Student looking at black and white negatives

Fine Art Photography

Develop more than just film as you explore cutting-edge techniques and photography’s societal context

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design's undergraduate photography programs focus on the roles that lens-based media play in contemporary life. They also emphasize personal creativity, awareness of cultural context and critical analysis.

In the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine Art Photography program, students receive an intensive grounding in the current concerns of photo-based art while refining their technical skills and developing their own individual styles and subject matter.

Taught by faculty mentors who are practicing artists, the program pairs a required core of studio courses but allows plenty of flexibility for electives so that students can tailor their studies to their interests. The curriculum encourages students to develop artistic and technical skills in cutting-edge digital photography and video, traditional darkroom work or a combination of both.

The photography program's approach to photography recognizes the critical importance of the photographic image in contemporary society while establishing its historical context within the history of art. In addition, visiting artists, along with exhibitions in Washington, D.C.’s museums, enrich students' experiences of how photography becomes a vehicle for creative expression as well as an agent for change.

Students in the BFA in Photography program start by gaining a thorough grounding in the history, techniques, aesthetics, practices and critical understandings of photography. From there, they can specialize the nature of their study, spending their final year in an intensive sequence of courses devoted to preparing their thesis. The thesis is an expression of each student's individual interest and ambition as an artist. The thesis work is exhibited in the galleries of the former Corcoran Gallery of Art in the annual student exhibition, NEXT at the Corcoran.

Current Curriculum

The following curriculum is for students enrolled beginning in fall 2015. 

In addition to the University General Education Requirement and requirements for their major, undergraduate students in Columbian College must complete a further, College-specific general education curriculum. Students can learn more about the new program requirements, as well as general education requirements in the course bulletin.

Legacy Curriculum

The following curriculum is for legacy students, defined as those students who began taking classes at the Corcoran prior to the fall 2015 semester. Students enrolled beginning in fall 2015 should consult the current curriculum.

Studio course requirements by student year:

Year 1 Required Courses

  • CAH 1090 Art History I: Art Now, Contemporary Perspectives in the Visual Arts
  • CAH 1091 Art History II: Historical Perspectives in the Visual Arts
  • CFN 1090 First Year Studio I 
  • CFN 1091 First Year Studio I
  • CPH 1090 Photo Fundamentals I: Light Studies and Optical Culture
  • CPH 1091 Photo Fundamentals II: Techniques and Practice
  • Two Writing in the Disciplines courses
  • Two General Studio Electives

Upper Level Required Courses


Sample Photography and Photojournalism Elective Courses

Students in the photography program can choose electives from a variety of innovative, exciting courses conducted both at the Corcoran and abroad, with focuses on fine art photography or photojournalism. Additionally, the Corcoran Photography program promotes an international, cross-cultural awareness with courses that have on-site components in El Salvador and Israel. Here are some examples:

  • CPH 2110 Color Photography
  • CPH 2350 Extended Image
  • CPH 3070 Studio Lighting
  • CPH 3450 Pre-digital Alternative Processes
  • CPH 3260 Advanced Digital Photography
  • CPH 3400 El Salvador Travel: International Experience/Transnational Identity
  • CPH 3640 Advanced Studio Lighting: Commission Project
  • CPH 4251 Making Meaning: Narrative and the Art of the Photography Book

Department Life

The Corcoran School's photography programs promote excellence in a supportive environment where students can develop their artistic and technical skills and cultivate their personal style as photographers.

Under the guidance of the department's faculty of professional artists and photojournalists, students in photography and photojournalism participate together in projects and events that complement the curriculum. Students can mentor peers as photography lab techs, reach out as photography and video instructors to young people in the broader Washington, D.C. community, attend lectures, view exhibitions and work closely with visiting artists to help realize and document projects.

Careers and Internships

With its location in the heart of Washington, D.C., the Corcoran School exposes Fine Art Photography students to a range of career options in the arts, including exhibiting as an artist, teaching, commercial photography and curating.

Students in the Fine Art Photography program have interned with The Washington Post, National Geographic magazine, the National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Transformer Gallery and the Latin American Youth Center.

Graduates of the program have secured positions at nationally recognized outlets including United Press International, U.S. News & World Report, Politico, The Washington Post and other organizations.

Fine Art Photography in Action

Colin Wheeler

Colin Wheeler

BFA Photography, 2015

“Often conjuring emotions distinct to what the landscape can offer, these details accentuate why I feel so compelled to tell the story of my relationship to these magnificent and highly intricate spaces.” 

Explore Colin’s portfolio
Kelly Chick

Kelly Chick

BFA Photography, 2015

“[The Corcoran School] is the best support system I ever expected to have. Someone asked me to describe the Corcoran in one word and ‘family’ was what came to mind…”

See Kelly’s photography
Aria Maisey

Aria Maisey

BFA Photography, 2015

“I don’t think I would have survived in any place other than the Corcoran. Everyone, from the faculty to your classmates, helps you nurture and grow your art.”

Take a look at Aria’s work

Fine Art Photography Full-Time Faculty

Margaret Adams

Margaret Adams

Assistant Professor of Photography

Frank DiPerna

Frank DiPerna

Photography and Photojournalism Professor

Jennifer Sakai

Jennifer Sakai

Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography