I'm studying A Level photography, and I've taken a dozen of quality photos with a strong sense of composition, but all of them are unrelated to each other. My question is, does photography have to have a theme to be part of a series of photographs? I'm also considering the interesting idea that there are no guidelines to photography and no real rules only the ones that we decide to follow. Some people have self-imposed rules that provide them with creative guidance and/or personal style, but even those rules can be more like guidelines.

Online I've found exhibitions and competitions presenting "open" or "no theme" presentations, but from a range of photographers, not just one persons work.

The only sort of photography I can relate to this in this idea that I've found so far is this gallery by Gerry Dotto.

Online it's hard to find opinions on this so I'm asking a question.

  • 1
    I'm not familiar with the A Levels, but there may be more "strict" requirements than if you were just taking photographs for your own creative/artistic purposes. What does your instructor/teacher have to say? – osullic Oct 10 '18 at 12:49
  • 10
    Online it's hard to find opinions... lol. – scottbb Oct 10 '18 at 13:01
  • 1
    Sorry, just kidding. Welcome to Photo.SE. Interesting question! – scottbb Oct 10 '18 at 13:02
  • 1
    A theme in a body of work need not be the content. So, for example, from how you describe your series, could it be that composition is the theme? – user59085 Oct 10 '18 at 14:11

Does Photography Need A Theme To Be Presented Together?

Definitely not. I've been to plenty of exhibitions where the only theme is that the photos were all taken by the same photographer. In other cases, photos shown together were taken by different photographers and of completely unrelated subjects, but all the photographers were in the same class, or the photos were all taken within some time span. When photos (or any pieces of art) are shown together it's usually because they're all related somehow, but that relationship doesn't have to be a common theme.

My question is does photography have to have a theme to be part of a series of photographs.

I think this is a different question from your title question, and when you use the word series with respect to art it does convey that there's a stronger relationship between the pieces than just authorship. If an exhibit promised a series of sculptures, wouldn't you expect the pieces to share a common theme? So I would say yes, if you're presenting the photos as a series they should share some sort of theme.

  • Your first sentence: Definitely not, I ahve been in plenty of exhibitions where THERE WAS A THEME. Contradiction. "My work" is a theme. – TomTom Oct 14 '18 at 15:11
  • @TomTom No, you've expanded the meaning of "theme" so far that you've made it meaningless. My dictionary says a theme is "a subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation," and merely sharing authorship doesn't give a group of photos the same subject. By the same token, a series as the word is used in an artistic context means more than just some photos all taken with the same camera. You're welcome to your opinion, but if you want to press the point please cite references. – Caleb Oct 14 '18 at 19:59
  • Really? "Most important photos of my life" - yes. theme. "20 pictures representing my work" - yes, theme. One, btw., you will need to get into a photo school, likely. List too often - google.com, find a photo school, read their requirements - as reference. I have been in exhibitions where ("stuff on paper" seemd to have been the theme (and yes, neither camera, nor similar author nor any theme, still "posters" was the published theme). – TomTom Oct 14 '18 at 20:02

You don't need our opinions, you need the A-level Photography syllabus. Which examination, specifically, are you taking? Is there a requirement for 'a series of photographs'? Is that ALL it says? A 'series' could be loosely defined as 'I took this one, then I took this one...'

What does your teacher say? He will have experience of what this particular examination requires.

  • 1
    This. I just got a film developed. That's definitely a series of photos: they're on the same film! There's some portraits from a small shoot I joined, some street photography and a few pictures from the beach... Three themes, definitely a series. – Belle-Sophie Oct 11 '18 at 6:42

Photography doesn't need anything — the needs are of those who practice it (to be published and recognized) and those who publish or exhibit it (to have their choices validated by audience and critics).

The latter would tell you that a single image from someone who is not already an established name will almost never be considered but rather it is projects, portfolios and other 'bodies of work' that matter and those need to have some kind of context if not an outright 'theme' for them to be able to credibly argue for publication or exhibition merit. And they would rarely be wrong.

  • On the contrary. The photographers who shot the Times Square kiss, the fleeing child in Vietnam, the bare-assed tennis girl, MAY have strong portfolios, but no-one cares. – Laurence Payne Oct 11 '18 at 11:06

Hardly seems worth posting as an answer, but from the way you've described the pictures, maybe "composition" is the theme?

You could go all Damien Hirst on its bottom and call it "The serendipity of light in a world of objects" or something, but the theme could be as simple as things you've found interesting at the time.


Yes, pictures DO need a theme, but the theme can be the photograher, or a topic like "Composition". Random pictures by random people do not make any coherent unit of work, per definition.

So, you need a topic, and you have a topic - composition.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.