NGO Photography Academic Summer Course, Cape Town

Learn about the role of photography in a development context, and improve your own photography skills

Join an exciting academic summer course in South Africa that explores the role of photography in a development context! Based in the striking and multicultural city of Cape Town, this summer course offers you unique ways of studying the impact images can have in the NGO space – and the opportunity to put this into practice yourself. The course will offer a healthy balance of practical photography courses by a professional photographer, lectures by local professors and experts, and field trips in and around Cape Town. Moreover, you will end the course with your own NGO photography project, which will allow you to put your newly gained knowledge and photography skills into practice, and document interesting development work at the same time. This summer course is a unique way to learn about the role of new media in social and environmental development, to improve your own photography, and to experience the stunning city of Cape Town in an inspiring way. Throughout the course, you’ll be guided by academic advisers, 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.


  • 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

  • Destination Cape Town, South Africa
  • Dates 2019 dates to be announced
  • Academic focus Photography, new media, visual anthropology, sociology, international development
  • Credit Potential for getting credit; 50 hours of course work
  • Price upon request

This NGO photography summer course is facilitated by Penda Trust and African Impact. Throughout the course, all lectures and workshops will be facilitated 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.

About Penda Trust: Penda Trust is a Cape Town based NGO that uses photography as a tool for generating social and environmental change. They do this by teaching photography to youth in underprivileged communities in Cape Town, by providing free professional photographers to grassroots nonprofit organisations, and by raising awareness of important issues through exhibitions and online campaigns.

About African Impact: African Impact is a well-established and award-winning facilitator of volunteer programs, academic courses, and service learning programs throughout Africa.

Course Goals & Learning Outcomes

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. You’ll get to explore these issues through a series of lectures, workshops, field trips, and a final practical photography project.

The course has the following overall structure:

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.

Get in touch for a full program overview! 

You’ll have the privilege to spend a month in Cape Town, 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.

You’ll be staying in a comfortable house in a safe an vibrant area of Cape Town, a close distance from restaurants, museums, and many of the travel highlights the city has to offer. During the week, three meals will be cooked for you at the house. During the weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Cape Town’s exciting culinary scene.

Academic requirements:
Given its interdisciplinary nature, this summer course is suitable for students of a wide range of fields, including photography, media studies, visual anthropology, sociology, and international development – but we are open to applications from anyone with an interest in the course’s content.

Photography level required:
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

How to Apply:
If you are interested in joining, please send us your CV and let us know what motivates you to join the course, and what you are hoping to get out of it. Please also let us know what camera you have and at what level you are with your photography skills.


2019 dates to be announced

Fee:  USD 4,995 (2018)

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

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