A level Photography


Art and design students at Ashbourne are given the unique opportunity to try out a wide variety of activities offered across the Art Faculty before going on to specialise in their chosen field for A level.

During the first term students explore drawing, life drawing, printmaking, sculpture, digital art, photography, fabrics and textiles on a rotation basis. They will develop and broaden their technical skills and visual understanding throughout their first year enabling them to build up an impressive portfolio.

A level Photography students then go on learn how to create striking images that reflect and interpret the world around them by combining practical camera techniques, special effects and excellent understanding of visual language. Ashbourne’s fully equipped dark room and cutting edge new media software enables students to develop their skills in both traditional and digital photography.

London is a fantastic city to explore for photographers but students are also given the chance to visit other European cities like Paris, Barcelona and Vienna on a specially structured and expertly guided four day art trip over the Autumn half term.

Students also have plenty of opportunities to exhibit their work and are given excellent guidance on how to prepare for a career in the field.

Why study Photography?

Photography is a powerful communication tool. Images allow us to share experiences, document our time, have our say (visually), tell stories, reveal secrets, speak across languages and sometimes change views. They can also be manipulated (digitally and selectively) to give a distorted, polished or partial picture.

Photography can literally change the way you see the world by opening your eyes to the finer details and revealing how light, composition, colour, texture and line defines your subject.

The skills and techniques you develop through learning photography – research, decision making, evaluation, analysis, communication, understanding context – are also essential for many other areas of life.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the AQA specification for A level Photography.

What is the course about?

As a part of Ashbourne’s mini-foundation programme students join the Art and Design carousel during their first term to experience a variety of art activities in rotation: Drawing, Life Drawing, Printmaking, Sculpture, Digital Art, Photography, Fabrics and Textiles. They begin to build up a dynamic portfolio, which constitutes 60% of the overall result. At the end of the first year students will complete an internal assessment and exam to ensure they attain a suitable standard to progress to A level for the second year

Portraiture, landscape (urban, rural and coastal), still life, natural world, documentary, photojournalism, experimental imagery, photographic installation, video, television and film are all areas of photography that A level Photography students continue to explore.

They will study a range of photographic media, techniques and processes, both traditional and digital. These include black and white darkroom processes, studio lighting, post-production, colour management and printing using our excellent facilities and equipment. They will also investigate the three dimensional aspect of photography using the latest new media technologies.

An excellent understanding of visual language, including line, form, colour, pattern and texture, as well as viewpoint, composition, depth of field and movement will enable students to create powerful images.

Students will examine examples of traditional and contemporary art, craft and design to learn how ideas, feelings and meaning are conveyed, and to develop an appreciation of styles, genres and traditions.

Over the course students are sent on a series of photo-assignments in London to encourage them to apply their skills whilst responding to a theme or idea laid out in a structured brief. This helps put their work in context as well as broadening their audience awareness and promoting greater appreciation of the social and commercial impact and application of photography.


Who teaches this course?

Jak Kirby

BA in Applied Arts (Photography) (Silapakorn University, Thailand)
Before coming to Ashbourne Jak worked in the advertising industry and as a television director in Thailand. Jak initially began teaching Photography but has now established a flourishing Graphics department within the Art Faculty over the many years she has been at the college. She has a particular interest in film production.

Joanna Kay

BA Painting (Camberwell College of Arts); PCGE (Goldsmiths)

Joanna is a freelance photographer and artist whose work has been exhibited across London, including on the Underground, and internationally in Miami, Canada, Berlin, Ireland and Malta. She delivers creative workshops around Europe and has been teaching at Ashbourne since 2011.

Beyond A level Photography

Many of our students preparing for a career in Photography go on to prestigious art colleges including London College of Communication, St. Martins, Chelsea or Camberwell, Slade, Ravensbourne, Westminster, Kingston and Brunel.

There are great career opportunities for Photography students in new media and print including wildlife, travel and fashion photography, photojournalism, photo-editing, visual reporting, advertising, other specialist fields in architecture and science, for example.

Suggested reading and resources

BooksOnline and printExhibitions

On Photography
Susan Sontag takes a philosophical look at how photography has altered our world and affected the way we learn.

Self Publish, Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto
How can photography redefine itself in the age of Instagram overload? This is a do-it-yourself manual for self-publishing success produced by Bruno Ceschel, associate lecturer at University of the Arts, London.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The man, the image & the world: A retrospective
Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the most famous photojournalists of all time, capturing the ‘decisive moment’ in his photos for four decades.

Sebastiao Salgado
Photojournalist famous for documenting the plight of the poor from around the world through his striking portraits. He has more recently turned his camera on the relationship of wildlife, people and the environment.

Photographs 1970-90 and A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005
Annie Leibovitz produced some of the most iconic celebrity images ever including the famous nude photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before he died.

In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits
Superb documentary portraiture published by National Geographic.

Man Ray and Germaine Krull
Contemporary radical modernist photographers covering a broad range of genres.

Gallery bookshops
You will find a wide range of art books at all the major galleries including The National, The Portrait, Tate Britain and Modern and the Royal Academy.

National Geographic
Spectacular photography and documentaries covering the natural world.

Art news, reviews, events and comment from The Guardian and The Telegraph

What’s on and where
TimeOut’s guide to Photography in London keeps you up to date with news, views and events.

Scheme of work