• MFA | 2-year program

    Graduate students in the program develop visual and critical expertise through course work, seminars, independent studio work and critiques designed to provide a deep understanding of contemporary art practices and criticism. Working in personal studios, students have access to state-of-the-art technical facilities that allow for the exploration of film-based and digital photography, digital video and multimedia production.

  • Learning Outcomes

    Graduates are prepared to:

    • state and achieve individual goals for their work 

    • deliver technically proficient work 

    • develop a cohesive body of work 

    • speak and write about their work with a high degree of clarity 

    • contextualize their work in contemporary practice 

    • demonstrate professionalism though teaching, gallery exhibition, photography assistantship, and/or managing a studio practice

  • Inspiring Community

    In addition to learning from fellow students in RISD's many discipline-based programs, MFA candidates in Photography work closely with professors who are accomplished working artists, scholars and educators with a passion both for teaching and their own studio work. Collectively, they provide students with a wealth of visual, intellectual and technical expertise. In addition, nationally recognized artists, curators, critics and gallery directors regularly visit to critique student work and/or present as part of the department's popular T.C. Colley Lecture Series.

  • Learning Environment

    Fourteen graduate students currently share the department’s state-of-the-art technical facilities with roughly 30 undergraduates but also have exclusive access to a large-format Epson printer and a studio space in the Fletcher Building, part of RISD’s graduate center complex downtown. Studios provide a place to work, meet with guest artists and curators, and interact with graduate students from other disciplines. Students interested in teaching are able to do so in their second year. Opportunities to both exhibit and curate shows are offered through the Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, the RISD Museum’s Gelman Gallery and the department’s own Red Eye Gallery. 

  • Brian Ulrich | graduate program director

    “MFA candidates in Photography are immersed in an incredibly stimulating community of peers, faculty and visiting artists. They learn to situate their own work within the context of contemporary and historical art practices, as well as in additional creative or academic fields of inquiry. In investigating their creative work with rigor, challenging themselves intellectually and learning to speak about their work with fluency, students emerge from graduate school prepared to tackle the goals they have set for themselves.”

  • Curriculum

    MFA candidates achieve a high level of technical mastery and create a coherent body of visual work representing a sustained and sophisticated investigation of ideas. They are also expected to write and speak about their work with an advanced level of fluency and to frame their practice in historical and critical contexts.

    MFA first year

    • Fall
    • Graduate Critique I
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Open electives* (2)
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective*
    • Spring
    • Graduate Critique II
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Open electives* (2)

    MFA second year

    • Fall
    • Graduate Critique III Thesis
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Open electives* (2)
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective*
    • Spring
    • Graduate Critique IV Thesis
    • Graduate Photography Thesis Writing
    • Graduate Thesis Project

    * Electives: Graduate students must take a total of three seminars or approved Liberal Arts courses during the two-year program. Those who plan to teach during their second year must enroll in a Teaching Seminar and assist a faculty member during their first year.

  • Thesis Project

    In the final semester, MFA candidates focus on creating a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All Photography graduate students produce a thesis book that includes a written narrative and a body of visual work. They also participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held annually.

  • Application Requirements

    1. application form + fee
    2. academic transcripts
    3. three letters of recommendation
    4. portfolio of work
    5. statement of purpose (500–750 words) outlining your interest and goals in pursuing graduate study
      • In addition to your statement of purpose, applicants should send an artist’s statement describing the work included in their portfolio.
    6. TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)
      • In determining admission to the MFA program, the faculty selection committee in Photography looks not only for an applicant’s technical competence, but their ability to sustain a commitment to a mode of working or subject over a period of time. Portfolios should include no more than two bodies of work. Short-listed applicants are interviewed via Skype, with accepted candidates invited to visit campus, sit in on the graduate critique and meet current grad students and faculty to gain a full appreciation of the RISD environment and experience.
      • For more information or to begin the application process, visit the Apply page.