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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Seeing Through Photographs by The Museum of Modern Art

3,987 ratings
1,055 reviews

About the Course

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. UPDATE: 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....

Top reviews

Mar 8, 2016

Seeing Through Photographs has given me a whole new way of looking at my own and other peoples' work. So many aspects, details and points of view, the world of photography now seems even more amazing.

Jun 2, 2019

It was very insightful, and a good thing is they offered quizzes and other full content, which some other free courses do not, which really helps learning. Hope to go for other courses under them. :)

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Aug 12, 2016


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Oct 23, 2019


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By Barbara w

Jan 10, 2017

I would give this course 4 1/2 stars. The course material was very well organized and the examples provided were for the most part very topical. the weight of the peer review at the end of the course is too high. Your peers have roughly the same knowledge as you do when you submit your assignment. They are being asked to assign a value to your submission which is really there are only 3 choices 1 a pass, 2 not quite and 3 a fail. Considering you have done all the course work and quizzes up to the end it seems quite arbitrary.

On another note I would like to suggest a project which became a book. All too often today we view photographs in every moment of our lives but we are unaware of the the face of those creators and their iconic works. MoMA's course seems a perfect opportunity to somehow introduce the subject. the book is Behind Photographs - Archiving Photographic Legends by Tim Mantoani and MarkMurphy.

BEHIND PHOTOGRAPHS: ARCHIVING PHOTOGRAPHIC LEGENDS began as the personal quest of photographer Tim Mantoani to document and preserve noted photographers together with their images. "We have come to a point in history where we are losing both photographic recording mediums and iconic photographers,” Mantoani comments. "While many people are familiar with iconic photographs, the general public has no idea of who created them. This book became a means to do that, the photographer and their photograph in one image.”

By Carlos M

Apr 6, 2016

Great course. I have a few suggestions to make it even better:


Videos on artists are just amazing, good quality and full of interesting information.

Organization of the modules is wonderful, it makes a lot of sense.

Optional readings are really interesting, it would be difficult for people like me from undeveloped countries, to get that kind of documentation from a prestigious museum.

Doing exams is a good way to refresh all you read on the module.

Expositors are well versed and interesting, kudos on that.

The slides sections are well designed and the format is wonderful to read on either a computer or a cellphone.


Better scans, some of them were difficult to read, pdfs should be formatted to fit a single page in full screen. Its almost impossible to read from a cellphone.

Some of the multiple choice questions on the exams were just too much, all due respect, edX continuous examination works in a more efficient way.

I hope MoMA do another interesting course on photography, perhaps specific subjects like landscape and street photography, and all the interesting subjects around them. I'm really glad to have found this, congratulations and thanks for putting this together.

Carlos Mora

By Roberto M

Jul 22, 2016

This is a good course on photography from an important institution that will show you and teach you the several aspects and topics of photography, from document to artwork. Made of six modules, each focused on a specific aspect, it provides different media to learn from, like interviews, critics and overviews, both in video and writings. All aspects are of photography are necessarily condensed and sometimes basic but many different links and suggestion on further material is given for those who want to get deeper. If you like photography, if you want to understand it better, or even if you are just curious about this medium which is today in everybody's lives, you will hardly be disappointed by this course. The only negative aspects for me were that sometimes the material was difficult to read and that sometimes subtitles were not very good, but this latter is a problem only if you are not an English motherlanguage. Instrucions on grading and final assignment aren't so easy and well them and this is a possible improvement for the organisation.

By Deleted A

Mar 8, 2016

This course has been very interesting, however I believe that the mix of genre has been somewhat limited. While I respect the artistic choices and talents of all artists, I feel that the discussions in the videos for week 6 lack substance: picking up litter, photographing it, and arranging it for installation display strikes me as neither aesthetic nor documentary photography, unless the artist's message is in documenting our 'throw-away' society and highlighting the importance of 'recycling' for the benefit of the environment. Such messages did not appear to arise in my opinion. The discussion about architectural preservation was worthwhile but not focused. The interviewer(s) concerned could have assisted by asking relevant questions of the artist(s) for the benefit of an audience with varied photographic interests. My argument here does not involve the earlier weeks relating to the history of photography and the preservation of images for future generations which were excellent.


May 21, 2020

This is an excellent course, which opens up areas of knowledge not encountered before.

Three issues to bear in mind:

1. The content does not include enough 19th Century photography, European or American. Relating concepts to the origins and development of the medium is surely vital to a thorough understanding of contemporary issues.

2. The sections of Additional Readings and Required Readings some of the links open up *pdf files with stupidly small print that more many people is too hard to read. These files should be converted to Word documents and saved with a readable print size. Otherwise it make some documents inaccessable to some learners.

3. The estimated work times for each week bear no relation to the time required to study the additional readings. 2hrs per week is more like 6hrs per week to do the course properly.

By Bill D

Jan 28, 2017

A very fine course and an interesting and stimulating learning experience. The materials were great - based as they were on the vast archival resources of MOMA's photographic department. These were deployed to provide a quality course. It was particularly interesting to be introduced to photographers and work with which I was previously unfamilar - 'Evidence' and 'Carnival Strippers' in particular spring to mind. My only quibble was with the forums - which were ok, but compared to other coursera courses seemed to lack the engagement of tutors to pose searching questions and provide quality feedback. For some reason the forums were a little flat and didn't appear to stimulate e a high level of engagement . Other than this quibble, though, a hugely enjoyable and worthwhile course. Thank You!

By Lorenzo B

Feb 28, 2017

I enrolled the course expecting a little more vision on "how to read" a photograph, a composition, although thanks to the Curator I now understood that the context (time, environment, history, …) is important to that purpose.

I appreciated the competence with which she treated each subject and the interesting perspective given to the various modules. It gave me a new viewpoint in what photography really is.

Good videos and interviews made it easier to understand.

Some readings from the required and additional resources were difficult because of the concepts.

I personally found some topics (module 5 and 6) a bit abstract and difficult to follow, but I put myself into it to expand my knowledge and open my mind.

By Asha H

May 20, 2020

I love this course. It definitely took some time to get into the groove of taking an online course but it was great and very insightful and meaningful to my career at an editorial stylist who works with photographers every day and someone who also takes pictures themselves and working hard to improve my skills as a photographer. The only reason that I wouldn't give this course or the other course I am taking 5 stars is because I think once you take the quiz at the end of every week the correct answers should be shown to the learner so you can see what the you answered (the incorrect answer) and see what it should have been. Thank you MoMA

By Brad B

Mar 9, 2017

As a photography professional but not a fine art student, I found this course valuable in understanding the evolution of photography from its role in historic image capture to become a form of social observation and artistic interpretation and statement. Understanding the evolution of the photograph has made me more aware of what artists working in the photographic medium are trying to represent through their works.

The course is not technical. It does not teach how to compose or develop a photograph. Rather, it is a lesson on the history of photography and using photography creatively through alternative and creative interpretation.

By Fernando C P

Oct 4, 2020

The course is great! Very interesting contents.

Just a little suggestion: colud you make a little more interactive content, to make the learning experience even more exciting. For instance, the linking between the artists references and the museum collections while you are reading an essay, or maybe a map in which you can locate the artists´countries or the photographs locations. Even a timeline would be great, just to contextualize the different artists with some others or with other fine arts or historical events.

Thanks for your work. It was really worth the time!

By Débora B O

Apr 8, 2020

Really enjoyed the videos and interviews. It helps you see photographs in a more artistic, deep way. However, I feel the course could be way more connected to the recent times: how people see photography now, how social media distorces our view of the world, how diverse the photography world has become since cameras become cheaper... so much potential to be explored!

Another criticism I have is that I wasn't motivated to read most of the suggested articles, some were very painful to read.

Overall it's a good course for the photography lovers.

By Alan I

Mar 31, 2016

Very thorough, very nice, quite entertaining and interesting.

As someone who has a lot of trouble remembering names I found the quizzes quite hard (I was not pursuing the certificate so I didn't care if I failed) but I understand that since the class and the goals are subjective while the evaluation has to be objective it matters that those questions can be unambiguous.

All in all, I feel like I did learn to look at photographs differently, and to look at the world through photographs. I'll definitely recommend it to my friends!

By Mark P

Mar 20, 2016

Provides a good overview and appreciation of photographic images and their interpretation. The course material is well presented and easy to follow. There is a good range of extended reading provided, plus suggested further reading. The early course 'assessments' are a little bit odd in places, with very specific questions about a particular photography, that, in my opinion, do not add to the overall course experience, but overall its still worth it. If there was a more advanced follow on I'd be prepared to sign up.

By Alan N

May 12, 2020

The only loss of a star as the course wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting a more detailed course on how to look at and understand images. However this course takes you through much of the history and development of photography up to the present day and as to how we the public receive images and how to understand them. I have learnt to look at images much more carefully and to think more about them both as you see them and more as to their deeper meaning.