Welcome to the Master’s Degree Programme in Photography at Aalto University! At the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, inspiring teaching combines with a deep understanding of contemporary photography.
Our degree programme offers diverse and inspiring studies in the fields of contemporary photography, documentary photography and artistic research. In our ambitious and professional community, you will develop your expressive skills and theoretical thinking and also obtain a professional qualification for working in the field. The key strengths of our programme are our strong artistic vision and emphasis on visuality combined with our capacity for conceptual thinking.
In the programme, we will support your own personal expression and offer a theoretical foundation for understanding contemporary photographic phenomena. Our broad range of courses include elective workshops on subjects such as practices of documentary and staged photography, experimental studio, moving image, new platforms for photography and various working methods and themes of contemporary art.
Our up-to-date teaching facilities are located in Väre, Otaniemi’s international campus, just an 11-minute metro journey from Helsinki’s central railway station.
Content of the studies
The studies place emphasis on photography as an independent and multidisciplinary expressive tool and seek to develop students' artistic and research-orientated thinking.
The staff and students of the Master’s Degree Programme in Photography form an academic and creative community. The studies require independent work and are full-time. The studies include professional, artistic and research courses, and are composed of workshops, lectures, seminars, independent projects and their personal supervision. As a student, you may also supplement your major studies with courses offered by the Department of Art or with social science, humanities or technical studies from other higher education institutes.
The studies require a suitable background education, an interest in the expressive potential of photography, and personal vision and motivation. The studies enable the development of specialist professional competence, expressive skills and theoretical thinking. The study results receive publicity every year through numerous domestic and international exhibitions, photographic journals and Helsinki School activities.
- Students will obtain the skills for experimenting with different forms of expression and working methods and for developing their own artistic work.
- Students will deepen their powers of expression, their confidence in their own artistic vision and their professional competence.
- Students will receive a broad understanding of the field of contemporary art and visual culture and know-how to relate their own activities to this.
- Graduates of the programme will understand the many different ways of using photography and the specific characteristics of each, and they will also be able to operate independently and professionally in the field of visual culture and fine art.
- Students will have a good command of the techniques and working methods that can support their expressive work.
- Students will be familiar with the different kinds of presentation methods for photographs, as well as different publishing processes and platforms.
- Students will be able to network both nationally and internationally and to present their own expertise to different audiences.
- Upon completion of the studies, students will have the skills needed for engaging in lifelong learning.
- Students will be familiar with the trends and methods used in research on photography and visual culture, as well as their theoretical backgrounds.
- Students will be able to read, analyse and write research texts and use different kinds of the source material.
- Students will understand different kinds of research and writing methods and know-how to apply these to artistic research or other activities.
- Upon completion of the master’s programme, students have the skills for doctoral studies.
Further information about the languages of instruction
The programme is taught in Finnish and English. Students may write their master’s thesis in Finnish, Swedish or English.
The goal of the Master’s Degree Programme in Photography is to help our students to discover their own strengths and to create opportunities for success in a continually changing and developing field. Our programme offers excellent opportunities for working in the fields of photography and contemporary art, and the programme has already become well-known thanks to a number of our internationally successful alumni. A Master of Arts degree also allows the student to apply for postgraduate studies leading to a Doctor of Arts degree.
Master’s degree studies provide you with the skills needed in a diverse range of positions, for example as a photographer, artist, photojournalist, photo editor, photography instructor, researcher, or in various organisational and advisory roles. Graduates of the programme often combine different tasks in their work.
Post-graduate study options
After completing a master’s degree the student can apply for doctoral studies in photography.
The studies aim at giving students the skills needed to work in the international field. Our master’s students come from different parts of the world and the majority of our intermediate and advanced studies are taught in English. Participating in an international student exchange during the studies is supported and recommended. During the studies, it is possible to apply for programmes and workshops, present one’s own portfolio to professionals within the field and submit one’s own artwork to be included in Helsinki School exhibitions.
It is recommended that exchange studies are carried out during the autumn term of the second year. The student also has the opportunity to learn about current international research at the Helsinki Photomedia Conference that is held every other year.
Programme-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria
What we look for in an applicant?
We expect our applicants to have an artistic vision, goal-orientation and development potential and to be able to adopt new perspectives and working methods. In addition, applicants are expected to have strong motivation, co-operative skills and the capacity to commit to full-time study.
- motivation letter (0-3 p)
- portfolio (0-6 p)
In the second stage, the evaluation criteria consists of
- entrance exam assignment (0-3 p)
- interview (0-3 p)
First stage and required application documents
In the first stage of the evaluation, the selection committee evaluates the applications based on the application documents. Study Option’s requirements for the application documents are listed below. Please also note requirements for the application documents presented in the general application instructions. Attach each application document to the electronic application form in PDF form.
The applicant’s name, address, phone number and the major applied for must be clearly visible on the first page of the portfolio. The recommended size of the portfolio is 20–30 pages, and it must be uploaded to the system as one PDF file. A link to a portfolio on the applicant’s website is not sufficient.
The portfolio may consist of photos of individual artworks, sets of artworks, and documentation of exhibitions. The portfolio must showcase the applicant’s previous academic, professional and/or scientific activity in a diverse and comprehensive manner. The applicant may also submit links to video files (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube) with or without password protection as parts of the portfolio. The possible password must be provided in the portfolio.
The title and/or theme of the work, the method of production, the material used, the size, the purpose and the year of completion and, if applicable, the place where the work was exhibited, displayed or published must be mentioned for each work.
The applicant’s curriculum vitae (single PDF-file) with personal data, educational background, work experience, exhibitions, published literature and articles, awards and grants, study trips and positions of trust must be attached to the application.
Applicants draw up a written motivation letter (max 4,000 characters, single PDF file) explaining why they wish to apply to the degree programme in question, what their particular areas of interest in this field are, and what their objectives and hopes are regarding the studies at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Applicants should specify their personal strengths and areas of interest, artistic and design visions, artwork perspectives, and artistic objectives.
Language of application documents
The application documents must be submitted in Finnish (Swedish) or English.
Part of the applicants is invited to the second stage. The invitation to the second stage is sent to the applicants at the latest 7 days in advance.
In the second stage of the admissions procedure, applicants complete an assignment within the given time. The assignment can be written or visual and is based on the provided material. Applicants who are invited to the second stage will be informed about any required equipment individually.
The second stage also includes a 20-minute interview.
In special cases, the interview and assignment can also be carried out remotely.
About the School
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