Course information

Department

Sociology

Length

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

Course overview

Explore the creative interplay between urban theory and the visual representation of urban cultures and places. 

Why study MA Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths

  • Developed by the Centre for Urban and Community Research, the degree encourages creative interplay between practice and theory – you’ll develop your practical photography skills and examine key ideas and debates in the representation and evocation of contemporary city life.
  • You'll have the chance to consider cutting-edge debates in cultural and social theory in a research setting that actively encourages the development of photographic practice.
  • If you are already a working photographer, visual artist or media practitioner, this programme gives you space to reflect critically on your practice.
  • For those with a background in sociology, urban and cultural geography, cultural studies or anthropology, the degree provides an opportunity to combine visual forms of representation with standard forms of research techniques in investigating urban life and the physical environments of the city.
  • The programme aims to link directly to professional research outcomes, and many graduates have secured employment within urban research, ethnography, teaching, curatorial and arts practice, human rights, and architectural research.
  • You'll be joining our world-leading Department of Sociology. We've been rated top 10 in the UK for sociology by QS World University Rankings 2023.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Simon Rowe (Programme Convenor) or the Postgraduate Programmes Officer.

What you'll study

Compulsory modules

Module title Credits
Talking Practice A 30 credits
Cities and Society 30 credits
Through the Lens 30 credits
Talking Practice B 30 credits

As well as these modules, you will complete a Dissertation (60 credits). For the dissertation, you can produce a portfolio of photographic images of the city that become the subject matter for a 5-6,000 word critical discussion, or produce a 12,000 written dissertation.

Assessment

The assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice-based projects or essays/logs, group projects, and reflective essays.

Download the programme specification.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. You will also need to demonstrate proficiency in photographic practice, including familiarity with a 35mm camera and photographic printing. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Annual tuition fees

These are the fees for students starting their programme in the 2024/2025 academic year.

  • Home - full-time: £12520
  • Home - part-time: £6260
  • International - full-time: £22640

If your fees are not listed here, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

It’s not currently possible for international students to study part-time under a student visa. If you think you might be eligible to study part-time while being on another visa type, please contact our Admissions Team for more information.

If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your academic qualifications
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively a copy of your academic reference
  • Copies of your educational transcripts or certificates
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online. Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement
  • An edited portfolio of visual images (as a PowerPoint or PDF file of prints)
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline.

Selection process

As part of the selction process, you may be offered an informal interview with the Programme Convenor.

Find out more about applying.

Staff

Staff who contribute to the programme include Paul Halliday

Workshop tutors include: 

Laura Cuch

Laura Cuch is a documentary and fine art photographer. She completed an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2006 and currently teaches on the Goldsmiths based International Urban Photography Summer School (iUPSS) and on the MA PUC combined with being a visiting researcher in the Anthropology department at Goldsmiths. She has exhibited internationally at Descubrimientos - PhotoEspaña 09, Centro Cultural Blanquerna, Arts Santa Mònica, H2O Gallery, Sala d’Art Jove, Talent Latent/Scan09, Espai Cavallers 31-33 and Emergent09, and has also taken part in group shows in London at the Rich Mix Centre, Photofusion, The Viewfinder Gallery and City University. Her work has been published in Le Monde, Barcelona Metròpolis, El Súmmum, Street Signs and London Independent Photography. www.lauracuch.com

Simon Rowe

Simon Rowe is a visual artist, researcher and photography tutor working mainly with photography and video. He is also a partner in CACAO, an evolving collective of creative artists, social researchers, and educators. Simon holds an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures from Goldsmiths (2007) and is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research. Simon currently holds a part-time position at Goldsmiths as a Visiting Tutor in the Department of Sociology on the MA in Photography and Urban Cultures. Simon’s work has been exhibited in venues in London including Limelight Gallery, International Planned Parenthood Foundation, Stark Gallery, Photofusion, and also at Gallery Hunchentoot, Berlin. From Dec – March 2011 he exhibited a selection of images from his photographic project entitled Wandering Still at the CUCR offices in Laurie Grove, New Cross London.

Britt Hatzius

Britt Hatzius is a visual artist whose practice encompasses photography, film, video and sound. She originally trained as an artist at Chelsea College of Art and Goldsmiths where she completed her MA in Photography and Urban Cultures. Britt teaches on the MA PUC course and PhD in Visual Sociology. She has extensive experience of working with urban ethnographers and researchers, is part of Studio INCITE, and has coordinated various visual research aspects of numerous international projects based at Goldsmiths. She is the former editor of London Independent Photography (LIP) magazine and currently edits the CUCR’s journal Street Signs. www.britthatzius.co.uk 

Peter Coles

Peter Coles is a fine-art photographer, translator and editor and has been a Visiting Fellow in the [Centre for] Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths since 2007. After completing a doctorate in psychology at Wolfson College Oxford, Peter worked for 20 years as a journalist and photographer, based in Paris, publishing in international journals and magazines. As a staff editor and photographer at UNESCO, he travelled widely, specializing in urban ecology, indigenous peoples and small islands. During his years in Paris, he completed a major body of photographs, 'Paris Traces', on abandoned objects, which has been exhibited in Paris, London, Rome, and New York. Since returning to London in 2006 his interests have focused on the urban biosphere. In 2016, he collaborated with the Conservation Foundation to set up Morus Londinium (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) to research, preserve and raise awareness of the cultural heritage of London’s historic mulberry trees, winning a European Heritage / Europa Nostra Award in 2021. His book, 'Mulberry', is published by Reaktion Books (2019).

Suggested reading

Suggested preliminary reading:

Susan Sontag (1977) On Photography. Penguin.

Sontag’s book is considered both controversial and insightful. She brings to the process of analysis a literary sensibility that doesn’t always sit easily with the practice of image-making. The essay In Plato’s Cave (chapter 1), is particularly relevant to a debate about the nature of photographic realism and visual epistemology.

Roland Barthes (1983) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, London, Vintage.

Barthes is best known for his extensive theoretical work around the nature of sign systems (semiotics), ideology and myth. In this beautifully written book, the author re-evaluates his relationship with photography through the autobiographical examination of a family photograph.

A.D. Coleman (1978) Depth of Field: Essays on Photography, Mass Media, and Lens Culture. University of New Mexico Press.

Coleman’s essays touch on ethical debates around street photography (chapter 10), and what he terms ‘the destruction business’ of art criticism (chapter 1).

Graham Clarke (1997) The Photograph. Oxford University Press.

Clarke’s book provides a useful overview of photography from a history of art/visual culture perspective. He covers a wide range of subjects including, what is a photograph? (chapter 1), how do we read photographs? (chapter 2), the city and portraiture (chapters 5 and 6), and the body (chapter 7). There is also a good discussion on the history and theory of documentary photography (chapter 8). This book is very introductory reader.

Sarah Pink (2001) Doing Visual Ethnography. Sage.

Pink’s book is a very good introduction to some of the key debates within visual sociology and anthropology. Her interdisciplinary book covers a wide range of theoretical and methodological issues, and it is recommended that you read the introduction and chapters 1 and 3 which focus on the relationship between ethnography and photography.

Les Back (2007) The Art of Listening. Berg

Back’s approach to visual image-making is based on listening to both photographers and those being photographed. Rather than taking a traditional art historical position of the informed, impartial and expert observer; Back is interested to learn about how photographers interact with their social environments, and how subjects negotiate and establish photographic agency. Chapter 4, (Listening with the Eye) provides a good discussion about an extended photographic encounter in London’s East End.

Caroline Knowles and Paul Sweetman (2004) Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods and the Sociological Imagination. Routledge.

This is a very accessible and relevant text that introduces key concepts around photography, visual methods and the sociological imagination. The introductory chapter by Knowles and afterword by Howard Becker focus on the methodological position of photography and its claim to evidentiality. 20 

Gillian Rose (2012) Visual Methods: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Methods. Sage.

Rose’s book focuses on a critical examination of how photography contributes towards researching societies and cultures. It is a useful introduction to research methods with discussions around photo-elicitation, aesthetics and ethics (chapters 4, 11 and 12). It is helpful to refer to this book in conjunction with Back, Knowles and Pink for a grounding in wider debates within ethnography and qualitative social science.  

Student work

Gasket

Gasket is a photographic collective formed of four Goldsmiths alumni. They have used their experiences on the programme to form a group which has led to various exhibitions, events and workshops around the UK.

Read more

Careers

Skills

This MA develops skills in urban photography, visual ethnography and urban research, communications for urban planning, community arts and visual arts practice.

Careers

Graduates of the programme have progressed to the following areas and careers:

  • Doctoral studies
  • curating
  • public relations
  • urban planning
  • advertising
  • community arts education
  • social research
  • journalism

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.

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