2023-2024 Graduate Academic Catalog

Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Integrated Media

An Emphasis on Craft and Concept

From its inception in 2011, our 2-year, full-residency MFA in Photography and Integrated Media program was created as a collaborative and flexible entity, emphasizing craft and concept driven photographic and integrated studio practice— we are passionate about making art with our imagination as well as our hands.

We are a strong community of working artist faculty, Visiting Artist / Scholars and dedicated MFA candidates, all of whom share a passionate respect for the hand-made traditions of photographic practice while embracing, with equal passion, what is rapidly being recognized as “the new photography” … a marriage of analog and digital technologies emphasizing rigorous studio practice, and the fluid integration of photography and contemporary digital and light-based media, video, traditional studio arts, artist’s books, performance, installation and related social and cultural influences.

Academically, we are a seminar-critique focused graduate program dedicated to self-designed directions of study, critical and professional studies, and are emphatically committed to professional - level skills in the written and spoken word.

Our evolution is motivated by the premise that the medium of photography is in the midst of significant change and is increasingly incorporated and integrated with virtually all forms of creative expression. It is our program’s mission to encourage this redefinition while respecting artistic traditions and practice, and for our graduates to be a significant influence as the medium continues its evolution. We invite you to join our thriving community of contemporary photographic artists, making impressions with light, who will be defining the future of photography. 

For the University's transfer credit policy, see the Transfer of Credits page. 

Program Format

Full-time residency requirement: 4 terms

Maximum number of years for residency: 2 years

Typical number of credit hours per term for a full-time student: 15 credits

Total number of credit hours required for graduation: 60

Total in Graduate Seminar I – IV: 24

Total in Critical Studies and Art History: 9

(Includes Issues in Visual Culture in first semester)

Total in Studio Electives: 9

Total in Photography as Cultural Practice: 3

Total in Professional Studies: 9

(Includes internships, teaching assistantships, independent studies, adjunct faculty Teaching Fellowships)

Total in Graduate Thesis Seminar: 6

Of the 60 credits, 33 credits (or 55%) are graduate-level courses, 15% are Professional Studies opportunities for internships, mentoring, and teaching assistantships and adjunct faculty Teaching Fellowships. The remaining 30% are electives chosen from existing College of Art and Design studio, critical studies, and art history offerings. Content will be delivered in a variety of formats: in class, electronic, and online when appropriate.

A key attribute of the MFA Photography and Integrated Media program is the Visiting Artist / Scholar component that is fully integrated into graduate seminar and jury experiences. MFA candidates will work with outstanding Visiting Artists / Scholars in all graduate seminars throughout the semester in each of their 4 semesters.

Degree Requirements

Successful completion of four semesters in residence in the program, earning a total of 60 graduate credits. This will include full participation and satisfactory evaluations from all components of the program. These will include writing, physical work, presentation at juries, and engagement in all seminars.

Ability to demonstrate a professional level of accomplishment in their self-selected arena of artistic work. This will be realized through aesthetic and technical achievement, conceptual ideas working with integrated photographic / light marking practice in compatible media that reflects the development of personal imagery. Graduate Thesis seminar is focused upon writing and the exposition of concept and ideas, and like all Graduate Thesis Seminars, incorporates Visiting Artist / Scholars team teaching with core faculty.

Ability to demonstrate an understanding of the various criteria used for making critical judgments about the visual arts, especially photography, including the relationship of visual culture to a societal context. Evaluation will be done through a jury process that will include 2 mid-year in-process juries and 2 end-of-year final juries composed of current and former Visiting Artist / Scholars and faculty.

Evaluation will be Pass, Fail, or Still In Progress.

Active participation, involvement and dialogue in the seminar critiques of other candidate’s work during the course of study. Generosity of expression is highly valued.

Participation in a final group thesis exhibition and catalogue of their work and writing. Both must be satisfactorily reviewed by the MFA program faculty, Visiting Artists and jurors.

Program Structure

Two-year program (4 semesters) — 60 credits

Semester 1

Graduate Studio Seminar I — 6

Issues in Art History & Visual Culture — 3

Photography as a Cultural Practice — 3

Studio Elective — 3

Semester 2

Graduate Studio Seminar II — 6

Art History or Critical Studies Elective — 3

Art in Context or Professional Studies Elective — 3

Studio Elective — 3

Semester 3

Graduate Studio Seminar II — 6

Art History or Critical Studies Elective — 3

Professional Studies Elective II — 3

Studio Elective — 3

Semester 4

Graduate Studio Seminar IV — 6

Thesis Studio (studio exclusively for thesis work) — 6

Professional Studies Elective II — 3

Graduate Studio Seminar I–IV

Consisting of a full day of activity on a weekly basis, the Graduate Studio Seminar is a team taught course with a core faculty and Visiting Artist/Scholar. Engaging with a variety of aspects surrounding their work, students will be consistently producing and refining their portfolios in Seminar, while simultaneously relating their work to historical and contemporary art concerns. Each week includes studio critique, discussion of conceptual issues, and response to course readings. Through four semesters of Graduate Studio Seminar and Graduate Thesis Seminar, students will produce a strong and resolved portfolio that will culminate with their graduate thesis exhibition and catalogue.

Visiting Artist Component

The Visiting Artist/Scholar component is a key element of the MFA in Photography and Integrated Media program and is intended to promote curricular flexibility and a timely reflection, and response, to the constantly changing identity of photography in the 21st century.

Each semester, a Visiting Artist/Scholar will be teamed with a core faculty member and 12 MFA in Photography and Integrated Media candidates for an intensive studio and critical studies experience. Visiting Artists will be leaders in the medium and will include contemporary artists, historians, curators, and theorists. Recent and upcoming Visiting Artists / Scholars include: Sally Mann, Luis González Palma, Keith Carter, Sebastião Salgado, Holly Roberts, Dan Estabrook, David Hilliard, Lyle Rexer, Roy Flukinger, Matt Saunders, John Stilgoe, Susan Bright, Deborah Luster, Alison Nordström and Eleanor Carucci, Lucy Soutter, and Deb Todd Wheeler, David Hilliard, Lyle Rexer, Lauren Greenfield and Lina Maria Giraldo.

Studio Elective

Students choose three studio electives from a list of eligible courses offered at the College of Art and Design, largely inclusive of most current studio courses. Advanced studio work may be requested in the form of independent study

Art History or Critical Studies Elective

Students will take Photography as a Cultural Practice in Semester I. In following semesters they will take two additional courses from a pre-selected list of eligible Art History/Critical Studies offerings from within the University. Advanced art history and critical studies work may be requested in the form of independent study.

Photography as a Cultural Practice

Considering the capacity of Photography to reflect and define cultural mores, this seminar will explore the historical and contemporary nuances of the medium as a social and political object. The complex shifts within photography in a digital context will be discussed, as well as the technological, conceptual, and artistic relationships between photography and other mediums. Creative engagement with these concerns will be a major component of the seminar, and class projects will provide a means for students to apply their own photographic interests and refine their practice. A variety of contemporary methodologies to engage with culture will be presented, such as the use of composite, erasure, integration of text, and appropriation of media images. Classes will also be comprised of field trips to area exhibits, resources, and talks, as well as class visits by working artists.

Issues in Visual Culture

This course accounts for 3 of the art history and critical studies requirements and focuses on the interrelationship between art and society. Accordingly, students examine the role of visual culture and artistic practice within the context of everyday life. To accomplish this task, we address a wide range of contemporary issues relating to the many connections between art and society. To help tackle these issues, we read essays by artists, critics, and theoreticians who have been instrumental in defining our understanding of visual culture over the past three decades.

Professional Studies Elective

Candidates select three  / 3-credit options during their course of study to advance their individual professional aspirations. These can include (but are not limited to): internships, undergraduate teaching assistantships, mentored independent studies, traditional coursework (in areas such as art therapies, business, or art education, and 3 to 4 competitive adjunct faculty teaching fellowships per year.

Thesis Studio Seminar

The MFA in Photography and Integrated Media thesis is the capstone of the graduate school experience and asks the candidate to critically reflect on their creative practice, work and methodologies, and to construct a scaffolding where their concepts and process are contextualized, clearly defined and visualized… it is the artist’s voice on multiple levels. MFA candidates will be expected to discuss their individual plans for a thesis during the mid-year juries at the conclusion of their third semester, and subsequently required to write a multi-page synopsis detailing their proposal and direction. This synopsis must be submitted to the Director of the MFA program and the Visiting Artist / Scholar who will be co-teaching the MFA Thesis Studio Seminar for approval before the MFA candidate begins the writing process and visual component. MFA Thesis Studio Seminar is a Pass / Fail or SIP (Still in Progress) course where the written component is emphasized. The visual components will carry equal weight in the final jury but will be the focus of Graduate Studio Seminar IV. Seminar participation, thesis exhibition and catalogue, and final MFA Thesis jury defense are integrated into the final evaluation.

Degree Requirements

Required Core Graduate Photography Courses (33 credits)

IGRPH 5100Photography as a Cultural Practice


IGRPH 6100Graduate Studio Seminar and Critical Studies I


IGRPH 6200Graduate Studio Seminar and Critical Studies II


IGRPH 7300Graduate Studio and Critical Studies Seminar III


IGRPH 7400Graduate Studio and Critical Studies Seminar IV


ITHPH 7500Thesis Studio Seminar


Thesis Studio- a one-semester course taken in the final semester *: 6 credits MFA students would be required to attend a Critique and Core Studies Seminar for each semester of the program, and to complete the Thesis Studio in order to graduate.

Professional Studies Electives (9 credits)

IGRPH Professional Studies Electives


IGRPH Professional Studies Electives


IGRPH Professional Studies Electives


Professional Studies Electives (9 credits)

The following courses may fulfill the professional studies elective requirements.

IGRPH 7089 Studio Assistantship

IGRPH 7880 Internship

IGRPH 7992 Teaching Fellowship

IGRPH 7999 Independent Study

Professional Studies Elective- Choose three 3 credit options: 9 credits total. Options can include: internships, adjunct faculty teaching fellowships, teaching assistantships, mentored independent studies, practicum or traditional course work in an area such as business management or art education.

Art History and Critical Studies Requirements (9 credits)

IAHIS 5100Issues in Art History and Visual Culture


IAHIS/IPHOT Art History & Critical Studies Courses


IAHIS/IPHOT Art History & Critical Studies Courses


The following is a sample of Art History & Critical Studies Electives

MFA Photography students must take two 3 credit Art History/Critical Studies Electives

In addition to the sample list of courses below, students may also take any 5000-level IAHIS Art History course

IGRPH 5200Advanced Topics in Photography


IGRPH 5300Advanced Topics: Exhibitions and Publications


IGRPH 5400Contemporary Strategies in Photography + Integrated Media


IPHOT 5122Professional Directions


IPHOT 5740Art in Context


INTDS 5600Writing & the Creative Process


Studio Electives (9 credits)

Studio Elective


Studio Elective


Studio Elective


MFA in Photography Additional Requirements in Studio Electives

Any course cross-listed as a MFA in Photography Studio Elective must have additional assignments/expectations to reflect the appropriate level or the amount of student learning expected of the MFA candidate.  This can be in the form of extra writing, studio projects, critical thinking research, communications and / or participation.  This will need to be reflected in the syllabus and defined for the MFA student. Every MFA student is required to accomplish the added requirements and demonstrate a higher level of achievement and / or proficiency in the studio electives as determined and required by the instructor.  

Studio Electives may be fulfilled by a 5000 level or higher studio course under the following prefixes: IANIM, IDESN, IDFLM, IFINE, IGAME, IILLU, IPHOT. The courses listed above as fulfilling the Art History/Critical Studies requirements are excluded from fulfilling studio elective credit. 


Harvard University Ceramics Program

Photographic Resource Center, Boston

Paul Taylor Printmaking


Project Nica, Nicaragua

Maine Media Workshops

Santa Fe Photography Workshops

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Alison Nordstrom (gallery curatorial in Europe)

Boston Magazine

Boston Public Schools

Cambridge Public Schools

Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (Yay!)

Recent alumni employment and activities:


1.     Internationally awarded filmmaker – Cannes Film Festival, Women’s Film Festival in South Africa, Los Angeles Cinefest and awarded best feature film at Riffa International Festival

2.     Photography Chair – The Commonwealth School, Boston

3.     Faculty, Inter-disciplinary Studies, Harvard University

4.     Faculty, Color Theory and Plant Based Photography, Princeton University

5.     Faculty, Montserrat College of Art

6.     Brand Design Manager  for Global Partners Market – Converse

7.     CEO of NEW 55, business featuring new variant of Type 55 Positive-Negative Polaroid film

8.    Assistant Director, Griffin Museum of Photography

9.     Fine Arts: Large Scale Installation works in nature for public arts commissions

10.  Campaign Coordinator, San Francisco Art Institute

11.   Professors of Photography – Multiple secondary and university programs

12.  Teaching visual arts at the world-famous Perkins School for the Blind.

13.  Teaching position at the Nightingale Bamford School – New York City

14.  Academic Coordinator, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM

15.  Documentary Photographer – Filmmaker in Burkina Faso

16.  Christies – Education, Student Services & Business Coordinator

17.   Teacher, Philadelphia Public Schools

18.  Archives Imaging Coordinator, Princeton University

19.  Exhibiting Artists, multiple gallery & museum venues, and residencies

20. Director of Luminaria – gallery, workshops, and professional services, Salt Lake City

21.  Technical advisor and editor – New55 and designer and builder of life-size cameras

22.  Critic for on-line arts magazines including Tabula Rasa and Lenscratch.

23.  Archivist, Printer and restoration artist at the 3rd largest photo supply retailer in the nation

24.  Installation and New Media artist - American Repertory Theater

25.  Winner international Juliet Margaret Cameron award with exhibition in Barcelona

26.  Three graduates 2019 winners of the international Critical Mass competition

27.  Presentation of a formal paper to HISTART in Istanbul, Turkey and subsequent book

28. Workshop instructor, Havana, Cuba

29.  Published book, monograph of thesis project, interview with British Journal of Photography

30. Teaching Issues in Visual Culture at Lesley University and working with Project Nica / Nica Photo in Nicaragua, bringing photographic education to small villages in the country.


“We see our program as a collaborative adventure inventing a new model for MFA programs in Photography. We are cognizant that the medium itself is currently undergoing great change and rather than become yet another traditional MFA, we want to lead the way into what is becoming the new photography, both in how it is taught and practiced.”

Christopher James


MFA in Photo and Integrated Media Program

“The program has been a unique mix of intensive group seminars and individualized meetings, as well as a variety of choice in electives. The visiting artist program is particularly valuable, providing informed outside perspectives and important connections within the greater artistic community.”

Lindsay Rogers,

MFA candidate


Lesley University’s MFA Photography program distinctively foregrounds “alternative processes” or “alt-pro.”  This usually means photographic techniques drawn from the history of the medium, but here it seems more like a focus on experimentation in general, not only in terms of methods and materials, but in the sense of how we might constitute “the photographic” at the present moment. As in similar programs, many enter as photographers and leave as makers of film or video.  But equally common at Lesley, students begin in photography but end up making ceramics or large-scale installation art.  This free-ranging investigation of what photography might be couples with a keen institutional interest in first-person storytelling and confessional narrative to make the program one in which the students’ investment in their own practices has a particularly personal edge.

Joseph R. Wolin - 2018


In the past few years I have been involved, as a visiting artist, and as a part of the end of the semester jury committee, with the MFA program of Lesley University, an experience that has been enriching and special. I met and collaborated with the brilliant chair, faculty, and other jurors in the program, people I have learned so much from and was inspired by, and some extraordinary students, talented, devoted and unique in their work and way of thinking. I always love coming to the MFA in Photography and Integrated Media program...it feels like home, it is academically and intellectually advanced and challenging, but also warm and nurturing. We talk about art, about life, we argue, we laugh. Everybody cares. This unique combination of qualities makes being a part of this program a great experience.

Elinor Carucci, Artist and EducatorVisiting Artist / Scholar 2021


The MFA in Photography and Integrated Media candidates at LUCAD are sharp, engaged, and working hard in an impressively wide range of artistic modes and media. This remarkable program encourages students to think incisively and independently, to understand the artistic and cultural context in which their work falls, and—perhaps most important—to communicate effectively about their creative endeavors. The MFA students have the opportunity to share their works in process with visiting reviewers throughout the year, and each semester ends with a productive discussion between MFA candidates and a jury of outside critics, scholars, and artists. In my own experience as a juror and Visiting Artist / Scholar, I have been very impressed by the intelligence of the work presented and the level of conversation, as well as by the students’ evident hunger to learn from this experience. Lesley’s MFA faculty is clearly devoted to the program and its candidates, working with energy, insight, and sensitivity, always with a view to moving the students’ art toward deeper levels of meaning and revelation.

Diana Stoll, Editor and Visiting Artist Scholar - Former Senior Editor Aperture Foundation


What impresses me most about the MFA program in photography at Lesley is its resemblance to the real-world culture of art making and consumption. By including museum curators and gallerists on the faculty and by classes that encourage participation in a critical community, Lesley offers its students the opportunity to grow technically and intellectually as well as in practical knowledge.

Alison Nordström, PhD, Former Senior Curator of Photography - Eastman House


The MFA program in photography at LUCAD has established itself as distinctive for the diversity of approaches it encourages, but as a visiting faculty member, I have come to appreciate its critique juries as among the most stimulating academic experiences I have had. Students have a tremendous advantage in presenting their work to a rotating group of the most important photographic professionals in the country: critics, artists, curators and educators.  The spirit in the room is intense but also collaborative and profoundly supportive. Everyone has the same goal -- to help the work get better -- and the dialogues that result open up wonderful creative possibilities.  There's nothing else like it in my experience, which is why I agree to participate whenever I am asked.

Lyle Rexer, author, educator, and curator

Visiting Artist / Scholar 2021


It's been really exciting to work with the next generation of young artists in the Lesley University, MFA in Photography and Integrated Media graduate program, as a Visiting Artist / Scholar. As a museum curator responsible for a collection of mostly twentieth-century photographs, I don't often have the opportunity to collaborate with art students at this formative stage in their careers. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience.

Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Visiting Artist / Scholar 2020


This program began with an ambitious directive: to unite the wide range of photographic and photography-related media into a singular space for discussion and exploration — and it works. Students are encouraged to push the latest boundaries in digital media, or explore the growing interest in handmade and chemical photography, and often both at the same time. The real secret, though, is the community of active thinkers and working artists that Christopher James has built and held together all these years. Between the Visiting Artists and the lively Juries, our graduate students get a lot of high-powered feedback, and we get to see wild bursts of creativity from inside the ever-expanding field of photography. There’s a good reason we keep coming back.

Dan Estabrook, Artist and EducatorFaculty in Graduate Thesis Seminar 2013-2021, and Visiting Artist / Scholar 2012 and 2017


Core Faculty

CHRISTOPHER JAMES, University Professor, Director, MFA Photography and Integrated Media

BFA, Massachusetts College of Art; MAT, Rhode Island School of Design


DAN ESTABROOK, Photography, B.A., Harvard University; MFA, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


ZIAD HAMZEH, Photography, Film, Screenwriting, MA, California State University, Los Angeles


DAVID HILLIARD, BFA, Massachusetts College of Art; MFA, Yale University School of Art 

SUNANDA SANYAL, Photography (History), Critical Theory, Associate Professor, PhD, Emory University


DEB TODD WHEELER, BFA, University of Vermont; MFA, Massachusetts College of Art



SUSAN BRIGHT, Author & Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Acting Director MA Photography at Sotheby’s, London

KEITH CARTER, Photographer & author, University Professor, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas

ELINOR CARUCCI, Photographer & author, School of Visual Arts, NYC

DEBORAH COPAKEN, war photographer, author and screenwriter

JOSE FALCONI, Curatorial Studies, PhD, Harvard University

ROY FLUKINGER, PhD, Senior Curator of Photography & Film, Ransom Humanities Research Center, U. Texas, Austin

MERRY FORESTA, Curatorial Studies & author, Founding Director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative

LINA MARIA GIRALDO, Digital – video installation  and performance artist, inventor and story-teller

VICTORIA GOLDBERG, Author of 20 photographic monographs & critic, New York Times for 13 years

LUIS GONZALEZ PALMA, Photographer, author & educator

LAUREN GREENFIELD, Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and photographer

ANDY GRUNDBERG, Photography critic New York Times, author, Corcoran College of Art & Design

KAREN HAAS,Lane Curator of Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

MAZIE HARRIS, Curator of Photography, Getty Museum

DAVID HILLIARD, Photographer & author, Harvard University and Massachusetts College of Art & Design

DEBORAH LUSTER, Photographer, author, artist & educator  

SALLY MANNphotographer and author of 15 books

ALISON NORDSTROM, PhD, former Senior Curator & Director of Exhibitions, George Eastman House

LYLE REXER, Author, curator, critic and educator, Professor, School of Visual Arts, NYC University

HOLLY ROBERTS, Photographer & author, Corrales, NM

SEBASTIAO SALGADO, Photographer, author, journalist, educator

MATT SAUNDERS, Photographer, filmmaker, artist & educator, professor, Harvard University

LUCY SOUTTER, Author, artist, curator, Sotheby’s Institute and Royal College of Art, London

JOHN STILGOE, Author and Educator, Harvard University

DIANA STOLL, Curatorial Studies, former Senior Editor of Aperture Magazine

DEB TODD WHEELER, Photographer and educator, Massachusetts College of Art & Design

JOE WOLIN, Author, critic & historian, Professor, Parson School of Design and SMFA