Photography | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Photography: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all majors. For this Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, you will take courses in several different areas, including a core focus, adding up to 120 total credits required for graduation. 

Required Courses - These are the core courses that every Furniture Design student takes.

Foundation Studies - These classes help you become a well-rounded student; they build a solid art background.

Studio Electives - Throughout your studies you can choose from several studio electives that give you hands-on creative time. 

Humanities and Sciences Electives - These classes round out your experience at MCAD, deepen your creative practice, and fulfill non-studio requirements for a degree.  

Learning Outcomes

  • Reference photographic history and theory, the relationship of photography to the visual disciplines, and the central position of photography in twenty-first-century visual culture.
  • Demonstrate skills in the use of photographic tools, techniques, technologies, and processes sufficient to work from concept to finished work.
  • Explain aesthetic and commercial applications of photographic techniques.
  • Exhibit professional practices in terms of workflow and project management, including exhibition design, photobook production, and internet display.

Core Required Courses

36 credits

PH 2000 Photography 1
3 credits

This class introduces students to important ideas and work from the history of photography as a means of contextualizing and articulating their own work. Utilizing both a digital and analog workflow including 35mm film and darkroom processes, Photography 1 moves from camera operation through Photoshop processing to various output formats from web to paper. Emphasis will be placed on the way decisions made at each step of this process contribute to photographic form, function, and meaning.  Photography 1 consists of technical demonstrations, readings, visual lectures, and group and individual critiques.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1

PH 3015 Photography 2
3 credits

This course is a thorough exploration of the materials, processes, and techniques of analog photography. Students acquire a thorough working knowledge of roll film and large-format photography. This course emphasizes advanced understanding of negative exposure, film processing, tonal-range manipulation, digital scanning, and large-format output. Contemporary issues and concepts are explored through reading, visual research, and discussion and then applied through a series of visual problems. Students are evaluated on individual projects, critiques, a final portfolio, discussions, and quizzes.

Prerequisites: Photography 1

PH 3035 Documentary Style
3 credits

This course is an introduction to documentary traditions and contemporary considerations in photography.   Students access difficult subject matter and learn the ethics of real-world engagement through several long-term projects undertaken in the course. Students learn to research and write about their subject matter while using DSLR, analog, or video cameras to complete their assignments. Historical and contemporary issues are explored through readings and discussions. Students are evaluated on individual projects, critiques, a final portfolio, discussions, and quizzes.

Prerequisites: Photography 1

MA 3045 Studio and Set
3 credits

This course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of the aesthetic, technical, theoretical, and conceptual issues related to artificial lighting used in the various aspects of still and moving image production. Technical information covered includes portrait lighting, studio set lighting, architectural lighting, electronic flash, continuous light, camera movement, blocking for actors, and color compensation. In addition to the technical and practical aspects of this course, students are expected and encouraged to develop a personal aesthetic and a conceptual foundation for their images.

Prerequisites: Photography 1, or Introduction to Animation, or Introduction to Film, or Web + Screen

PH 3055 Photographic Systems
3 credits

This course is designed to develop and expand the strategies of photographic representation through projects, readings, writing assignments, critiques, and visual image presentations. Photography is explored as a visualizing medium for related fields: sculpture, performance, literature, science, psychology, social media, etc. Contemporary interest in the materiality of photographic processes including non-camera image making and abstract photography are also explored. Attention to display possibilities as a means to construct context and shape meaning is emphasized. Digital and analog imaging techniques introduced in Photography 1 are further explored.

Prerequisites: Photography 2, may be taken concurrently

PH 3060 Digital Photography Studio
3 credits

This course provides students with an opportunity to extend their knowledge and expertise of digital image making beyond what they have applied in previous photography classes. Through a series of in-depth demonstrations and lectures, students examine advanced issues of image capture, image enhancement, and image output. The course contains a series of assigned exercises and projects including a semester-long photographic portfolio project.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 2

MA 4000 Professional Practice: Media Arts
3 credits

The primary focus of this class is to provide media arts students with the tools that will enable them to enter professional practice immediately following graduation. Each student is required to produce a polished resume, artist statement, website, professional identity system, and portfolio. Topics include long-range goal creation and planning; financial, legal, and other business considerations; grant writing; and communication and marketing skills involving verbal, written, and visual presentations. Topics are presented through lectures, critiques, and presentations by experts in the field.

Prerequisites: Junior standing

varying Internship or Studio Elective
3 credits

Choose to pursue an internship or an additional studio elective

PH 5010 Advanced Photography Seminar
3 credits

This course is designed to enable and support students working on independent projects in photography. Students are encouraged to articulate concerns and shape them into a body of work. Appropriate advanced technical skills and readings are introduced with particular attention to verbal and written critical skills. Critiques, image lectures, discussions, technical demos, student presentations, journals, and exhibition/publication submissions encourage individual investigation and creative expansion.

Prerequisites: Successful Junior Review

PH 5100 Senior Project: Photography
6 credits

During senior year, each media arts major is required to develop and complete a substantial body of work in their major. This course provides a forum for the critical evaluation of this work and curatorial guidance in preparation for the Commencement Exhibition. Course content includes critical readings, position paper, individual and group discussion, school presentation, and informational meetings.

Prerequisites: Successful Junior Review, senior standing

Photography Studio Requirement (select one)

PH 3050 Photo Book
3 credits

The central goal of this class is the understanding and shaping of photographic meaning through book conception and production. Projects and exercises develop skills in sequence, image layout, image and text relationships, and physicality. A major portion of the class is devoted to producing a book of one's own work. Creative use of page layout software, refinement of digital printing techniques, and the use of online publishing software are explored. Activities also include critiques, image and book lectures, technical demonstrations, field trips, and student presentations.

Prerequisites: Photography 1

PH 3070 Expanded Processes
3 credits

This course concentrates on hand­coated photographic prints using historic and contemporary chemical recipes and high UV light sources, including the sun. Using large­-format negatives, students utilize a variety of processes, including cyanotype, salt print, palladium/platinum print, gum print, and liquid light. Emphasis is placed on chemistry, safety, and the relationship of print syntax to photographic meaning.

Prerequisites: Photography 2

Foundation Studies

19 credits

FDN 1111 Foundation: 2D
3 credits

Foundation: 2D is an introduction to creative thinking that develops students’ skills in research, observation, interpretation, and self-expression. An emphasis is placed on exploring new ways to read and see the world, as well as new ways to report on it. Students learn basic two-dimensional principles through the use of various media, tools, materials, and processes. As a result, students develop a visual and verbal language for analyzing, organizing, shaping, and communicating two-dimensional form and meaning.

FDN 1112 Foundation: 3D
3 credits

This course is an introduction to understanding of visual creation for the development of knowledge, imagination, and perception. Students are introduced to basic three-dimensional concepts as well as materials and technical production processes. Classroom activities include shop demonstrations of tools and techniques, information, lectures, and discussions appropriate to promote the balanced fusion of practice and theory.

FDN 1211 Foundation: Drawing 1
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 1 is an introductory drawing course designed to prepare students for study in all majors of the college. Students develop basic drawing skills, including the ability to perceive and express visual relationships, organize a two-dimensional composition, and depict and manipulate form, space, and light. Students work from direct observation of still life, interior space, and landscape.

FDN 1311 Foundation: Media 1
3 credits

Students are introduced to digital resources at MCAD while exploring digital media. Areas covered include the Service Bureau, Gray Studio, and Media Center, along with other digital resources. Students use a variety of software and hardware to learn the basics of working with recorded media, including video, sound, and photography, as well as developing critical language for discussing media and media artists.

FDN 1312 Foundation: Media 2
3 credits

Building on the knowledge acquired in Foundation: Media 1, this course engages students’ skills in observation, recording, editing, critical analysis, and conceptualization within media arts. Through discussions, lectures, and creative projects, students explore various modes of media presentation and the power of moving images and multimedia work. Using digital technologies to deepen their media and technology foundation, students explore complex concepts and techniques for creating impactful work.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1

FDN 1411 Ideation and Process
3 credits

Everything we make has its beginning as an idea, which takes form as an artist/designer makes a series of decisions to guide its creative evolution. This course is designed to help students explore the development of new ideas and their own process of making. Students also create visual tools to track their creative process from idea through construction and then to post production analysis. The course consists of discussions, critiques, exercises, and visual logs.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

FDN 1412 Sophomore Seminar: Contemporary Practice
1 credits

Practice is more than working methods: it’s the context, marketing, and creative space that maintain creative work. Contemporary Practice introduces students to the foundations, variety, and tools of a professional practice. Students upgrade websites and documentation, enter contests, and create professional presentations of their work. Classes consist of lectures, student presentations, and guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

Studio Electives

26 credits

varying BFA Studio Electives

Choose BFA studio courses to take as electives; amount determined by your major.

Humanities and Sciences

39 credits

AH 1701 Introduction to Art and Design History 1
3 credits

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the major stylistic, thematic, cultural, and historical transformations in art history from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. This course helps students develop critical tools for the interpretation and understanding of the meaning and function of art objects, architecture, and design artifacts within their original historical contexts. Class sessions consist primarily of lecture with some discussion.

AH 1702 Introduction to Art and Design History 2
3 credits

This course introduces students to issues in modern art, popular culture, and contemporary art and design. Topics may include the expanding audience for art, the transformation of the art market, the impact of new technologies, the changing status of the artist, and the role of art in society. This course is taught as a seminar with some lecture.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design History 1 or faculty permission

EN 1500 Writing and Inquiry
3 credits

Key to the creative and critical growth of the engaged, successful artist is participation in a culture of writing and inquiry. Students in this course focus on the kinds of writing they will encounter and produce in their coursework at MCAD and as creative professionals. Regular writing workshops allow students to concentrate on experiential and practical approaches to writing. Students explore a variety of texts and objects through class assignments, and then develop clear compelling essays employing a variety of rhetorical and narrative strategies.

varying Creative or Professional Writing
3 credits

Creative or professional writing elective

varying Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning
3 credits

Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning classes increase students’ appreciation for the power of scientific and quantitative approaches to knowing the world.

varying Histories, Places, Philosophies
6 credits

6 credits of histories, places, philosophies electives

Cultural Awareness Requirement (select one)

AH 4731 Art in the Age of Empire (1789-1949)
3 credits

Using a global and historical perspective, this course examines the rise and spread of European colonialism and its impact on artistic practices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Through a series of case studies, students will explore the ways in which European forms of image-making underwrote and facilitated the colonial project and the multiple modes through which picturing practices offered a venue for both colonizer and colonized to articulate, define, and forge political and social relationships. In each case, indigenous and hybrid forms of art-making will be highlighted alongside European forms in order to understand how the visual arts served as an expression of identity, cultural belonging, and self-fashioning. Topics will be explored by urban centers: Paris, Algiers, Shanghai,
Mumbai (Bombay), Cairo, Istanbul, Port-au-Prince, New Orleans, and other sites.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and a 3000-level AH or HU course, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4325 Native American Art
3 credits

Most Native American tribes do not have a word in their languages for “artist,” yet the arts are a living part of both daily life and ceremonial tradition. Focusing on the works of selected tribes, students in this course look at Native American art, architecture, and aesthetics. Emphasis is placed on the nineteenth century to the present. The impact of outside forces on continuities and changes in traditional forms is also explored. Classes are primarily lecture with some discussion. 

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4722 Asian Art History
3 credits

This course examines the art of Asia from its beginnings to the present day. It involves a regional approach, focusing on representative works from India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. While regional characteristics are emphasized, cross-cultural influences are also studied. Through a variety of media, including sculpture, architecture, and painting, students gain an understanding of the broad themes and concepts that run throughout Asian art. Students consider the role of religion, for example, and gain a basic comprehension of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, and Shinto. The structure of the class includes lectures, large and small group discussions, and visits to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4725 Islamic Art
3 credits

This course will examine Islamic art and architecture through religious, historical, political, and cultural practices from the seventh century to the present. Combining a thematic approach (such as kingship, gift exchange, identity, etc.) with the more traditional chronological and geographical approaches, this course will trace the visual and material culture of Islam and its global influence

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4728 African American Art
3 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the visual art of African Americans from the Colonial period to the present. The course examines a variety of visual media from painting, sculpture, and photography to popular culture objects and mass media images. In addition, students critically examine the ways in which the constructed meanings of "blackness" intersect with representational practices of gender, sexuality, and class, as well as the training and education of artists, public and private patronage, and the history of arts criticism and art history. Class sessions include both lectures and discussions.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HS 4729 Art and Globalization in the Atlantic World
3 credits

This course examines the impact and effects of globalization on the visual culture of the Atlantic world (defined by Europe, Africa, and the Americas) from the period of the Columbian encounter to the contemporary moment. Students examine the circulation and exchange of goods, ideas, knowledge, culture, and peoples across the Atlantic world through an investigation of visual representations, performance, and collecting practices. The course narrative is guided by thematic issues of gender, race, the politics of display, and national and cultural identities, tracing the movement of visual cultures across the Atlantic through individual case studies. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

HU 4511 History of Jazz
3 credits

Duke Ellington once said, “the pull of jazz music in American culture is so strong that no one can resist it.” Jazz is truly an American treasure that has influenced other cultures around the globe. Yet most Americans know very little about its history. This class explores jazz from its roots to its most current forms. Hear the music, study its contributions, and explore the cultural patterns and trends that surround its development. Class sessions are a mix of lecture and discussion, with some demonstrations of performance styles. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 3627 Queer Media
3 credits

This course uses standards for information and media literacy (from the Association of College and Research Libraries and others) to explore issues related to queer identities, representations, methodologies, theoretical applications, and interpretations. Using the framework of literacy as a benchmark, students learn how to read "for and from the queer" in a variety of media.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 4630 Race and Ethnicity in the United States: A History
3 credits

Race and ethnicity have played significant, complicated, and more often than not misunderstood roles in the United States’ history. This course surveys the ways race and ethnicity have been constructed and understood by Americans from the colonial era to the present, focusing on the ways that class, gender, culture, and politics, as well as biology, have defined race and the way race and ethnicity have supported ideologies that have been used to both empower and subordinate the peoples of the United States. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HS 4916 Literature of the Americas
3 credits

This course offers students a hemispheric perspective on the study of literature, focusing on a range of works from underrepresented, marginalized, and outsider authors in the Americas from the nineteenth century to the present. Students have an opportunity to challenge conventional categorizations of writers from across the Americas—not just in the United States—by fostering transnational and transhistorical perspectives while considering concepts including identity, race, citizenship, hybridity, and nationhood.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HS 5010 Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar
3 credits

The Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar enables students to pursue their own research and writing goals within a seminar setting. Projects are student-originated and consist of both a written piece and a public presentation. Class sessions are discussion-based and interactive. Group learning is emphasized

Prerequisites: Completion of Cultural Awareness Requirement (4000-level course), Junior standing

Art Historical Contexts Courses (select one)

AH 2101 Interrogating Post Modernity: The Fine Arts Since 1945
3 credits

This course introduces students to global fine arts production (drawing, painting, sculpture, artists’ books, performance, public, and socially engaged) since 1945. Using a series of case studies this class examines the historical, theoretical, and aesthetic developments in and relationships between fine arts media. Students engage with a combination of primary and secondary texts, apply visual analysis skills, contextualize artworks, and investigate various political and aesthetic points of view. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2103 Applied Arts and Designed Objects
3 credits

This course traces the history of applied arts and designed objects through furniture, products, packaging, and multidimensional forms of graphic design. Students examine applied arts and designed objects as part of an evolving human culture of habit, convenience, and status. Various movements and styles within the histories of design genres, as well as the processes and manufacturing of consumer objects are considered.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2105 Print Culture, Art, and Communication in the Age of Mass Reproduction
3 credits

Since the advent of print and the printing press, text, image, graphic design, comics, and advertising have played significant roles in cultural formation. This course examines the history of mass reproduction of printed matter from the advent of modernity, including books and periodical designs, to the present. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2107 Photography, the Moving Image, and Digital Culture
3 credits

The production and reproduction of static, moving, and digital images have grown from work produced by an exotic technology used only by specialists to a socially ubiquitous representational form that generates millions of images, clips, cartoons, gifs, shorts, and films daily. This course surveys the development of (re)produced and moving images from their commercial applications, entertainments, and art to the all-pervasive media in which our popular cultures and artistic cultures exist. Individual artists and makers, as well as their works and contextualized movements within changing technological, economic, and institutional frameworks, are considered. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission
Total Credit Hours
120