Photography 2: The Self and the Other

Course Level: 2 (HE5) | HE Credits: 60 | Approx. Duration: 15 months at 10 hrs/week


Photographic representations inherently hold various and often conflicting meanings within them. Photographs are polysemous and therefore it is imperative for photographers to have an awareness of the implications of their (often subconscious) practice in order to steer the interpretation of their work and avoid unintended outcomes. This unit considers the complexity of issues that are automatically raised when a photographer takes on the task of representation. Whether it is a decision about representing oneself or others, this unit aims to enable you to do so in an analytical and concerned way. Being aware of the debates surrounding topics such as the body, feminism, environment, race and cultural identity will better equip you to produce ethically considered and well thought through imagery.

This unit follows naturally on from Photography 1: Identity and Place (although this is not an essential prerequisite) allowing for further research into the themes of identity in contemporary photographic practice. It will be an opportunity to examine topics such as multiculturalism, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism and semiotics in greater depth. In order to introduce you to these ideas, basic photographic theory will be referenced in this unit. Theoretical movements and texts will be explored with regards to their relevance and impact on photographic representation. You will be encouraged to continue looking at photography and to read widely, ensuring that theory is situated well in practice. As you discover the integration of theory and practice you will uncover a wealth of photographic breakthroughs, which are pertinent to this area.

You will develop a critical and experimental approach to your photography. As you continue to hone your visual and conceptual framework through personal expression you will be encouraged to draw upon your own experiences in the production of your work. This unit will provide a platform for developing your personal voice in a knowing and concerned manner. Through projects, assignments and contextual research you will be building autonomy and confidence in pursuing self directed projects.

Throughout the unit you will be invited to show increasing autonomy in your learning and are expected to interact with the wider community of students at the OCA.


The course aims to:

  • A1 provide the support for you to learn and develop creative visual and conceptual strategies in contemporary photography
  • A2 inform you of the wider contexts (social, philosophical, cultural, political, ethical and economic) that relate to contemporary photography and the representation of cultures and identity
  • A3 equip you with the necessary skills to produce visual material, synthesise ideas and effectively realise and resolve previously conceptualised ideas
  • A4 build upon your critical, analytical, evaluative and reflective skills
  • A5 help you explore your personal voice as an independent practitioner and develop your visual, oral and written communication skills.


On successful completion of the course you will be able to:

  • LO1 demonstrate detailed knowledge of visual and conceptual strategies in the representation of people and cultures and be able to explore your own critical photographic projects (A1, A3)
  • LO2 demonstrate an awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts that surround the representation of cultures and identity, and be able to discuss relevant ethical perspectives in relation to your own practice (A2)
  • LO3 explore and realise a range of ideas and creative starting points, and exercise judgement in the production of visual material (A1, A3)
  • LO4 manage learning resources, conduct self-directed contextual and visual research, and be able to appraise your progress with increasing confidence (A4)
  • LO5 increasing autonomy and a developing personal voice, and exercise your communication skills confidently and interact effectively within a learning group (A5).

Course syllabus

  • Representations of identity
  • Multiculturalist theory: Race, gender and sexuality in imagery
  • Simulations of reality
  • The cultural significance of signs (semiotics)
  • Text and Image
  • Psychoanalysis and photography
  • Post-structuralism in photography