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Seeing Through Photographs

The Museum of Modern Art via Coursera


Taking, sharing, and viewing photographs has become second nature for many of us. Given our near-constant engagement with images this course will help you dig into the meaning of pictures and reconsider photography’s role in our visual culture. This course aims to address the gap between seeing and truly understanding photographs by introducing a diversity of ideas, approaches, and technologies that inform their making.

In this course you will look closely at 100 photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, going behind the scenes of the Museum and into artist studios through original films and audio interviews. You will hear a variety of perspectives on the ways photography has been used throughout its 180-year history: as a means of artistic expression, a tool for science and exploration, an instrument of documentation, a way to tell stories and record histories, and a mode of communication and critique. Short texts and readings from MoMA publications provide enhanced context for the works in the course.

By enrolling in this course, you’ll join a community of international learners in discussion forums, receive invitations to live and virtual events from our lead instructor Sarah Meister, and gain exclusive access to MoMA resources.

We’ve been listening to your feedback! In September 2020, we launched new content in Seeing Through Photographs, including audio interviews with additional contemporary artists from around the world, videos of Sarah introducing key ideas, and almost doubling the number of photographs from the collection. We’ve also added opportunities for you to share and receive feedback on your photographs in the discussion forums.


  • Introduction to Seeing Through Photographs
  • One Subject, Many Perspectives
  • Documents and the Documentary
  • One and Another
  • Constructing Narratives, Challenging Histories
  • Pictures of People
  • Ocean of Images

Taught by

Sarah Meister


3.8 rating, based on 5 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 4274 ratings

Start your review of Seeing Through Photographs

  • Anonymous
    You will mainly learn the history of photography; there are many texts to read and study more than there are pictures to watch, I didn't expect to read that much and I felt overwhelmed the first weeks, especially since English is not my mother tongue, but the course was very informative and I learnt a lot from past famous photographers.
  • Anonymous
    This is a thoroughly enjoyable course, firstly because of the well-curated material (variety of short videos each covering a theme from a different perspective), lectures, live material (Sarah Meister, the course leader, does live sessions, Q&As and…
  • Profile image for Anna D
    Anna D
    The course offered various perspectives on photography by focusing on different themes and displaying various artworks. It dwelled into certain specifics of the photography history but overall covered only a small portion of it. The assignments were repetitive, and basically forced you to review every small detail instead of looking at the bigger picture. I wished for the assignments to be more pleasant and interactive.
  • Profile image for Pietro Codara
    Pietro Codara

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