Photography and Related Media Master of fine arts degree

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Acquire the conceptual, academic, and technical skills needed to succeed as an artist in the field of photography and related media.

The masters in photography and related media emphasizes a broad interpretation of photography as a conceptual art form, with the intention of inspiring and nurturing the individuality of each student as a creative, productive artist. This photography masters degree program encourages graduate study in photography and related media as a means to personal, aesthetic, intellectual, and career development.

The curriculum provides a focus of study that is continually sensitive to the needs of each student, building upon the strengths each individual brings to the program. Successful completion of the program enables students to seek careers in fields including education, museum or gallery work, or as self-employed visual artists.

Program goals

The program provides students with the opportunity to use the still and moving image as a means to:

  • develop as a practicing artist.
  • pursue a professional career and earn a livelihood.
  • enrich their personal lives and society as a whole.
  • create a community of creativity, scholarship, and purpose .

Plan of study

Distribution of work within these guidelines is subject to modification based upon the candidate’s background, abilities, and interests. Modifications in this prescribed program thereafter must be approved and recorded.


Elective courses are available in areas such as, but not limited to, video, printmaking, painting, sculpture, communication design, crafts, bookmaking, graphic design, new media, computer graphics, art history, and archival preservation and conservation. A complete list of graduate electives is available through the student's advisor. There are also graduate electives offered throughout the university. Students also have opportunities to enhance their studies through independent studies and internships.


Matriculation from the MFA program is obtained when the student has completed and mounted their graduate thesis exhibition, successfully passed their thesis defense, and submitted their thesis publication. The thesis must be an original body of work appropriate to the major commitment of the degree. The thesis publication is documentation of the thesis project, which must be submitted in digital form. It must contain an extended artist statement and a presentation of the majority of thesis artwork. The thesis defense is a public presentation made by the student, in explanation of thesis project, creative research, and exhibition.


Eleven full-time faculty members, all critically regarded for their artistic work in exhibition and publication, contribute to the MFA program. The faculty brings individual expertise and dedication to their work with graduate students, encouraging intellectual inquiry of contemporary art-making practices and aesthetics. The MFA program is supported by a staff of 30 full-time faculty members from the RIT's School of Art and RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences; faculty from the art history department; adjunct faculty members from George Eastman Museum; as well as noted regional, national, and international practitioners, critics, and historians. 

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Photography & Related Media, MFA degree, typical course sequence

Courses Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Histories and Aesthetics of Photography I
This course, the first in a two-semester sequence, will present an overview of the multiple and intersecting aesthetics, applications, perceptions, and philosophies of photography. Readings and discussions will examine the emergence and establishment of fine art photography, documentary and photojournalism, photography in the sciences, commercial and pop-cultural photographic applications, photography in the political arena, and photography as a mode of social interaction and identity formation. The class will also study the evolving technical history of photographic processes and the proliferation of critical theoretical perspectives on the medium during its first 100 years.
Histories and Aesthetics of Photography II
This course, the second in the two-semester sequence, will offer an in-depth study of key historical, critical, and theoretical issues in photographic visual culture in the modern, postmodern, and contemporary periods. The course will explore aesthetic trajectories in modern and contemporary photography from the emergence of the modernist Avant Garde at the beginning of the 20th century to such contemporary phenomena as the deadpan aesthetic, performance documentation, fictive photography, and photographic appropriation. This course will also examine the evolving language of commercial photography, stylistic and ethical approaches to photojournalism, photography and the politics of the museum, vernacular photographies, and the presence of digital technologies and social media networks in the contemporary global media age.
Studio Core I
This critique course, the first in a two semester sequence, will establish a working methodology, critically engage with peers, and develop a body of new artwork. At the conclusion of the semester, all students will participate in a work share event.
Studio Core II
This critique course is the second in a two semester sequence. Having established a working methodology in Studio Core I, students will continue to experiment and produce a significant body of work through critical engagement with their peers and their own research and experimentation. Successful completion of the course will result in advancement to half-candidacy via a formal review by MFA faculty.
Integrated Practices I
In this course students will integrate writing, research methods, and experimental problem solving skills to further develop studio practices through integrated project based assignments and projects. Students will hone their skills in art practices, critical analysis, strategies for making, and writing about artwork through developing expanded practices within studio experimentation and artistic thinking. Throughout the semester, the students will become familiar with multiple research facilities throughout the University and the region.
Integrated Practices II
This course builds off Integrated Practices I, through projects and assignments designed to encourage experimentation and problem-solving in art making. The content will explore expanded forms of studio practice—including, but not limited to: installation art, book-making, video, performance, public art, and collaborative work. This course will also emphasize writing as a creative process integral to a successful studio practice.
CAD Studio Elective*
Free Elective
Second Year
Research Core I
This course, following successful completion of half-candidacy, will outline the policies and procedures required for the MFA thesis defense and thesis publication for this program of study. Throughout the course, students will refine their research, presentation, and writing skills. Through assignments and in-class discussion and critique, students will begin developing their thesis defense presentations, conduct research relevant to their work, and begin drafting their thesis publication.
Research Core II
This course is the second in a sequence of two courses focusing on the completion of the thesis publication and thesis defense. Supported by the research tools and resources outlined in Research Core I, students will conduct mock defenses and complete all components of the thesis publication. At the conclusion of the course, students will successfully submit their thesis publication to ProQuest.
Professional Development for the Emerging Artist
This course prepares students for entering a career in the arts. Course content covers practical information related to professional practice such as crafting a CV, grant writing, writing an artist’s statement, creating a professional application packet and researching exhibition spaces and other opportunities for artists.
Students produce a thesis as a component of the MFA degree in Photography and Related Media. The completion of the thesis exhibition, from artwork to the installation, is the focus of this course.
Free Electives
Total Semester Credit Hours

*CAD Studio Electives refers to any graduate level course in the College of Art and Design that includes a studio component.


The MFA program in photography and related media is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in photography and related media, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college.
  • Submit a portfolio containing a focused body of artwork that demonstrates visual sophistication, aesthetic awareness, craft, as well as a commitment to purpose and idea. (Refer to Graduate Portfolio Requirements for more information.)
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives that outlines the selection of RIT for the MFA degree and the candidate’s professional goals they wish to achieve.
  • Submit an artist statement explaining the intention behind the portfolio submitted.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 88 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with balanced sub-scores) is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
  • Optional participation in an interview.

Applicants who are capable of graduate level academic work, as well as artistic visual expression, and who demonstrate an interest in the exploration of new artistic ideas and experiences will be recommended.


The portfolio, along with written records of achievements and recommendations, serves to inform the faculty of the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study. It provides understanding into the applicant’s performance to date, ability to create advanced, self-directed work and his/her aesthetic development and maturity. Please visit the Graduate Portfolio Requirements page to learn more about portfolio requirements and submission information. 


Learn about admissions and financial aid 

Additional Info

Scholarships and graduate assistantships

All accepted applicants are awarded a university scholarship. Level of scholarship support is based on merit of application materials. Concurrently, the MFA program faculty grants graduate assistantships to accepted applicants. Assistantships include a variety of positions, including team teaching introductory photography courses, faculty assistantships in the classroom and with research projects, gallery management, and working in an archive. Upon acceptance into the MFA program, applicants are notified by the MFA director as to level of support for both the university scholarship and the graduate assistantship. Both scholarship and assistantship are renewable in the second year of graduate study if students remain in good standing with the university.

Transfer credit

Graduate-level course work completed prior to admission should be submitted for approval upon entrance into the program. Up to 12 semester hours of graduate work with a minimum grade of a B (3.0) or higher is transferable toward the degree, with the approval of the graduate director.

Grades and maximum time limit

The average of all grades for graduate credit taken at the university must be at least a B (3.0) to qualify for the degree. University policy requires that graduate programs be completed within seven years of the student's initial registration for courses in the program.

Policy regarding student work

The School of Photographic Arts and Sciences reserves the right to retain digital copies of original art work from a student’s MFA thesis show for inclusion in the MFA Collection, to be used for educational, promotional, and exhibition purposes. Graduates must also submit a copy of the thesis publication to the school's MFA archive.

William Harris Gallery

William Harris Gallery supports the exhibition of graduate thesis work, student work, and the works of contemporary imagemakers. It maintains a calendar of exhibitions, public lectures, and receptions. Importantly, it also provides real world experience for interested graduate students where they learn firsthand about gallery operations, installation, and communications as a gallery manager or staff member.