Criticae 2024/25 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 professionals Laura El-Tantawy, documentary photographer, and Elisa Medde, editor and curator, 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, a selection of participants will have their work featured in PhMuseum’s new annual printed publication. Plus, one or more participants will be selected for an exhibition at PhMuseum Lab in Bologna, Italy.

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 October 2024 to May 2025
  • Where Online
  • Language English
  • Positions 19 seats +1 scholarship
  • Dedication 60+ Hours
  • Contacts If you have any questions you can reach us at
  • Full fee €2,000
  • Earlybird fee €1,750 Until 23 May 2024
  • Scholarship deadline 23 May 2024

How to enroll

1. Fill in the form with your personal details

Before 20 June 2024

2. Insert a link to your project

We will consider the potential, the strength and the coherence of your portfolio

3. Submit for free and wait for the results

The applications will be reviewed by the PhMuseum Team

Apply now

How it works

  • Group Sessions

    In a collective and collaborative environment, the 5 group sessions will allow you to present the current status of your work, collect feedback from both the head professors and the class, and move forward.

  • One-To-One Mentoring

    You will have a total of 4 online 30-min individual sessions: 2 with Laura El-Tantawy and 2 with Elisa Medde. 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.

  • Seminars

    Across 4 seminars, Laura El-Tantawy and Elisa Medde 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.

  • Studio Visits

    To grant you industry insight and offer complementary information, we have invited expert practitioners to host 9 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 Publication

    At the end of the program, you can present your projects live on PhMuseum's Youtube channel. Plus, a selection of participants will have their work featured in PhMuseum’s new annual printed publication.

  • Exhibit your project

    At the end of the masterclass, one or more participants will be selected for an exhibition at PhMuseum Lab in Bologna, Italy.

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

Elisa Medde

Elisa Medde is a photography editor, curator and writer. She has a background in Art History, Iconology and Photographic Studies, and currently serves as a lecturer for the Photography MA at ECAL, Lausanne, Switzerland. Medde has nominated for prizes and chaired juries, including the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award, Prix Elysée and MAST Photography Grant on Industry and Work, and her writing has appeared in FlashArt, PhotoEye, Time Magazine, Foam Magazine, Something We Africans Got, Vogue Italia / L'Uomo Vogue, YET Magazine, the Aperture PhotoBook Review, the British Journal of Photography and artists’ books. Between 2012–23, she served as Editor-in-Chief of Foam Magazine, twice the recipient of a Lucie Award for Best Photography Magazine. She is the recipient of the Royal Photographic Society Award for Photography Publishing 2023.


  • October 2024

    • Session 1 Group Presentation #1
    • Session 2 Group Presentation #1
    • Session 3 Seminar #1 with Laura: introduction to personal documentary narrative
    • Session 4 Seminar #1 with Elisa: introduction to storytelling strategies and positionings
    • Session 5 Studio Visit #1
  • November

    • Session 6 One-to-One Mentoring #1 with Laura
    • Session 7 One-to-One Mentoring #1 with Elisa
    • Session 8 Studio Visit #2
  • December

    • Session 9 Seminar #2 with Laura: on ethics, aesthetics and conventions
    • Session 10 Seminar #2 with Elisa: discussion on dissemination, communication and intent
    • Session 11 Studio Visit #3
  • January 2025

    • Session 12 Collective Tutoring #1 with Laura
    • Session 13 Collective Tutoring #1 with Elisa
    • Session 14 Studio Visit #4
    • Session 15 Studio Visit #5
  • February

    • Session 16 One-to-One Mentoring #2 with Laura
    • Session 17 One-to-One Mentoring #2 with Elisa
    • Session 18 Studio Visit #6
  • March

    • Session 19 Collective Tutoring #2 with Laura
    • Session 20 Collective Tutoring #2 with Elisa
    • Session 21 Studio Visit #7
    • Session 22 Studio Visit #8
  • April

    • Session 23 One-to-One Mentoring #3 with Laura
    • Session 24 One-to-One Mentoring #3 with Elisa
    • Session 25 Studio Visit #9
  • May

    • Session 26 Collective Tutoring #3 with Laura
    • Session 27 Collective Tutoring #3 with Elisa
    • Session 28 Group Presentation #2 – Live Youtube Final Presentation

Participation fees & deadlines


Before 23 May 2024

If you apply by this date, you are eligible for the full scholarship. Please send a motivational paragraph that addresses why you need it and how you can benefit from attending the program.

Early Bird Fee

Before 23 May 2024

If you apply by this date, you can save €250. All applications submitted for the scholarship will be automatically eligible for the Early Bird Fee of €1750.

Regular Fee

Before 20 June 2024

If you apply by this date, you can join the program by paying the Regular Fee of €2,000. The seats are limited, so we recommend you avoid waiting until the last day.

* If you are offered a place, PhMuseum is happy to write you a supporting letter when you try to secure any external funding opportunities. In previous editions of our masterclasses program, the candidates' fees were covered thanks to the generous contribution of the IWMF Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists, and other programs.

Why participate?

  • Acquire practical skills

    Get first-hand experience with international practitioners like Laura El-Tantawy and Elisa Medde, 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.

  • Finalise and publish your work

    At the end of the masterclass, all the participants will have completed their projects, ready to present them in a final form. Plus, a selection of works will be published in PhMuseum’s new annual printed publication.

  • 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 also for your future. All participants will further benefit from dissemination opportunities through PhMuseum’s channels and connections.

Other courses you might be interested in

  • Folio 2024/25 Online Masterclass On Photobook Making

  • Curae 2024/25 Online Masterclass On Curatorial Practice

  • Mediae 2024/25 Online Masterclass On Transmedia Storytelling

  • Get Your Things Together / Curating Workshop with PhMuseum

  • Curae 2023/24 Online Masterclass On Curatorial Practice

Apply now