Studio Photo 02: Beyond the Surface

Studio brief

This studio will focus on current developments in the photographic industry. It will explore and experiment with a range of critically challenging approaches to fashion, editorial, documentary, advertising and commercial photography, giving you an in-depth understanding on the creation, distribution and consumption of contemporary imagery.
The surface of a photograph might hide the conceptual nature of what’s going on beneath it: photography is a medium that intertwines fantasies and narratives beneath what is presented in each frame. We’ll investigate the construction of images and the development of narratives within contemporary contexts of fashion, editorial, documentary, advertising and commercial photography. We’ll analyse how photographers often combine artistic practice with commercial work and the necessity of establishing one’s aesthetic identity. We’ll equip you with a solid grounding in historical and sociological aspects, guiding you to scrutinise the relevance of gender, race, diversity, ethics, politics and media influence in the current evolving panorama of image creation, distribution and consumption.
You’ll have the freedom to choose your medium, from large format analogue to video production, from inkjet printing to online platforms and you will be encouraged to work cross-media to achieve your singular photographic approach. Through lectures, seminars and workshops you will be guided toward developing and defining your own photographic aesthetic, producing a substantial body of work that will lead you toward graduation and industry experience.
Beyond the Surface will engage with both analogue and digital photography, giving you the freedom to explore a variety of relevant industry fields. Outputs will include cross-media practices with an emphasis on experimentation, including magazines, books and newsprint production as well as moving image and online outputs. Research and project development will be supported through an intense programme aimed to provide conceptual awareness together with practical skills. The studio will be divided in thematic subgroups for practical seminars and workshops; it will also cover aspects of professional practice such as marketing, branding, portfolio development and working with clients. There will be specific workshops and seminar tasks aimed at developing research expertise, technical proficiency, transferable and employability skills.

Year 2 group project

You will work in small groups, each tasked with producing a magazine. You will learn how magazines spreads are constructed, both online and in print, and how stories are narrated within the different contexts of commission-based photography.
The project will be centred on magazines as a case study. You will learn how magazines spreads are constructed, both online and in print, and how stories are narrated within the different contexts of fashion, editorial, documentary, advertising and commercial photography.
You will experience working in teams, collaborating to decide the artistic direction of your magazine. Each group will research and analyse the roles of editors, art directors, stylists, photographers, agents and modelling agencies. After collective debate, each student will contribute with one editorial (an eight-page spread) and each group will collectively present a magazine, which could take print or online form.

Personal project (Years 2 and 3)

Through a self-directed project you will position your practice within current industry developments. You will focus on developing your individual signature style, building your own shooting team and gaining industry-standard skills. Through your research and project proposal, you will produce a minimum of five spreads of eight pages each (or equivalent), presenting an outcome that will be in the form of a portfolio of prints, magazine, video, moving image, online platform or a combination of these.
You will have the opportunity to create, situate and display your work, placing it in the public domain, such as: 
  • portfolio development and participation in portfolio reviews
  • exhibitions at The Cass
  • pop-up exhibitions and pop-up magazines sales
  • participation in Berlin Fashion Film Festival (via submission)
  • independent magazines (via submission)
  • internships (via application)
  • Metro Imaging mentorship

Field trips

Autumn trip: Photo Vogue Festival, Milan, November 2018. This will include a visit to the festival and various galleries and studios in the city.
Spring trip: The Photography Show – NEC Birmingham, 18-20 March 2018.
Students will have access to a range of expertise and resources to support their aesthetic and professional development though technical workshops and practical/research seminars. Methods and techniques introduced in Year 1 will be expanded and you will learn advanced skills.

Technical workshops

  • digital workflow and post-production
  • fashion photography: composition and studio lighting
  • portraiture: composition and studio lighting
  • still life and advertising: composition and studio lighting
  • documentary: composition & shooting techniques
  • location lighting (mixing daylight and flash)
  • street photography
  • shooting large format
  • experimental analogue techniques
  • creating magazines layouts in InDesign
  • video shooting, lighting and editing


  • research methodologies and text analysis
  • magazines analysis, development and planning
  • reading an image and constructing narratives
  • exhibitions display and critique
  • art direction and styling
  • pitching your style: working with clients, finding commissions, liaising with agents and building your team
  • portfolio preparation and reviews
  • how to write a CV and cover letters
Portrait photograph of a woman


Course Fashion Photography BA (Hons)
Photography BA (Hons)
Tutors Paola Leonardi    
Heather McDonough
Where Calcutta Small Annex, Ground floor, CSG-06
When Monday and Thursday

Fine Art