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University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Documentary Photography and Visual Activism (Swansea College of Art)


Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) - BA (Hons)

Entry requirements

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About this course

Course option


Full-time | 2021



The Documentary Photography and Visual Activism course at Swansea College of Art UWTSD teaches students traditional, practical documentary and photojournalistic skills alongside contemporary strategies for becoming visual activists, who empower their subjects whilst engaging with communities and networks to raise awareness about inequality and injustice as a means for social change.

As visual activists you will challenge the conventions of documentary photography and photojournalism, develop an awareness of whose story you are telling and how you are telling it, be fully engaged in investigating the subjects which inspire you, and become advocates for the causes that you are most passionate about.

This course embraces documentary photography in its broadest sense, and encourages experimentation with multimedia, installation, exhibitions, workshops and participatory projects to develop your own unique style of visual storytelling.

As well as working with local community groups supporting refugees, asylum seekers and BAME youth groups, students have worked with Women’s Aid, Race Council Cymru and LGBTQ+ charities to develop collaborative projects addressing contemporary social issues.

Aided by a wide range of practical workshops you will be encouraged to experiment with the medium of photography to develop your own unique style.

There is a regular programme of visiting lecturers and specialist workshops that provide our students with invaluable networking opportunities with professional organisations, such as Canon, Getty, Sunday Times and local galleries, museums and archives that equip our graduates with essential skills to progress in their careers.

As well as working as freelance photographers graduates go on to a wide range of successful careers, including jobs in documentary, editorial and commercial photography, picture editing and research, curating, publishing, journalism, and teaching.


Level 4 Modules (Year 1)

Photography Production
Citizenship, Democracy and Documentary
Visual Studies 1
Ways of Thinking
Community and Activism
Individual Practice
Visual Studies 2
Ways of Perceiving

In your first year you will be introduced to key theories, concepts and ethical debates surrounding photojournalism, documentary and activism. You will explore how the medium has developed historically and investigate where it currently sits within our contemporary visual culture. You will apply your theoretical and critical understanding of the subject to practical projects, initially from assigned briefs before moving increasingly towards self-directed projects. In the second semester students take up a placement with a local charity or community group and investigate further the role photography can play in social change. Your technical development will be supported by a range of workshops which continue throughout the year.

Level 5 Modules (Year 2)

New Documentary Strategies
Collaborative Photographic Practice
Visual Enquiry 1
Research in Context
The Radical Voice
Professional Practice
Visual Enquiry 2
Research in Practice

In your second year you will be encouraged to further experiment and challenge the conventions and traditions of Photojournalism & Documentary photography, with a focus on innovation and developing new approaches to the medium. These self-directed ideas will form the basis of a self-published book project, and a collaborative off-site group exhibition. There is also greater emphasis on developing links with external clients and community engagement.

Level 6 Modules (Year 3)

Major Project
Independent Inquiry
Professional Promotion
Advanced Creative Enquiry

The third year is predominantly self-directed and enables you to adopt a more independent approach to your work. You will further develop external projects to enable you to produce work in real-world contexts, either for professional clients or for public exhibition, workshops or community projects. The main focus of this year is the major practical project, theoretically underpinned by a written dissertation. The Professional Promotion module involves investigating professional and entrepreneurial opportunities and acts as a launch pad for graduates’ careers. The year culminates with exhibitions in both Swansea and London.

Assessment methods

Assessment is carried out through coursework, both written and practical. There are no exams on this course. Students are formatively assessed throughout a module, summative assessment takes place at the end of a module. A variety of teaching and learning methods are used throughout the course which include:


Usually at the start of a scheduled contact period, lectures will generally consist of a formal presentation giving information relevant to the module, accompanied by visuals, and followed by a screening or group tutorial/activity.

Group Tutorials

Depending on the cohort size, module content and individual lecturer preferences, these are usually in groups of no more than six students at a time and delivered over a set period.

Individual Tutorials

Most often scheduled for level 5, level 6 & level 7 students, individual tutorials offer a more focused and in-depth opportunity for student feedback and development of ideas. Most often arranged in relation to individual practice modules such as Student Led Projects.


Group critiques are scheduled regularly for all year groups. For level 4 these often form part of the assessment at the end of short projects, for levels 5, 6 & 7 they are scheduled for the purpose of interim reviews and work-in-progress feedback, involving student participation and peer criticism.


Delivered to teach specific skills to students, group size will depend on subject and room size, can include project work. These are not usually formally marked, but can be subject to group criticism, and informal feedback will be given.


Formal presentations by students to peers and staff are used for research and development through to finished work. Students usually begin doing presentations at level 4 in small groups to build confidence in the process. There are then assessed research presentations to peers at level 5 and Major Project Presentations to staff and other year groups in level 6 & 7. The presentation is an ideal vehicle for developing individual confidence and transferable skills.

The Uni

Course location:

Dynevor, Swansea


School of Fine Art and Photography

TEF rating:
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