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St Peter's School


Subject: Photography (A656QS)

Qualification: A level

Exam Board: Eduqas


The word photograph was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek words ‘phos’, meaning ‘light’, and ‘graphê’, meaning ‘drawing’ – so ‘drawing with light. Photography has been used by artists to record, document, manipulate and present examples of everyday life, in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. It has also been used as the vehicle for artistic expression, communicating personal ideas about the world around us. Photography can be applied as a creative process across art, craft and design and is widely used in social, commercial and scientific contexts. With the development of digital technology and the smartphone photography is more popular than ever before.  However whilst anyone can snap and run, the photographic process is an art form through which a multitude of methods can be used to creatively explore a broad range of subject matter. Different styles of photography can be used by an artist, for instance documentary photography which is used to make a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events is a vital way to illustrate world events. Some artists see the camera as a tool for social change, using it to shed light on injustice, inequality and those side-lined in society. Conceptual photography is photography that illustrates an idea; artists have used it as a means to stage a false reality, or capture an idea. In contrast, subjective photography explores the inner psyche and human condition rather than reflecting the outside world.

On the A level Photography course there would be the freedom to explore various photographic styles to communicate your thoughts, ideas and impression of a range of subject matter. You would use photography to explore the visual elements of art to develop your confidence, competence, imagination and creativity. Any art based subject provides you with valuable opportunities to develop your experimental, analytical and documenting skills and your understanding of art, craft and design in history and in contemporary society. The artistic process encourages reflection and critical judgements of your work and that of other artists. These are valuable skills which can be applied to other subject areas and future employment.


Component 1: Personal Investigation (60% of A level 120 marks)

The Personal Investigation consists of two integrated constituent parts:

1. A major in-depth critical, practical and theoretical investigative project/portfolio and outcome/s based on themes and subject matter that have personal significance;

2. An extended written element of 1000 words minimum, which may contain images and texts and must clearly relate to practical and theoretical work using an appropriate working vocabulary and specialist terminology.

- Extended written, critical, contextual and analytical material can take a variety of forms, such as a personal study, an illustrated essay, a digital presentation or blog, illustrated study sheets, a written report, a journal, an article or review and should reflect upon the learner’s work and that of other practitioners.

- Both the practical/theoretical work and the written element will be assessed together using the assessment objectives. Learners will be required to select, evaluate and present their work for assessment.

- The Personal Investigation will be determined by the learner and teacher, assessed by the teacher and externally moderated.


Component 2 Externally Set Assignment (40% of A level – 80 marks)

The Externally Set Assignment consists of two parts:

Part 1: Preparatory study period

  • The externally set assignment materials are to be released to learners from 1 February (in the second year of the course) and will consist of a series of visual and written stimuli, which are to be presented to the learner at the start of the preparatory study period.
  • One of the stimuli is to be selected by the learner and used as a starting point from which to elicit a personal response.
  • Responses are developed during the preparatory study period. They should take the form of critical, practical and theoretical preparatory work/supporting studies which inform the resolution of ideas in the 15 hours sustained focus study.
  • The start of the preparatory study period is defined as the date upon which the externally set assignment materials are presented to the learner. The preparatory study period may commence on or after 1 February. The preparatory study period finishes upon commencement of the sustained focus work.


Part 2: 15 hour period of sustained focus work

  • The resolution of learners’ ideas from the preparatory work must be completed during the designated 15 hours and they must show how their planning relates to the outcome/s.
  • The period of sustained focus work must be completed under supervised conditions.
  • Both the preparatory work and sustained focus work will be assessed together, using the assessment objectives.
  • Learners will be required to select, evaluate and present their work for assessment.
  • The Externally Set Assignment will be set by WJEC, assessed by the teacher and externally moderated.


Assessment Objectives:

The AO’s are equally weighted.


Develop ideas through sustained and focused investigations informed by contextual and other sources, demonstrating analytical and critical understanding.


Explore and select appropriate resources, media, materials, techniques and processes, reviewing and refining ideas as work develops.


Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions, reflecting critically on work and progress.


Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and, where appropriate, makes connections between visual and other elements.


In response to the recommendations of the creative industries, higher education, the National Society for Education in Art and Design, the Cultural Learning Alliance, the Arts Council and expert teachers, there is still an emphasis being placed on the value of drawing within this A level. Drawing is a fundamental aspect of the creative process and of visual language. This should also strengthen practice, support progression and meet the demands of higher education and/or the creative industries.

The context of drawing within a photography course could include:

  • the purposeful use of drawing to record information
  • the application of drawing in the designing, visualisation or expression of ideas
  • the potential of drawing to communicate possibilities, such as compositional arrangements.


Where could the course take you?

You can progress from this qualification to further education courses such as the BTEC Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (QCF) and Higher education courses such as BTEC Higher National Diplomas in art and design subjects, or direct to a BA Honours degree with an art and design focus. Previous students from St. Peter’s have gone on to study the Art Foundation course at CRC. The Photography A level could lead you on to a degree in Visual Communication, Photography, Fashion Photography, Creative Advertising or Marketing. You may wish to seek an apprenticeship or other training or employment in one of the many related sectors.


Link to Specification



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