Lucy Soutter and Anthony Luvera more theory on it than most people’s curricula. It can be tailored around the student’s own research interests so they get to choose what they concentrate on but I think that’s one of the things that is very distinctive about our course because, especially accompanying this push towards internationalisation, a lot of courses have really down played that side of things.
AL: That might provide a number of different career trajectories for the graduates... LS: Well, I think that research is one of the key things that a MA provides and is perhaps one of the most unexpected things for students coming from other contexts. They think they are coming to London to learn technique, or some kind of insider industry tricks, but what we’re really doing is developing them as researchers... I think for the vast majority of people making a living in and around photography they can expect to have porfolio careers where they are doing lots of different things. Even if someone has a successful gallery or commercial practice they might still be doing talks or writing or teaching.
AL: Yes, our course is designed as a two year part-time flexible residency degree, delivered online or on campus, or a mixture of the two, depending on the individual student’s needs. This is so we can enable people who would like to study but who already have existing careers. These careers might not necessarily be in photography. They might come from gallery education, community organising or social work, or have other family or life commitments so full time study is prohibitive. LS: It’s very important that an MA is for someone who is ready and willing to work in an independent way, to take responsibility for their own learning and who already has some ideas about what they want to be doing.
AL: Absolutely, the idea of setting up a Photography and Collaboration MA was to provide that starting point for the student to focus on that field of practice, whether that be within the broader fine art world, community work, education or the social sciences. LS: I’ve been really struck, teaching in this country, how differently the world of photography and contemporary art are. In the States photography is generally taught much more unproblematically as an area of art practice. Documentary and artistic practices have rarely been seen as mutually exclusive. So I was very surprised coming to work here that photography was so often taught within media or communications departments rather than within art departments. I’m very pleased to be teaching on a course where we don’t have to draw a distinc-
Photography Arts MA students in a work-in-progress critique session with Senior Lecturer Ulrike Leyens (centre in striped shirt).
tion between photography as art or not art.
AL: In a similar kind of way at Coventry there is a broader range of research centres and clusters within the faculty of Arts and Humanities including the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, and an MA called Collaborative Theatre Making. This sets up the students to take part in a broader discussions that relates to different forms of social engagement and ways of working collaboratively that can support their practice. LS: Do we have any advice for people thinking of doing an MA?
AL: I think it’s really important when students are looking to do an MA that they answer some questions for themselves about their readiness. Do they have research project that they want to develop or complete? Something that could really benefit from the support and facilities and resources that the course will be able to offer? And when looking for the institution to study with, spend time finding out about the people teaching on the course. LS: And to look at some student work... See if they could picture themselves alongside some of those other student projects. Certainly we don’t have any kind of house style but we do cultivate ways of thinking and writing and talking about work that will either appeal to prospective students or not and it’s important that they inform themselves so that they choose a course that feels like a good fit for them.