NGO Photography Academic Summer Course, Cape Town

Study the role of photography in a South African NGO context & learn new photography skills

Be part of an exciting photography academic summer course that explores the role of photography in an NGO context. Based in the stunning and fascinating city of Cape Town, this course offers students unique ways of studying the impact visual media can have on development work – and the opportunity to put this into practice yourself. The course will offer a healthy balance of practical photography courses, lectures by local experts, and field trips in and around Cape Town. You will be working towards your own personal NGO photography project, which will allow you to explore your newly gained knowledge and photography skills. This NGO photography summer course is a unique opportunity to explore development work in South Africa through the medium of photography – and to become a better photographer yourself throughout the process.

Because of its interdisciplinary approach, this academic photography summer course is suitable to students with a wide range of focus areas, including photography, media studies, development studies, and (visual) anthropology. Throughout the course, you’ll be guided by an academic adviser, and there is potential of getting course credits. All logistics will be taken care off too, so that you’ll be able to focus fully on getting the most out of this enriching experience. Read on to find out more, or get in touch to apply or ask us any questions you might have!

Table Mountain photography NGO photography


  • Gain valuable knowledge of the role visual media can play in social development
  • Learn about South African history and learn basic Xhosa
  • Improve your photography skills during workshops by a professional photographer
  • Get professional academic support and work towards valuable learning outcomes
  • Finish the course with a practical NGO photography project, which will allow you to explore and document valuable nonprofit work in Cape Town
  • Experience some of the many travel highlights Cape Town has to offer, including Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Point, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Quick Facts

  • Where Cape Town, South Africa
  • When June/July 2019 (dates TBA)
  • Focus Areas NGO photography
  • Course Work You'll do 50 hours of course work
  • Requirements Particularly suitable for students interested in photography, media studies, visual anthropology, and international development
  • Price $4995 (fully inclusive)

Destination Description

Cape Town is arguably one the most stunning cities in the world. Framed between oceans and mountains, it’s surrounded by incredible natural beauty, with Table Mountain, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, an absolute highlight. Cape Town is also a place of huge diversity, lively cultures, and a vibrant nightlife. Living here is dynamic and interesting, and weekends will give you a huge variety of exciting activities. You can, for instance, venture to the top of Table Mountain, visit the historic Robben Island, drive to the iconic Cape Point, or hang out on some of the many beaches. If you’re into food and design, you can also choose to visit some of the trendy markets for some culinary treats and locally designed goods. Moreover, once you venture outside of Cape Town, you’ll find gorgeous winelands and stunning National Parks that are well worth a good road trip. Weekends are time off, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore some of Cape Town’s many exciting offerings.

penguin Cape Town Table Mountain

  • We'll welcome you to Cape Town and give you a thorough orientation program, which will introduce you to both your surroundings and to the course you're about to start. During the first week, you'll enjoy lectures on South Africa history and the history of photography in Southern Africa. During a brief language course, you'll learn some basic Xhosa. You'll also enjoy a full-day photography workshop by a local professional photographer that covers all elements of camera use and composition - and you'll get to put your new skills into practice during several photography sessions in some beautiful areas of Cape Town, including a sunset session on Signal Hill, and a street photography session in Bokaap.
  • During the second week of the course, you'll receive lectures on the role of South African art and photography in an historical and contemporary sense, the role of photography in advocacy campaigns, and the visualisation of trauma in contemporary theory and practice. We'll also introduce you to Cape Town's township areas, both during a lecture on the history and culture of these townships, and a visit to Khayelitsha, the city's largest township. You'll get to further hone your photography skills during a full-day post-production workshop, and we'll take you on several photography sessions, including one on the top of Table Mountain.
  • This week, our main focus is to explore ethics in NGO photography during several lectures and discussion sessions. We'll also assign you to your NGO photography projects, and you'll spend a full day at the NGO, observing and learning about its mission. This will then allow you to conceptualise how you want to document the project through photography, a process that will be guided by a professional photographer and reviewed by your peers. We'll end the week with a full-day excursion to Chapman's Peak Drive, the penguin colony in Simon's Town, and Cape Point National Park.
  • We'll start the week with practical NGO photography. You'll execute the photography project you have conceptualised during two days that you'll spend with your NGO of choice. This will be followed by a full day of post-production, guided by a professional photographer. You'll then have a chance to present your project during an exhibition, and you can offer a selection of prints to representatives of your NGO. We'll end the course with final assessments and reviews.

June/July 2019 (dates TBA)

The fee is $4995 for the 4 weeks

($500 early bird discount if you book before 30th September 2017!)

This fee includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day Monday – Friday
  • Transfers from Cape Town airport
  • All lectures and talks
  • All photography workshops
  • Academic support and guidance
  • Transport for all the activities in the itinerary
  • Administrative support to help you get credit with your home university

Not included in this fee:

  • International flights to Cape Town
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals at weekends
  • Travel insurance

Photography is a powerful tool of narrating social, political, and cultural landscapes. Images carry far and across different cultures, communicate strong messages, and have the potential to define events. They also have potential to influence societies in a positive way by persuading people to contribute to NGO work, both in a social development and conservation context. This course will give you the the opportunity to study the role photography plays in the development space in general, and social development in Cape Town specifically. With its turbulent recent history, its huge economic and social disparity, and its wealth of development initiatives, South Africa presents a particularly interesting case for exploring the role visual images have historically played in this space, and the potential they have to influence development work in the future.

Your Photography Workshops

You’ll get to explore these issues through a series of lectures, workshops, field trips, and a final practical photography project. They have the following overall structure:

Lectures: A series of lectures, given by local professors and experts, will cover the following main academic areas:

  • The role of South African visual media (in particular photography) in both a historical and contemporary context
  • Visualising environmental & social trauma in contemporary theory and practice
  • The role of visual media in development work
  • Ethics in NGO photography
  • Visual literacy and image dialogue

Technical Photography Workshops: You’ll be able to improve your technical photography skills through workshops that focus on technical use of an SLR camera, composition, and post-production.

Photography Sessions: You’ll be able to hone your photography skills during guided photography sessions at some of Cape Town’s most inspirational spots.

Field Trips: Through a range of field trips to historical sites, museums, and NGOs, you’ll cement some of the theory-based learning.

Practical NGO Photography: You will have the opportunity to improve your technical photography by putting your  knowledge of photography’s role in social development into practice. This will be done by photographing a non-profit organisation working in one of Cape Town’s townships. Guided by professional photographers, you will have a specific assignment that will emphasise story-telling methods to create the most powerful impact for the non profit initiative. All produced work will be used to promote the work of the NGO in the most effective ways. You will be able to choose an NGO in one of the following areas; environmental conservation, early childhood development, animal protection, female empowerment, and health.

Recommended Equipment

To join this photography summer course, you don’t have to be a professional photographer, though ideally you will have basic technical skills and a desire to learn. You will ideally bring the following equipment:

  • A DSLR camera
  • Lenses (suitable for portrait and documentary style photography)
  • A laptop with editing software

Program Support

During this program, all lectures and workshops will be given by local academics and field experts. To ensure maximum professional development, you’ll be guided by an academic adviser along the way. All logistics will be taken care off too, so that you can focus fully on getting the most out of the experience. This program is a collaboration with African Impact, a well-established and award-winning facilitator of volunteer programs, academic courses, and service learning programs throughout Africa.

We'd love to hear from you! Leave a message, and we'll get back to you shortly to help organise your perfect photographic holiday or photography workshop. | 1-855-370-5504