MoMA Launches a Free Online Class on Opening Your Eyes to Photography


The Museum of Modern Art in New York just launched its first free and massive online course for the general public. Titled “Seeing Through Photographs,” it’s a 6-session class on Coursera that’s designed to help you go beyond simply seeing photos and advance to truly understanding them.

“Although taking, sharing, and viewing photographs has become second nature for many of us, our regular engagement with images does not necessarily make us visually literate,” the class description says. “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.”

A screenshot of the course website.
A screenshot of the course website.

Through 6 sessions, 6 short films, 4 video conversations, 16 audio slideshows, visits to artists studios, and more, you’ll be exposed to over 180 years of photography in MoMA’s collection and hear different perspectives on what a photograph is and how it can be used.

You’ll examine photography “as a means of artistic expression, as a tool for science and exploration; as an instrument of documentation; to tell stories and record histories; and as a mode of communication and critique in our ever increasingly visual culture,” the class states.


The class is led by Sarah Meister, the curator of the Department of Photography at MoMA.

“While taking, viewing, and sharing photographs is second nature to many, it is not synonymous with visual literacy,” Meister says. “It is our hope that Seeing Through Photographs encourages learners to explore the gap between seeing photographs and truly understanding them.”

The themes for the 6 sessions are: Introduction to Seeing Through Photographs, One Subject, Many Perspectives, Documentary Photography, Pictures of People, Constructing Narratives and Challenging Histories, and Ocean of Images: Photography and Contemporary Culture. Each session has a quiz, and the course has a final project at the end.

To get started, head on over to the class on the Coursera website, sign up, and enroll. It’s self-paced, so you can go through the 6 sessions as quickly or as slowly as you’d like.

Image credits: Still frames from “Seeing Through Photographs,” © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art.