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Dr Carol McKay

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Arts Team Leader

I am a photography and art historian, curator and writer. I began my career at Cambridge University, where I completed a PhD on the work of the Russian painter and pioneer of abstraction Wassily Kandinsky. I joined the University of Sunderland in 1998 and before that I taught History of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London and at Cardiff Metropolitan University. 

As Arts Team Leader I am responsible for undergraduate and MA courses in Glass and Ceramics, Fine Art and Photography. Since 2017, the Arts Team has twice been awarded the prestigious Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence from the Higher Education Academy (AdvanceHE) in recognition of its successful partnership programmes where students have opportunities to work collaboratively on ‘real world’ and professional projects with staff and external cultural organisations. 

I also work closely with North East Photography Network (NEPN), a research and development centre for photography based in the Northern Centre of Photography and supported by Arts Council England. NEPN projects have included The Social: Encountering Photography (2013) a month long international festival of photography and lens-based arts presented in gallery and public contexts across the North East of England.

Teaching and supervision

I teach courses across the Arts Team, including BA (Hons) Photography, Video and Digital Imaging, BA (Hons) Fine Art, and MA Visual Practice.

I supervise PhD students working with photography, including practice-based research and research by existing publication and I have regularly examined PhDs in photography and visual arts practice. 

Research interests for potential research students

Past PhD Students

  • Dr Michele Allen (2012) While reason sleeps: a practical investigation into the multiple narratives of place, explored through a process of expanded, ‘self reflexive’ documentary practice incorporating photographic and audio work AHRC Collaborative Studentship (Director of studies).
  • Dr Matthew Hearn (2012) Performing the Archive: the Locus+ Archive, a curatorial case study AHRC Collaborative Studentship (Director of studies).
  • Dr Charlie Meecham (2015) The Oldham Road Rephotography Project (Director of studies).
  • Dr Harry Hall (2015) The manifestation of change: a photographically based investigation that visualises the processes of urbanisation within the Kharnack Nomad Communities (Director of studies).
  • Dr Liza Dracup (2017) Photographic Strategies for visualising the landscapes and natural histories of Northern England (Director of studies).


In the past decade, my research has been collaborative and has focussed on two areas:

1. practices of commissioning and exhibiting photography in the public realm, including the role of the ‘networked image’ in photographic and curatorial practice.
2. innovation in photographic pedagogies (students as partners)

Practices of Commissioning and Exhibiting Photography in the Public Realm.

With Amanda Ritson, I am programme manager of the photography research and development centre NEPN. NEPN is an outward facing organisation that develops research opportunities for staff and students, working with partner organisations regionally, nationally and internationally. In 2013, NEPN produced the first international festival of photography in the North East of England, The Social: encountering photography.

Currently, NEPN is developing partnership projects for the Great Exhibition of the North (2018) and with Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society. NEPN also works closely with Sunderland 2021 and the photography it has commissioned and supported has been identified as a key art-form specialism for the City.

With Arabella Plouviez, I have also written about the relationship between photography commissioning and user-generated photographic participation.

Innovation in Photographic Pedagogies.

I led the photography team submission that was awarded the HEA Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (2017) for work with students and NEPN. My ongoing research, funded by HEA is to develop new contexts for working with students as partners nationally and to evaluate the impact of such real world experience on student learning.


Number of items: 17.

Book Section

Mckay, Carol (2019) In Conversation: Tim Mitchell and Carol McKay. In: Product/ Tim Mitchell. Kerber, Berlin, pp. 328-345. ISBN 9783735606020

Mckay, Carol (2018) Photography's Communities of Practice. In: John Kippin: based on a true story. Kerber Verlag, Berlin. ISBN 9783735604613

Plouviez, Arabella, Mckay, Carol and Moschovi, Alexandra (2013) Connected. In: Versatile Image. University of Leiden Press, Netherlands.

Mckay, Carol, Plouviez, Arabella and Moschovi, Alexandra (2013) Are We All Photographers Now? Exhibiting and Commissioning Photography in the Age of Web 2.0. In: The Versatile Image. Leurven University PRess, pp. 127-146. ISBN 9789058679758

Conference or Workshop Item

Mckay, Carol (2018) Develop: Graduate Symposium. In: Develop: Graduate, 28-29 June 2018, Hope Street Exchange, University of Sunderland.

Plouviez, Arabella and Mckay, Carol (2016) Meshworks & Photography. In: The Association for Photography in Higher Education (APHE) 2016: Meshworks, 29 Jun - 01 Jul 2016, Plymouth, UK. (Unpublished)

Mckay, Carol and Plouviez, Arabella (2016) NEPN and the Northern Centre of Photography: a model for photography in Higher Education. In: Association of Photographers in Higher Education, Meshworks Summer Conference 2016, 29 Jun - 1 Jul 2016, University of Plymouth. (Unpublished)

Plouviez, Arabella and Mckay, Carol (2012) Mass-Participatory Photography and the Critically-Engaged Practitioner: Commissioning and Exhibiting Contemporary Photography. In: Association of Art Historians Conference 2012, 29 - 31 March 2012, Milton Keynes. (Unpublished)

Plouviez, Arabella and Mckay, Carol (2011) Photography, walking and social networking: reflecting on critical
photographic practice. In: The Versatile Image, Photography in the Age of Web 2.0, 24th - 26th Jun 2011, University of Sunderland & Newcastle University. (Unpublished)


Plouviez, Arabella, Moschovi, Alexandra and Mckay, Carol (2013) The Versatile Image, Photography, Digital Technologies and the Internet. Leuven University Press. ISBN 9789058679758

Mckay, Carol and Strachan, John (2013) Their Colours and their Forms, Artists' Responses to Wordsworth. AEN and Wordsworth Trust, UK. ISBN 978-906832-06-3


Collier, Mike (2014) Wordsworth and Bashō: Walking Poets. 24 May - 2 Nov 2014, Dove Cottage, The Wordsworth Trust Museum Grasmere.

Collier, Mike, Clayton, Ewan, Cockburn, Ken, cowton, Jeff, Flint-Sato, Christine, Kunial, Zaffar, Kono, Eiichi, Ling, Manny, Mchugh, Chris, Monta, Nobuya, Panneels, Inge, Richardson, Andrew, Sakamoto, Nao, Skelton, Richard, Richardson, Autumn, Tani, Ayako, Thompson, Brian and Mckay, Carol (2014) Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets. May - Nov 2014, Dove Cottage: The Wordsworth Museum.

Mckay, Carol (2013) The Social: encountering photography. 18 Oct - 16 Nov 2013, venues across Sunderland and the North East of England.

Brennan, Tim (2011) Vedute Manoeuvre- video. The Knowledge, 4 Jun - 27 Nov 2011, 54th Venice Biennale’Gervasuti Foundation.

Brennan, Tim (2008) iAmbic Pedometer: Ur Manoeuvre. Their Colours and Their Forms - Artists’ Responses to Wordsworth’, 02 Feb - 10 Mar 2013, Dove Cottage, Wordsworth Trust, Ambleside.


Mckay, Carol (2019) Exploring approaches to foregrounding independent photographic research practice in NE England. [Research portfolio]. Two book chapters.

This list was generated on Fri Apr 12 22:44:48 2024 BST.
  • History and theory of photography
  • Commissioning and exhibiting contemporary photography
  • 20th Century art history and visual culture
  • Photographic pedagogies

Last updated 28 February 2024