educator

A lecturer

A curator

Career Links

This course is delivered in conjunction with Open Eye Gallery.

Since 2016, Open Eye Gallery has been leading Culture Shifts, a programme of socially engaged photography projects spanning Liverpool City Region. It began with eleven photographers working with seven communities across the region, including a support network for young people identifying as LGBTQ+ and women with protected characteristics. So far, it has resulted in eight exhibitions (with an audience of over 40,000), hundreds of workshops and a new digital platform for sharing sequences of images, PhotoStories. Open Eye Gallery also programmed two daylong industry events: a national gathering of leading socially engaged photography practitioners and a public symposium on how public art organisations can foster useful collaborations with other civic institutions, including healthcare commissioners, police and community organisers.


What You Need To Know

Applicants are required to present a portfolio (or equivalent) at interview. Applicants are also asked to provide a short 250-word statement describing their practice to date and motivations for studying Socially Engaged Photography.

English language requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.5 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Standard entry requirements

Standard entry requirements

To join this MA you should have a second class honours degree, 2:2 or above.

Alternative entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home/EU 2020/21 £7,920per year
Full-time international 2020/21 £14,670per year
Full-time international 2021/22 £15030per year
Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Apply now

All set? Let's apply

Enrolment dates

September 2020