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Documentary Photography and Visual Activism (BA)

Our Documentary Photography and Visual Activism degree 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.

“The new course in Documentary photography & Visual Activism at Swansea College of Art UWTSD rightly challenges documentary photography norms and embraces expanding its meaning, a perfect fit for this moment in time as documentary photography is being transformed by digital technology, social media and new means of distribution.”

Michelle Bogre, Professor Emerita, Parsons School of Design, NYC and author of the new book from Bloomsbury Press, Documentary Photography Reconsidered: Theory, History and Practice.

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Documentary Photography and Visual Activism (BA)

Apply via UCAS

How to apply

All applications to study for a full-time undergraduate degree programme are made through UCAS - Swansea College of Art UWTSD is part of University of Wales Trinity Saint David

All our course come under the institution code T80

Visit the University's apply section to find out more.

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Tuition Fees 2020/21:
£9,000 (Home/EU)
£11,850 (Overseas)

5 reasons to study this course

  1. Innovative approach to Photojournalism & Documentary
  2. Great links with industry specialists and practitioners
  3. Small & friendly class sizes & easy access to up-to-date equipment
  4. Regular visiting lecturer programme
  5. Opportunities to work with local charities, community groups and other clients on live briefs

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What you will learn

Course Overview

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, our 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.

We have 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, our 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.


Module Topics

Level 4 Modules (year 1)

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.

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

Level 5 Modules (Year 2)

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.

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

Level 6 Modules (Year 3)

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 launchpad for graduates’ careers. The year culminates with exhibitions in both Swansea and London.

Level 6 Modules

  • Major Project
  • Independent Inquiry
  • Professional Promotion
  • Advanced Creative Enquiry

Assessment varies according to the module and ranged from portfolios, exhibitions, written assignments, blogs and presentations.

Our Facilities, Graduates and Industry Links

Student and Swansea Life

Key Information

Entry Criteria

The Documentary Photography and Visual Activism course is open to those with an interest in the media, politics and social change, and that some previous knowledge of photography is advantageous but not essential.

We are interested in creative people that demonstrate a strong commitment to art and/or design and therefore we welcome applications from individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. To assess student suitability for their chosen course we arrange interviews for all applicants at which your skills, achievements and life experience will be considered as well as your portfolio of work.

Our standard offer for a degree course is 120 UCAS tariff points. We expect applicants to have a grade C or above in English Language (or Welsh) at GCSE level, together with passes in another four subjects. Plus we accept a range of Level 3 qualifications including:

  • Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, plus one GCE A-Level in a relevant academic subject
  • Three GCE A-Levels or equivalent
  • BTEC Extended Diploma in a relevant subject, with minimum grades of Merit
  • International Baccalaureate score of 32
  • Other relevant qualifications can be considered on an individual basis

Qualifications are important, however our offers are not solely based on academic results. If you don’t have the required UCAS points then please contact the courses admissions tutor or email artanddesign@uwtsd.ac.uk as we can consider offers to applicants based on individual merit, exceptional work, and/or practical experience.

See our Interview Guide for more information.

Additional Costs

Our students have access to a diverse range of equipment and resources, which in most cases are sufficient to complete their programme of study. We provide the basic materials necessary for students to develop their practical work within our extensive workshop and studio facilities.

However, it is likely that art and design students will incur some additional costs to extend their investigation of their personal practice. For example, purchasing their own specialised materials and equipment, joining in optional study trips, and printing. 

Students are expected to bring their own personal art and design equipment with them when they commence the course.  We can advise on the correct equipment needed for your programme of studies and signpost appropriate suppliers if you wish to purchase essential items before or during your studies.  

A basic ‘art and design kit’ will cost approximately £100 but you may well already have much of the equipment required so check with us first.  Also, although we have extensive dedicated digital design studios (PC and MAC) for you to undertake your coursework you may wish to bring your own digital devices, again check with us first before making a purchase. 

Depending on distance and duration, optional study visits can vary in cost from approximately £10 to visit local galleries and exhibitions to £200+ for overseas visits – these costs cover things like transport, entry to venues and accommodation and are normally at reduced rates for our students.

Bursary / Scholarship Information

You may be eligible for funding to help support your study. To find out about scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities that are available please visit our Scholarships and Bursaries section.

Study Abroad Opportunities

During your time with us, you will have the opportunity to study abroad with the Erasmus exchange programmes currently running with Universities in Norway, Barcelona and Sweden.

Study Abroad 
Students can also take up the opportunity to study a semester in the USA and Canada.


In addition to our University Accommodation at Llys Glas, Swansea also benefits from a number of private student halls, all within a short walk, including:

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