The Photography PhD


If you have an MA and would like to undertake a PhD in Photography there are currently three different approaches available-

1).   A written PhD research study based on historical, theoretical or critical notions of practice or archives and collections. This follows a conventional Art Historical model.
2).  A PhD programme of study that combines practical photographic work with a textual thesis. In this model the practical work is seen as a focused and integrated part of the overall methodology with which to address the ‘research question’
3).  PhD by published work. This is appropriate when a student has already published (or exhibited) a significant body of work. This work needs to have been ‘peer recognised’ and its submission is accompanied by a much shorter text placing the work within a critical and analytical framework.

Within these broad parameters an individual research programme is developed between the prospective student and their supervisors.

These programmes' offer photographers and other practicing artists the opportunity of developing a programme of study at the highest academic level. The PhD represents the ‘gold standard’ award in British Universities and is an essential qualification in terms of obtaining research funding and increasingly, academic and teaching posts. For any photographer wishing to interrogate their practice or to develop a body of work within a critical, academic environment the PhD provides an opportunity to focus on the development of a body of work at the highest level.

PhD study is not for everyone - many artists and photographers feel that the limits placed on their creative work are difficult to accept. Nevertheless, for those wishing to develop their critical language and understanding, post – graduate programmes such as the PhD offer challenging routes through which to engage in photographic practice at the highest level.

Previous PhD students include -

Michele Allen

Title of Thesis:  A pratical investigation into the common ground between subjective documentary practice and non-gallery arts practice with reference to the Locus+ archive.


Michele Allen’s practice-based research examines the relationships between site-specific and documentary photography. This is an AHRC-funded collaborative project in partnership with Locus+ arts commissioning agency ( ). Locus+ has a long-established history of supporting innovative and non-gallery arts practices in the North East of England, and Michele has benefitted greatly from access to their archive and expertise. Major outputs from the research include While Reason Sleeps, a new series of photographs looking at the visual relationship between Victor Pasmore’s controversial Apollo Pavillion and the surrounding housing in Peterlee New Town.

Paris Petridis,
Title of Thesis:  Landscape as 'Manscape'.

Epirus, Greece, 1997.

Epirus, Greece, 1997.

Paris Petridis is a photographer working with landscape. His research focuse ons his practice and its concern with the cultural significations of nature’s triviality and the ways in which its common place(s) can be internalised. Working exclusively along the road, this ongoing project depicts ordinary landscapes as no man's land—an allegory of personal displacement—or, inversely, as a metaphor for our unattainable detachment from nature.

Matt Hearn
Title of Thesis: A curatorial case-study of the ‘Locus+ Archive’ exploring the emergence of non-gallery based practices and focusing on the critical and creative issues that arise in recording and interpreting the experience of live, ephemeral and site-related practices.

Matt HEarn, Locus +

Matt Hearn’s doctoral work combines practice-based curatorial work with theoretical and historical research. This is a collaborative AHRC-funded project in partnership with the visual arts commissioning agency Locus+ (  Matt’s research is based on the unique archival records and collection of Locus+ and has involved the coordination of a major archival exhibition (This will not happen without you / from the collective archive of the Basement Group, Projects UK and Locus+ 1977-2007).

Dr John Darwell, completed in 2008
Title of Thesis:  'A black dog came calling:' A Visualization of Depression through contemporary photography.

John Darwell

Dr John Darwell is currently a Reader in Photography at the University of Cumbria

Dr Mike Golding, completed 2008
Title of Thesis:  Digital interventions in history, the archive and memory.

Mike Golding

Dr Mike Golding is retired Lecturer in Photography at the University of Northumbria

Tony Baldwinson
Title of Thesis:  History of photography and disabled people: unacknowledged records.

Tony Baldwinson

Justice Not Charity March, April 1920, National League for the Blind and Disabled, London

Tony Baldwinson is researching the representation of disability by the disabled in self-help associations pre 1970's. The purpose of the research study is to uncover an overlooked record of disabled people's history.

Dr Carole Baker, completed 2001.
Title of Thesis- Representations of the Animal through Photographic Practice.

Carole Baker

Dr Carol Baker is currently Lecturer in Photography, School of Art & media, University of Plymouth.

Professor Beryl Graham, completed 1997.
Title of Thesis:  A study of audience relationships with interactive computer-based visual artworks.

Serious Games

Professor Beryl Graham is currently Professor of New Media Art at the University of Sunderland.


Our current students include -

Juliet Chenery-Robson The Visualisation of the Invisible Illness ME through the Production of Contemporary Photographic Practice in Collaboration with Sufferers, Carers and Medical Researchers

Harry Hall The Manifestation of Change: a practice based investigation that creates a relevant photographic work in order to visually articulate the process for change within an isolated rural community

Charles Meecham (PhD-Ex): The Oldham Road 1st and 2nd View