Photography, MFA

Learn to communicate your vision as an MFA candidate in Columbia’s small and selective graduate Photography program. Our award-winning faculty of working professional photographers will guide you through the two-year program as you build a sophisticated body of work that you’ll exhibit in public venues. You’ll have access to our advanced photography and fine art facilities, including studios, a digital imaging lab, darkrooms, and equipment. You’ll share your work in a supportive critique setting with our faculty as well as guest lecturers and visiting artists. You’ll gain connections to the industry through our close partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Photography, as well as local galleries, museums, and studios.

What to Expect Your First Year

Over the course of your first year, you’ll explore your viewpoint as an image-maker, and begin articulating a plan for your thesis project. You’ll take courses in photography and video, history, theory, and criticism. You’ll choose electives that will support your practice as an artist. You’ll also begin making connections in the Chicago photography community, and meet with guest lecturers, visiting artists, and other outside professionals who we invite to critique graduate work each semester. By the end of your first year, you’ll be using your photography practice as a form of research and will be engaging with scholarship to strengthen your academic inquiry. In addition to traditional image-making, Columbia students engage innovative methods such as mixed media, video, collage, installation, documentary, and portraiture, to explore diverse subject matter and philosophies.

What to Expect Your Second Year

The second year of the program is immersive: You’ll focus on your artistic work and written thesis. You’ll continue participating in graduate seminars and forums, where you’ll receive critiques from your classmates, faculty, and outside professionals, which will help refine your work. You’ll gain practical skills and advice for becoming a working artist, and begin charting your career post-graduation. By the end of the program, you’ll be ready to share your thesis project with the photography community. Our graduate thesis exhibit draws the attention of industry professionals from across Chicago. As an emerging artist, you’ll have opportunities to build a reputation and network, and you’ll join Columbia’s community of accomplished and active alumni.

Real-world Opportunities
What experience will I get outside the classroom?

Studying in Chicago will give you access to hundreds of galleries, museums, events, and studios. Some of the world’s most innovative artists live in Chicago and interact with Columbia students through events and forums. Columbia is home to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which brings some of the world’s most innovative artists to Chicago each year. Our strong partnership with the museum provides our MFA students the opportunity to form close relationships with the contemporary photography community, and access to a comprehensive visual study center, including the Midwest Photographers Project and extensive collection. We’ll encourage you to take advantage of all the city offers. Photography faculty often invite students to participate in events and exhibitions across the region. You’ll spend much of your time outside the classroom working on your thesis project. You’ll have access to a wide array of visual arts facilities to enhance your practice. You’ll also spend time outside of the classroom in our MFA studio, where you’ll have a dedicated space to work.

What are my internship options?

The Photography Department has strong community ties and can assist you in securing an internship. Our students have interned in some of the city’s leading cultural institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Hyde Park Art Center.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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