A collection of some of the most commonly asked questions by students interested in applying to Tyler.
Compiled by Byron Wolfe, Photography Program Director


What size is the Photography Program?

I like to say we are both small and large; we have an intimate graduate photo program with six students. But we are a part of a larger school with around 80 studio MFAs, Art History PhDs & MAs, Art Education MEDs, and Architecture, Landscape Architecture and City & Regional Planning Master’s students. Students from many areas often participate in our Photo Graduate Seminar and Photo Projects classes (including MFAs from Temple’s Film Program).

Can you describe the Photography graduate program?

It is a full time, two year (60 credit) MFA degree. Admission into the program is highly competitive as we normally fill three openings each year from an applicant pool of 30 - 40.

We have 3-4 full time faculty (it can vary because of sabbaticals and leaves) and about a half dozen adjunct faculty. Many faculty from other programs (Art History, Visual Studies, Film) are integral to the character and breadth of the program.

In general our school could be described as largely conceptually and object based, but there have been many students with social documentary, social activism, and visual anthropology backgrounds who’ve thrived here. There isn’t any particular photographic medium or method that is emphasized in our program, and our faculty have a range of expertise to support your own research and creative activities.

During your graduate career, you are largely responsible for shaping the creative and conceptual nature of your work and the faculty will support and help guide you in your endeavors.


Can you describe your student population?

The age range of our graduate students varies from year to year, but in general we’ll have a mix of students who are just out of undergraduate to older students who have been out of school for some period of time. It’s typically a geographically diverse population from across the United States and abroad. We intentionally work to assemble a diverse group of graduates who have distinct voices and working methods.

Are interdisciplinary approaches to photography supported?

Yes! I’m continually impressed with the range of our student’s interests and the dedication of our faculty from all of our various disciplines to individual student development and success.

Tyler’s strengths lie not only in specific disciplines, but also in the character and quality of its close-knit community of faculty and students who are passionate, curious, smart, and skilled. The people who choose to study here think deeply about the important roles and responsibilities of artists, designers, and architects in the larger world and in relation to the environment. Tyler is a school with a purpose; a place where cultural production is seen as aesthetically and socially transformative action.

The following is a list of the different programs currently offered at Tyler (not all have graduate programs).





























What is the teaching style / style of critiques ?

You’ll experience different conversations and critiques in every class, so it is difficult to generalize. Each faculty member has their own particular insights and ways of facilitating discussions. Most every graduate level class will consist of 5 - 10 students with a conversation led or directed by the faculty member. My personal emphasis tends to be on helping students begin to understand and articulate both the ideas in their work and their own working methods. So, what you’re doing, as well as how you are doing it (a kind of meta-awareness) are things that I emphasize. I’m interested in helping students develop healthy, sustaining ways of working long after they are in graduate school. Basically, I’m a process-oriented artist and educator, though we most certainly can and will spend time talking about the actual things you produce (and the methods and technique behind the production).


How many works or series of works need to be produced by a student each semester?

There aren’t any set guidelines for the work you produce as a graduate student, although some of the studio classes you take might have more detailed requirements. A central aspect of graduate school is the development and nurturing of your own lines on inquiry and the timeline for that process can be different for every person. There is regular interaction with peers and faculty, and through that, most students are made aware of whether or not their level of production is appropriate. There are two formal benchmarks prior to the culminating MFA thesis exhibition where you meet with your graduate committee (4-5 faculty that you’ve asked to serve). The first review takes place in December at the end of the first semester. This is a checkpoint to make sure that you’re settled in and moving forward. The second review takes place in December at the end of the third semester. This is a checkpoint to make sure you have a sense of direction for your thesis exhibition.


Do students work on one/two or multiple themes during their entire MFA Program?

It varies. Some come in and doggedly pursue a single idea, while others work on multiple fronts. I generally encourage students to take the first semester to try to reinvent what they do as graduate school represents a rare opportunity to do that while being supported by peers and faculty. I see graduate school as a focused and intense period where you begin to practice how you might work outside of school and for the rest of your creative life. In general, most active and productive artists have many different things going at once. This is harder in graduate school, but encouraged, because of how graduate school should be practice for how to work later on.


What are the facilities like?

Tyler’s facilities are truly “state of the art” - across the entire school, and in Photography as well. Within the program we have a nearly equal balance between tools dedicated to high end digital production and traditional wet darkroom processes (inlcuding many historic processes). Our digital tools include medium format digital backs, oversized scanners, high end calibrated displays, a range of new (2018) Canon printers, a laser cutter, and a 3D printer. Video production is also possible and we’re just beginning to experiment with virtual reality, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi computers to control multi panel video installations.


Will I get a studio?

Yes. There are four graduate studios arranged around a central meeting and working area (with two dedicated inkjet printers - one roll, one cut-sheet, a digital project with Apple TV, and more). There’s also a smaller darkroom set aside exclusively for grad use. Because we typically have six graduate students, it is standard for two studios to be shared and two to be individual. We generally work out the allocation of space based on seniority and working methods or processes, but sometimes we have a simple lottery to determine who goes where. While we don’t have unlimited space, my observation has been that there’s ample room and equipment for students to pursue their work with fewer limiations than are typical outside of a school setting.



What types of funding are available?

The two kinds of funding support come in the form of Fellowships or Teaching Assistantships (sometimes referred to as Graduate Assistantships or Academic Interns). The TA awards are typically in the Photography Program, but sometimes there are positions outside the program in areas such as Temple Contemporary (our school gallery) or the Media Output center (a printing service bureau). Normally, TA awards cover 50% of tuition and come with a stipend. This type of award is also a job with a ten hour per week commitment. In very rare cases, a TA award would cover 100% of tuition plus a stipend. This requires a 20 hour per week commitment.

University Fellowships (there are a few different types) are by faculty nomination only, and happen only after an application is reviewed and a student is admitted. These are highly competitive and determined by a University level committee (not the faculty within the Photography Program).


Does the Program award Teaching Assistantships to first semester incoming students ?

In our program, admission typically comes in conjunction with a Teaching Assistantship award.


What qualifications do you look for before awarding a Teaching Assistantship to students?

There are many things to consider including; the level of development as an artist; background and experience in working with others through teaching or other; interpersonal skill and ability to communicate effectively; a demeanor compatible with teaching and working in a close-knit community; intellectual and creative curiosity and drive. Not all of these are things that can be assessed through a portfolio, so the written materials and follow-up interviews are useful.


What types of classes are taught by a TA ?

In the first semester, graduates aren’t allowed to individually teach a course, so they’re paired with a faculty member. Depending upon interest and experience, when graduates do teach their own course (sometimes in the second semester, but often in the third and/or fourth semesters), it’s normally a beginning photography class for non-major students. That, too, is a mentored situation where the two or three grads teaching that class meet with me weekly to discuss what is going on and how it is going. There is also the opportunity to pursue a certificate called “Teaching in Higher Education” which consists of a single class, coupled with a practicum (teaching the aforementioned photo class). I prioritize teaching assignments for grads who take that class and demonstrate an appropriate level of readiness for teaching (as demonstrated through daily interactions and conversations).


Once a Teaching Assistantship is awarded does that result in a full tuition waiver and a stipend?

Sometimes, but usually no. We award TAs in what are called half or full awards. A half award is a 10 hour per week commitment (either teaching a class or assisting/working in the program) in some capacity. That results in half tuition waiver plus a stipend of just over $4000. On occasion, we do have full TA awards and those require a 20 hour per week commitment, and they are full tuition plus a stipend of just over $8000.




Your admission requirements cite "40 undergraduate studio credits and 12 art history credits." My academic background isn’t specifically in photography. Will I even be considered for admission?

Many past graduate students (and faculty) came from fields other than photography. We generally consider rich and diverse backgrounds to be an asset, not a liability, although there is a general expectation for a high level of technical and creative proficiency in some photo-imaging related field, as well as a solid foundation in studio arts and art history. What would be best would be for you to get in touch to discuss specific questions you might have about our program to see how it might align with your background and your goals and aspirations.


Can diptych/triptych images be submitted as a single image ( i.e. the way an artist intended) or does each panels that constitutes a Diptych/Triptych need to be submitted as an individual submission?

Diptychs and Triptychs can be considered as a single image. If you were to show work that was, for example, an installation that had numerous pictures and needed to be seen as a whole and in context, one overall image plus perhaps a separate detail or two, might be best. It’s important to show enough of a work so that a viewer can clearly understand what’s important and what’s going on. Assembling your portfolio is less about adhering to the formatting rules of SlideRoom and more about making choices that will help us understand you and your creative interests.