Criticae 2023/24 Online Masterclass On Documentary Photography

Activate Your Practice

Photography is a powerful medium for disseminating stories and ideas, and providing a space for urgent reflection on the world and a means for self-examination. Yet how can we define a shared sense of realism in a hyper-individual and confusing era of post-truth and fake news, in which there is no longer a consensus about what is real, half-truth, fiction, or entertainment? How do we narrate stories that are "ours" to tell and how do we define our relationship with the medium in an era where everyone is empowered to tell their own story with a camera?

The masterclass joins the experience of the past years into a unique program that explores the relationship between personal and critical methods. Led by international renown practitioners Laura El-Tantawy and Max Pinckers, participants will delve into different modes of storytelling, questioning the documentary aspect of photography and its various media.

The program will be conducted online over the course of 8 months. Its goal is to lead you to complete a personal project and acquire valuable skills. The course departs from the documentary’s inherent ‘twofoldness’ while will let you explore the collaborative and idiosyncratic, philosophical and intuitive, emotional and analytical. Alternating collective and individual meetings, you will define your relationship with the medium and develop critical documentary strategies.

At the end of the masterclass, one or more participants will be selected for an exhibition at the PhMuseum Lab - a real chance to present your work in a public venue and get international exposure. To participate, simply fill in the form with your personal details, share a link to your portfolio and apply for free. If your candidacy is successful, we guide you to enroll in the program.

  • When From October 2023 to May 2024
  • Language English
  • Positions 17 seats +1 scholarship
  • Dedication 70+ Hours
  • Contacts If you have any questions you can reach us at

How it works

  • Group Classes and Seminars

    With 8 online group classes and 6 seminars, Laura El-Tantawy and Max Pinckers will share their experience and working methods related to contemporary photography, guiding you in developing your project and introducing you to the theoretical frameworks for both critical and personal documentary strategies.

  • One-To-One Mentoring

    You will have a total of 4 online 30-min individual sessions: 2 with Laura El-Tantawy and 2 with Max Pinckers. In these private meetings, you will have time to engage in specific discussions aimed at working on your assignment ideas and improving your methods. Sessions are tailor-made according to your specific needs and that of your practice.

  • Studio Visits

    To grant you industry insight and offer complementary information, we have invited expert practitioners to host 12 interactive studio visits. They will disclose the methodologies behind their work and offer you a better understanding of their role in the industry. Scroll down to discover who they are. These sessions will also be joined by Folio and Mediae Masterclasses participants.

  • Final Presentation and Exhibition

    At the end of the program, you can present your projects live on PhMuseum's Youtube channel. Moreover, one or more photographers will exhibit at PhMuseum Lab, our headquarters in Bologna, Italy. All participants will further benefit from dissemination opportunities through PhMuseum channels.

Head professor

Laura El-Tantawy

Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer. She was born in Worcestershire, England to Egyptian parents. She attended high school in Saudi Arabia, started university in Cairo, Egypt and finished in the US. She reads, writes and speaks Arabic, thinks and dreams in English and feels both. This unusual blend carries through her photographic work. Her photography is inspired by questions on her identity - exploring social and environmental issues pertaining to her background. In 2002, she started her career as a newspaper photographer with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Sarasota Herald-Tribune (USA). In 2006, she became freelance to pursue personal projects. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia (USA) with dual degrees in journalism and political science. Additional education includes an MA in Art and Media Practice from the University of Westminster (UK/2011) and a Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford (UK/2009). Her first book, In the Shadow of the Pyramids, offers a first person account exploring memory and identity against the backdrop of her native Egypt’s political turmoil from 2005 to 2014. Self published on Jan. 25, 2015 to coincide with the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, it has been named as one of the best photography books of 2015 by several critics and book collectors. It earned the nomination for the prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016.

Head professor

Max Pinckers

Max Pinckers (b.1988, BE) is an artist based in Brussels, Belgium. His oeuvre explores visual strategies in documentary photography. Not believing in the possibility of sheer objectivity or neutrality, Pinckers advocates a manifest subjective approach, which is made visible through the explicit use of theatrical lighting, stage directions or extras. Extensive research and diligent technical preparation are combined with improvisation to obtain lively, unexpected, critical, simultaneously poetic and documentary images. His works take shape in as self-published artist books and exhibition installations such as The Fourth Wall (2012), Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (2014), and Margins of Excess (2018). Pinckers is currently a doctoral researcher and lecturer in the arts at the School of Arts / KASK, Ghent and has received multiple international awards, such as the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg 2015 and the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2018. In 2015 he founded the independent publishing house Lyre Press.


  • October 2023

    • Session 1 Group Tutoring with Laura and Max
    • Session 2 Group Tutoring with Laura and Max
    • Session 3 Group Seminar with Laura: introduction to personal documentary narrative
    • Session 4 Group Seminar with Max: introduction to speculative documentary modes
    • Studio Visit #1
  • November

    • Session 5 One-to-One Mentoring with Laura
    • Studio Visit #2
    • Session 6 One-to-One Mentoring with Max
  • December

    • Studio Visit #3
    • Session 7 Group Seminar with Laura: discussion on ethics, aesthetics and conventions
    • Session 8 Group Seminar with Max: discussion on critical documentary strategies
    • Studio Visit #4
    • Studio Visit #5
  • January 2024

    • Session 9 Group Tutoring with Laura
    • Session 10 Group Tutoring with Laura
    • Studio Visit #6
    • Studio Visit #7
  • February

    • Studio Visit #8
    • Session 11 Group Tutoring with Max
    • Session 12 Group Tutoring with Max
    • Studio Visit #9
  • March

    • Studio Visit #10
    • Session 13 Group Seminar with Laura: discussion on showcasing documentary work
    • Session 14 Group Seminar with Max: discussion on disseminating documentary work
    • Studio Visit #11
    • Studio Visit #12
  • April

    • Session 15 One-to-One Mentoring with Laura
    • Session 16 One-to-One Mentoring with Max
  • May

    • Session 17 Group Tutoring with Laura and Max
    • Session 18 Group Tutoring with Laura and Max

Studio visits

Why participate?

  • Acquire practical skills

    Get first-hand experience with international photographers like Laura El-Tantawy and Max Pinckers, enhancing your theoretical and practical approach to both critical documentary photography and personal narratives.

  • Flexibility

    Enroll from anywhere in the world, taking the opportunity to engage in a program you can attend while working or traveling. All the group sessions and studio visits are recorded so you can follow them if you missed them.

  • Exhibit your work

    At the end of the masterclass, all the participants will have completed their projects, ready to present in a final form. Plus, one or more participants will exhibit their projects at the PhMuseum Lab in 2024.

  • Inclusivity

    Enjoy a high-end program at our launching price, one of the most competitive on the market. If you don’t have the resources, you can also apply for 1 fully-funded scholarship.

  • Expand your network

    Engage with a selected group of peers and professionals from around the world, who can become a resource for you now and in the future. Get to know the PhMuseum team and promote your work through our channels and connections.

Criticae 2023/24 participants

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