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

3,568 ratings
971 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 09, 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.


May 29, 2020

Coursera gives me a platform to explore new skills. I was able to experience education from world-renowned universities without losing out on career opportunities.\n\n- Thaneshwary kirupanantharasa -

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26 - 50 of 958 Reviews for Seeing Through Photographs

By Neil R

Jun 04, 2016

I would have, if possible, not rated this course. I was not interested in the work of the more recent photographers/photo manipulators. This is a course for the art crowd, not for those interested in the history of photography.

By Jim W

May 31, 2016

If what you want is the sort of doctrinaire overview of fine-art photography that you might have learned in a university in the 1970s, this is exactly the course for you!

It's thoroughly saturated with the Museum of Modern Art mindset: the assumptions and interpretations are those touted by MoMA curators, and the photographers are chosen from the MoMA-approved pantheon. (The quiz questions tend to focus on course-content minutiae -- "Which commentator said X about Y?" -- to make sure you've drunk your art-establishment Kool-Aid.)

On the other hand, if you want to examine the diversity of photography through a variety of critical approaches -- Marxist, feminist, queer-theory, post-structural, whatever -- well, they don't allow none of that there here. This is strictly the Photography Gospel According to MoMA, and you either like it or lump it.

By Researt A V

Mar 11, 2016

By Thierry G

Aug 12, 2020

Yes, I feel I begin to see through photography again and again.

Incredible open content, with paths going towards photographs that I will follow.

By Kamen T

Jun 15, 2016

Teaches the history well, but doesn't focus much on helping to improve.

By mat

May 10, 2020

I think in this course there are some cues or starting point but everything is represented in a superficial way. The course is based only in material from MOMA but, for me, this is not a problem. The real missing thing is the absence of a more deep dissertation about topics. Tests at the end of each week are focused on insignificant details, like quotations, and can be passed queuing google

By Sharon B

Jun 14, 2020

Excellent course - highly recommended. The material is super interesting and varies from week to week so there's always a new topic or idea to be reading about. The content is well put together and comprises a mix of videos, short 'look & learn' slideshows as well as many excellent articles and essays to read at your own pace. I'm a working photographer with an interest in history and theory and I got a lot of mental stimulation from this course - am a bit sad now that I've finished it!

One word of note is that the "1-2 hours per week" commitment is on the low side. You might get away with 1-2 hours if you are a fast reader and only do the bare mimimum readings, but if you want to deep dive into the topics, look up photographers mentioned in articles as you go, and really get into the material you'll need to set aside more time. I ended up spending way more time than anticipated but loved doing it so it was ok ;D

By Vivek C

May 14, 2020

A very accessible, thought-provoking, and often surprising introduction to the most underrated of the visual arts: photography. The instructor, Sarah Meister, has structured the course very cleverly to give you a comprehensive and historical view of photography as a technology, an ever-evolving artform, an institution, and as a way of structuring how we see the world and ourselves. The photographers and images she focuses on are as varied as the field itself. The readings are short yet insightful and engaging. There are plenty of additional resources so that you can delve as deep into any specific topic that you want. Ms. Meister is continuously adding new resources to build on an already excellent course. Highly recommended to anyone immersed in a world saturated with photographic images – that is to say, everyone. You won't see the world the same again.

By Viviana E

Jun 02, 2020

I learned very much from this course. I enrolled in this course because I love photography. I can stay an entire day looking at photographs. And this course has helped me to have a broader, deeper understanding of a photo. I knew nothing about American or other photgraphers. The amount of documents available in this course was amazing (although not usually mobile friendly), so I ended up reading them in my tablet. The videos available were of great quality and very useful, including the text below it. The studio centre sessions and other activities (Webinars) was really enjoyable as well.

I still have much more to learn, but at least I have a strong foundation thanks to this course.

Thank you all for the help and incredible organisation. Great team!

By Peter B

May 08, 2020

I learned a lot, and that's important to say because I was coming to this course already with an established understanding about the medium. What made this course so special was how the material was presented though the perspective of the curatorial department of photography, Sarah Meister and colleagues from the MOMA, making it a dynamic and overal fun experience. I learned about contemporary artists and certain vernacular process that inspired me to learn more. The course is filled with many resources, including video interviews, reading material, some of which is hard to come by. I just want to thank you Sarah Meister and colleagues and the MOMA for putting this course together. Hoping for a part II

By Ammal D P B

May 25, 2020

I found this course so enlightening and it achieves so much in such a short period of time. I think it is greatly curated and the extracurricular activities made me want to learn more with the additional resources in each case. I really enjoyed taking part in some discussions, the short videos are amazing to have the initial overview of the topic at hand and then to carry on with the reading. I wish there was such a course more directed to hands-on photographic techniques. I would definitely take part in that as well. The course, in summary, has teased my interest in Photography even more and now I am considering to start an actual Photography course as a hobby and learn more about photography worldwide.

By Maria G

Jun 15, 2020

If you are willing to learn about american photography history ,how photography evolved,improved and reinvented itself assuming different photography conceptions,styles,artistic expressions,representing ideals,context movements,fields of work and take a look on its most significant photography exponents throughout the decades since X!X century until current times,the most relevant and historical photo exhibitions through the decades, different professional photographers testimonies,experiences and a bit about the history of the Modern Art Museum of New York and its Photography Department this is the right course for you!I highly recommend it!

By freeman

Apr 22, 2020

This was one of the most enjoyable courses I have every taken. My complements to the instructor and the entire staff. It was kind of like a book that you cant put down. I woke up every day energized to learn more. I recommend this course highly to the next 300K people. :)

Two minor improvement comments: (1) the essays would make references to photos in the original books and these were just essays from the books and so the images were missing. Fortunately in most cases I could find something suitable with an internet search. It would be useful if photos could be included.

(2) Some of the NY Times readings were behind a paywall.

By Fabíola B d C

Oct 13, 2020

I started this course to educate myself and to gain knowledge and insights on the different ways one can approach photography. It was a truly enriching experience. The course is very well structured and a lot of resources in different mediums is provided. The Final Project, at the end of the course, enables an overall reflection and is a perfect way to sum up all your learnings and feelings throughout the course and on photography so far. For me, this reflection was insightful and this was exactly what i was looking for. So many thanks! Completely recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Photography!

By Vincent K

Apr 23, 2020

Highly recommended. An excellent introduction to the history, language and appreciation of vernacular photography. The reading material and video lessons were highly relevant and well put together. For those who want to learn how to look at contemporary, as well as 20th century documentary, portraiture and constructed photography, this course is invaluable. As a photographer who is actively engaged in capturing images of the world around me, this course allows me to appreciate the historical development of the craft, and diverse stylistic forms to exoand my horizon.

By Li C

May 26, 2020

This is a very useful course I have learned more about photography history around the world and around us. Now it is a digital world, but a lot of artists can use camera-less methods to produce their works and are successful. These art of works are still attracted hundred or thousand of people to look, to enjoy, to share and to spread their emotion feelings. I hope these kind of technique and other camera way can be lived forever. Thanks so much for MoMA who provides this kind of courses to public and well done for every staff.

Thank you very much!

By Tommaso B

Apr 24, 2020

I loved this experience. In this awful and stressful time, being able to learn such a complex and interesting part of the history of Thought, really inspired me and helped me develop new ideas and projects for the future. I hope, deeply that there will be many more courses organized by Moma. I also am really grateful to have had a glance into Moma. Being italian i have only had the possibility to visit the museum in two moments of my life, when i couldn't really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Stay safe and have a nice day!

By amy o

Apr 26, 2020

This is a really strong introduction to canonical views of the history of photography. It gives a strong overview of aesthetic impulses and concerns of photography from the perspective of the MOMA, which has been instrumental in establishing photography as an art form. If you are looking for more cutting edge or avant-garde perspectives or a diversity of perspectives, you will not get it here but if you are looking to understand how the arts establishment views photography this is a wonderful start.

By Raquel B J

Feb 10, 2017

Es perfecto para aquellas personas que se desenvuelven muy bien con el inglés. Los contenidos son buenísimos (de ahí mis 5 estrellas.) Pero, no se lo recomiendo a las personas que como yo, están aprendiendo el idioma. Me ha costado muchísimo terminarlo, pero muchísimo. Sí, los videos están subtitulados pero los textos no, y muchos son muy técnicos. Luego el trabajo final lo tienes que realizar en ingles y claro, para una persona que se desenvuelva bien le va genial, pero para los que no... nope.

By Marie-Alice

Aug 20, 2019

This course is an absolutely fascinating introduction to the great questions raised by the medium of photography, how it's perceived and used in our current society. It's wholesome, well-built and grants you access to a great number of thoughtful contents of quality. I'll definitely be coming back to this course to get in touch with the complex ideas that are presented there. It's an invaluable resource for everyone who wants to become more literate in the language of photography.

By Mark B

Aug 05, 2020

Seeing Through Photographs has been a real exploration into the history of photography. The resource material is vast and the accompanying videos full of insight and valuable information to help you along the way. Being able to save notes from the videos to refer back to was a plus. The reading material was well documented and there is a plethora of additional reading and resources available which I would highly recommend. Thank you MoMA for such an enjoyable and rewarding course.

By lucas d

Jan 01, 2020

The insights from professional artists and curators really makes this course a unique experience. I learned a lot about the history of photography and what to pay attention to to decipher photographers' intentions.

I'm learning photography as a hobby and with a secret hope to produce interesting enough narratives to be worth sharing. There is plenty of material covering the technical aspects. This course fills the striking gap about the cultural and societal role of photography.

By Louise D

Feb 06, 2017

The reading material provided on this course for download or to read online is phenomenal. I really appreciated the articles and chapters from books made available. The selection was excellent and was obviously chosen by one of the great experts in the field of photography. The videos made by MOMA are first rate. The photographers selected for study are wide-ranging and well chosen. This is a brilliant course which I am recommending to my camera club here in the UK.

By Rekha J

Jun 13, 2020

Seeing through photography- one of the best courses offered by MOMA. Throughout the course I gathered information on various aspects involved in making of a photograph. Documentary photography and photo journalism was the best part of this course, we get to learn the history of photography which shook the world. I extend my thanks for choosing this course which indepth widened my understandings on the photographer s who dedicated their life and art for social cause.

By Bernadine J

Jun 22, 2020

I really enjoyed the way the curator moved us through aspects of history and concentrated understanding of particular subject matter, it allowed you to learn about influences in that area and consolidate with a bit of reflection/discussion and quizzes which helped when looking back about the writing of a course.

In the future, I would have more confidence to join discussions about this because of the way the course has given me some confidence about my new knowledge.