Peter Symonds College

Study at PSC

Course Content

Photography is a fine art course. It has a strong focus on discovery – using your camera to record the world around you in an exploratory and visual manner. We pride ourselves on the wide range and depth of the student outcomes produced here - students are encouraged to find their artistic voice and develop their own personal projects.

The two-year course will allow you to develop and refine ideas. It is about looking at the world carefully, closely, with excitement and energy, but focus and commitment too. Students are required to present the journey their work has gone on, demonstrating the connections they have made along the way.

Although there are whole class activities, especially early on, designed to help students get to know the possibilities and understand the potential of the subject, as time goes on classes become much more self-directed and informed by the individual student’s own area of interest. As a Photography student it is very useful to have access to a camera where you can control shutter speed and aperture – a DSLR or a Compact Camera with manual controls.

Students present their work digitally to allow work to be modified and stored quickly and easily. This also allows students to include moving image or sound, hyperlinks and graphic elements to expand their work.

Methods of Teaching

The teachers aim to encourage, support, motivate, inspire, guide and challenge. Students need to be curious about the world around them and willing to take part in using their camera to make genuine discoveries.

Lessons are varied, but typically might involve learning about the functions of a camera as a whole class or, in a small group, discussing the behaviour of light. You might spend time writing about a photograph quietly on your own or reading books from our extensive collection of books, generating ideas and planning personal, practical assignments.

Our aim, particularly in the first year, is to adopt a flexible approach that can respond directly to student interests and ideas, understanding their needs and previous photographic skills, and building on their knowledge and understanding.

You will receive continual assessment on your progress – both written and verbal. The final assessment process will ultimately be a mark using the four exam board assessment objectives (broadly centred on development and understanding, exploration/selection and reviewing/refining, recording/reflection and response/realisation).

The course places an emphasis on seeing art work of all kinds in galleries and so study visits to London and elsewhere are key to the learning experience.

In the past, a study visit to New York has been organised each year, which students can opt in to, and is jointly run across all the art subjects.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

Year 1:

The first year involves students exploring the potential of the camera as an art-making tool, thinking about how they are observing the world around them and how they can make engaging imagery that conveys meaning. Students can work both digitally and in our dark room to explore the possibilities available to them within the medium.

Students are introduced to a wide range of artist-photographers, past and present, from a variety of cultural backgrounds and working with all sorts of approaches. This helps deepen and widen their experience and awareness of the subject.

  • Component 1: Portfolio
    Students will produce one extended body of work (at least 12 weeks of work) that will form the basis of the Component 1, worth 100% of your marks and overall grade.

Year 2:

The second year allows for a continuation of the work begun in the first year but with a greater opportunity for, and emphasis on, an increased level of ambition, depth, complexity and sophistication.

  • Component 1: Personal investigation worth 60% of the A level
    This involves one, extended, in-depth practical project, as well as a (1000 - 3000 word) written compulsory component.
  • Component 2: Externally-Set Assignment worth 40% of the A level
    Here you are required to respond to (very open-ended) externally set questions or starting points. This involves a preparation period followed by 15 hours supervised time to conclude the project, over 3 days.

Where Could It Take Me?

Students pursue careers in photography, film and television, art curation, gallery work, fine art history, fashion, architecture, graphics, media content creation, journalism, radiography, surveying and many more.

Photography encourages students to develop time management, organisational and planning skills. Students learn to work independently, find creative solutions to problems and how to research to inform their ideas. The ability to look at what they have made, critically reflect and consider how to improve is also integral to the course. These skills are valued in many careers, not just those in the creative industries.

Financial Implications

A modest studio fee paid at the start of the course allows the Art department to provide basic and essential materials (such as darkroom chemicals) for you to work with. Individuals are then required to cover the cost of any ongoing materials, although working digitally these should be minimal. The College has a Student Support Fund for those students who might have difficulty meeting these costs.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above including Mathematics and English.

If you have not studied Art at GCSE level, you will need to have enthusiasm and commitment for the subject.

Most Recent Results

Below is a summary of the most recent set of results for this subject:

Grade: A* A B C D E U Total
Total: 0 9 41 21 7 2 0 80
Percentage 0.0 11.3 51.3 26.3 8.8 2.5 0.0