Published on 13th February 2016 by Bob Lee


Six-Session Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Explores 180 Years of Photography through MoMA’s Collection

Original Content Features Works by 48 Artists and Includes Short Films and Inside Views of Artists’ Studios and Processes

NEW YORK, February 10, 2016—The Museum of Modern Art launches Seeing Through Photographs, its first massive open online course for a general audience, available on Coursera starting February 10, 2016. Using works from MoMA’s expansive collection as a point of departure, the course encourages participants to look critically at photographs through the diverse ideas, approaches, and technologies that inform their making.

Seeing Through Photographs can be found at

Led by Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, the course introduces learners to firsthand perspectives and ideas from artists and scholars about what a photograph is and the many ways in which photography has been used throughout history and into the present day:
as a means of personal artistic expression;
a tool for science and exploration; a method for documenting people, places, and events;
a way of telling stories and recording histories;
and a mode of communication and critique in our increasingly visual culture.
Meister noted, “While taking, viewing, and sharing photographs is second nature to many, it is not synonymous with visual literacy.


It is our hope that Seeing Through Photographs encourages learners to explore the gap between seeing photographs and truly understanding them. It has been a pleasure to partner with Coursera, and to develop new content with an extraordinary group of artists thanks to a robust cross-departmental collaboration between MoMA educators, curators, digital media advisors, and producers.”

The course explores the following themes:

    • Introduction to Seeing Through Photographs
    • One Subject, Many Perspectives
    • Documentary Photography
    • Pictures of People
    • Constructing Narratives and Challenging Histories
    • Ocean of Images: Photography and Contemporary CultureOriginal course content includes dynamic conversations, artist studio visits, and a close look at works from MoMA’s collection, and features:moma_mooc_stphank_still04
      Still from Hank Willis Thomas: UNBRANDED, from Seeing Through Photographs. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art

Six short films featuring Katy Grannan, Marvin Heiferman, Vik Muniz, Nicholas Nixon, Hank Willis Thomas, and Sarah Meister.

  • Four video conversations featuring New Photography 2015: Ocean of Images artists Ilit Azoulay, Lucas Blalock, David Horvitz, and Anouk Kruithof
  • 16 audio slideshows featuring interviews with artists Tina Barney, Iñaki Bonillas, Harrell Fletcher, Mike Mandel, Susan Meiselas, Nicholas Nixon, Walid Raad, Martha Rosler, Thomas Ruff, Carrie Mae Weems, and Akram Zaatari, and curators Sarah Meister, Roxana Marcoci, Quentin Bajac, and Eva Respini (Chief Curator, ICA Boston)

MoMA’s Online Courses: MoMA developed and offered its first online courses on its website,, beginning in 2010, growing to seven courses on various themes and subjects.

In 2013, MoMA was the first art museum to partner with Coursera under their Teacher Professional Development program, which is targeted to K-12 teachers. MoMA produced three MOOCs for this audience (Art and Inquiry, Art and Activity and Modern Art and Ideas) before being elevated to full-partner status. To date, over 200,000 learners have enrolled in MoMA courses offered on and Coursera.