M.A. Program - Visual Anthropology Emphasis

Changa Revisited

Visual Anthropology has a long history at San Francisco State, with the discipline’s founders, John Collier, Jr. and John Adair, among the creators of the Anthropology Department. Internationally awarded film- and multimedia-maker, Peter Biella, and visual theorist, photographer and archaeologist Doug Bailey, co-direct the focus. SF State is one of the nation’s few dedicated concentrations of teaching and research in Visual Anthropology.

Visual Anthropology classes at SF State


  • Anth 303 Foundations of Anthropological Film – interconnections of theory and film.
  • Anth 326 Origins of Art and Representation – early human visual behavior and representation on a deep, global scale.
  • Anth 327 Film and Anthropology – narrativity and applied visual anthropology.
  • Anth 328 Anthropology and Photography – documentation, exploitational classification, and radical contestation.
  • Anth 420 Indigenous Media and Social Change – culture jam strategies through digital editing.
  • Anth 595 Visual Anthropology I, and Anth 596 Visual Anthropology II – a year-long course blending ethnography and video production.
  • Anth 699 Independent Study – Advanced written work in consultation with faculty expert.


  • Anth 720 Foundations in Visual Anthropology – overview of classic and contemporary works.
  • Anth 750 Seminar in Visual Anthropology: The Fixed Image –theories, methods, histories and works.
  • Anth 755 Seminar in Visual Anthropology: The Moving Image – theory in light of featured directors.
  • Anth 894 Creative Work Project – thesis level work of film or photography with textual support.
  • Anth 898 Thesis – significant written work on subject, theme, method, period, or visual maker.
  • Anth 899 Independent Study – advanced work in consultation with faculty expert.

Most Visual M.A. students produce a video as their Creative Work Project. Others write theses on historic and interpretative trends, movements, and creators. Some create multi-media photographic works. Primarily, the visual emphasis attracts graduate students who later work as independent media makers and teachers, or who continue on to the Ph.D.

Facilities and production and post-production equipment

Graduate students in the visual focus have access to the department’s dedicated Visual Laboratory. In addition, the year-long video production course uses Sony NXCAM kits with Sennheiser mikes and accoutrements. Post-production seminars, lectures and editing take place in the lab with Premier Pro, Final Cut 7, and Adobe Creative Cloud.