Intro To The Photo Essay…

For my second experiment I want to try a photo essay. After my last genre X, I wanted to try something a little more abstract. I’ve yet to hear of anyone in my class interested in trying a photo essay, so I was drawn to doing something new and exciting. I’ve always loved photography. I may even be a little photo-obsessed considering I have almost 5,000 pictures on my phone at the moment. But, whether it’s capturing memories with family and friends, or beautiful landscapes and buildings of places I’ve travelled, I love taking photos.

What also sparked my interest in a photo essay was a piece I wrote last year in English 325. The paper took a very different approach to analyzing photography, arguing that society has become increasingly image-based and that we may be missing out on important moments, instead living behind the lens. I’m interested in transforming those ideas into almost a counterargument against my own argumentative essay. Looking back on it, I question whether or not I fully believed the points I made against the overuse of photography. I definitely do wonder if spending too much time taking photos is harmful, possibly taking away from real experiences. But, what about the special moments that can only be captured with a photo? With the genre of a photo essay, I want to not only demonstrate the amazing things photography can do, but also write with photos.

In terms of what the genre is- I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, (I know not a great source but I’m just trying to get some basic info here), “A photo-essay is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer. A photo essay will often show pictures in deep emotional stages. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small comments to full text essays illustrated with photographs.”

So, from this I learned a photo essay can range in the amount of writing it chooses to include and sparking emotion is important. But then again, isn’t this the primary purpose of most writing? I’m interested in experimenting with the use of captions in my own piece.

Then, after reading a photography blog post called Collective Lens, I learned there are a few important elements in the photo essay genre:

  1. The story– Your essay should be able to stand alone, without a written article, and make logical sense to the viewer.
  2. A range of photos: A variety of photos (wide angle, detailed, portraits etc.) should be included. See the types of photos section discussed below.
  3. The order of the photos: It is important that the order of your photos effectively tell a story, in an interesting and logical sequence.
  4. Information and emotion: Your photos should include both informational and emotional photos. Those essays that effectively evoke emotion while providing information tend to convey their messages the best.
  5. Captions: In a photo essay, captions are your best opportunity to describe what is happening in words and ensure that the viewer understands. Include informational content in these captions if necessary.

The elements above actually didn’t strike me as too different from your average essay. They still demonstrate theme, emotion, require a topic or “story” to tell, and order matters. Yet, I love the freedom and ambiguity placed on how much/how little to include writing, and how much/how little information you should give the audience on what it actually is they’re viewing.

I’m excited to begin the process of my first photo essay!

Final Experiment! The Choosening

The experiment I’m choosing to continue with for my final piece is my second experiment: a zine about non-human women in the original run of The Twilight Zone. Since high school I’ve loved zines as a medium over pretty much everything else! I love the different kinds of subject matter they can tackle, the diy feel of them, just how special they feel as a medium. I also really love The Twilight Zone; even as the granddaddy of modern sci-fi/horror genres and tropes, there are still elements of its storytelling that feel fresh and innovative. But, at the same time, I want to critique, or at the very least try to understand, how it treats its female characters, specifically the ones that are explicitly not human or “Living” by traditional standards. I want to know how these women are used to explore human consciousness, and what it says about the contemporary roles and attitudes for women this humanity is drawn upon. I think this genre is perfect for the kinds of critiques/associations I want to make for a few reasons:

  1. Zines and fanzines have been famously used by fans of science fiction and riot grrl 3rd wave feminism to create radical content that wouldn’t necessarily be featured in a mainstream publication, and
  2. It allows me to relate to the pieces in a way that’s much more organic to me than simply writing an essay or structuring a comic book.

Figuring out a venue of publication is tricky for zinesters, since many zines are self-published and circulated. However, there are a few semi-major publications that put out zines, such as Silver Sprocket, that I could send my materials for publication to and plenty of local comic book stores (Vault of Midnight! Green Brain! Prolly not Big Ben!) that would pick up circulation of my zine.

Experiment 2 Reflection

For this second experiment I decided to turn my origin piece (a cultural commentary essay) into a PowerPoint. I would still be discussing everything in my origin piece but in a new format and with images. It’s not a very radical change, but I think it would be interesting to try and turn something so text based into something so visual. I would just change the format in which I present the information. 

 Although I was more excited about my previous experiment, I could see myself actually doing this one. I would keep all the information I wrote in my origin piece but maybe reorganize it and add other outside information which I would include my PowerPoint. I could even look at my first draft of my origin piece to see if anything I originally took out could be added back or returned to in a new way. The hardest part of this experiment would be to find pictures and deciding when to move to a new slide. I can also get very particular about how my slides look so I think also formatting it will take a long time. I don’t think my idea about this experiment has changed much from the proposal stage. Rather I’m more realistic about how much work and effort I will end putting into this experiment if I choose to do it.

 That being said, the research I did to learn more about the genre helped me realize some techniques that I can use in my PowerPoint. It’s not that I can’t have any words, besides a title, on each slide but that it should be limited. I knew PowerPoints should be more focused on images and figures, but I still like using some text to explain what is presented. I also liked that it doesn’t have to be just pictures but the way you organize text on a page to make it visually stimulating. And as long as it looks clean and organize, the slide should be understandable to the audience. One thing I don’t love about this genre, though, is how much importance is place on the presentation: i.e. the person up there talking about the information. This is more about my own personal preference of not speaking in front of a large group of people. I don’t enjoy public speaking. However, if I did this experiment, I don’t think I would do a formal presentation but write the notes and script as if I would. 

To help with some of these issues, I would want to learn more about how my previous professors have put together their own slides. How much time is too long for a slide? Can you have too many or too little slides? What is an effective transition between ideas? What should the script look like? I think it would be beneficial to learn more about how they are presented because even if I don’t present my own, it would help me to create it. I would gain a better idea of when to switch to a new slide or whether to combine the information into just one slide. So rather than just looking at other’s PowerPoints I would watch some being presented.             

Overall, I think this could be an interesting experiment to do. It seems pretty straightforward and although it is similar to my origin piece, it’s such a different way of looking at and communicating information. 

Say Hello To My Little Movie Poster

The theory I propose about Stephen King’s “The Body” is one where King is actually writing about himself writing about his own childhood and his experience seeing a dead body through the narrator (a horror story writer) writing about his childhood experiences. This movie poster for a remake of Stand By Me (a movie based on “The Body”) will allow me to visualize this complex idea by superimposing a childhood Stephen King and an adult Stephen King behind their respective characters in the movie looking in the direction of a dead body. I will include a dark color scheme to portray the bleak feeling of the dead body discovery and prominently feature the names of the actors and the director. The primary audience for my movie poster is King enthusiasts who enjoyed Stand By Me, “The Body”, or simply enjoy movies in general. My secondary audience will be general movie goers who I hope to intrigue right away the first time they see the poster in order to get them to come see the movie. Despite the limited word usage a poster allows me, the ability to visualize the theory will go a long way in helping people comprehend and follow what I am proposing.

To begin on a personal note, I enjoyed this genre analysis much more than the first. I am a huge movie person and that’s why I believe I will very much enjoy this experimentation process. The genre I will be working with in experiment #2 is movie posters. I think movie posters do a great job of providing a lot of critical information in a very compact medium. These posters generally include the names of the main actors prominently displayed in large, bolded text. This helps show that one of the main factors of an individual choosing to see a movie is who they will be seeing in it. The posters also include a tagline, a short statement intended to intrigue the audience. This, along with the captivating visual, is crucial to the movie’s success as with seemingly 10-20 movies in a theater at any given time, there are always other options if a tagline or visual does not grasp the audience’s attention. Although some of the placements of specific conventional items included on movie posters are variable, it is common to see a visual in the middle – top of the poster. This visual usually involves at least one of the main cast members. A few of the other conventions include:

  • The name of the director (the name’s prominence is usually relative to how big the director is)
  • The name of the biggest actor is somehow set apart from the name of supporting actors (i.e. bigger font, bold font, etc.)
  • An intriguing color scheme that helps to indicate the mood of the film
  • A release date or some kind of timeline indicating when the film will be in theaters (i.e. “Coming This Summer”)
  • A limited amount of informative text about the movie

As we look at some of the posters featured throughout this post, they all feature at least a few of the contentions mentioned above. The Inception poster is special to me as this movie is the driving force behind my theory about King (dreams within dreams, stories within stories, that kind of thing). It utilizes all of the conventions as it displays Christopher Nolan’s name, very very prominently displays Leonardo DiCaprio’s name, has a mysterious looking color scheme and visual, and prominently displays the release date in bold font at the bottom. Finally, it has a very short tagline as the only informative text about the actual movie itself.

Inception-movie-poster

The poster for Scarface (an all time personal favorite movie), is an example that doesn’t necessarily fit the exact mold of the typical conventions in a movie poster. The Scarface poster displays much more text and places a ton of emphasis of the lead actor Al Pacino. It has his name displayed at the top but unlike most posters, does not show any supporting cast. This could be because as far as I know, he was far and wide the most famous actor in the movie so it may have seemed prudent to just focus on him. It also features an interesting color scheme of black and white which (having seen the film) represents the constant internal conflicts he has with himself as well as the white representing the ginormous importance cocaine has throughout the movie. The poster does also feature the director.

The specific strategies I plan on borrowing include the prominent name of a big-time director. I plan on using Christopher Nolan as he directed Inception and Inception is once again the driving force behind the creation of my theory about “The Body”. I also plan to put Stephen King and whoever will be playing Gordon name’s at the top of the poster and have them both be in the primary visual. I will include when the movie will be in theaters, and I don’t plan to use any informative text with the exception of the tagline.

Drumroll Please…

    After all of the discussions about blogs, and blogs about blogs, and essays about blogs I have decided to write… (drumroll please…) a blog!

    My blog post will be about how hegemonic masculinity infiltrates our society and impacts individuals of all genders, races and ages. The blogging genre affords the chance to be very personal about my own opinions, so I plan on expressing my thoughts on this subject very frankly with readers. The original essay had a purely academic tone, and I did not have a chance to add an emotional appeal. In this blog post, I plan on discussing how this issue personally affects me in everyday life, which is very emotional and I hope readers will relate or understand the struggles of being a woman in today’s society.  Additionally, the blog genre allows me to bounce off of other feminist bloggers who discuss similar subjects such as Feministing. I will use other blog posts as inspiration for how I set the tone of the piece. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in his piece, “Why I Blog” (which, ironically, is not a blog post), “A successful blog therefore has to balance itself between a writer’s own take on the world and others”. By incorporating concepts I learn from other blogs into my own, I will also be able to make more informed and effective remarks.

 

    Although we have gone over a few conventions of blogging already, here are some more guidelines I am going to (attempt) to stick to:

  • Using plain language. Nothing too fancy, but an “approachable” tone a la Amy Devitt’s Genre Colored Glasses. I was relaxed by her comfortable voice, especially in comparison to her excerpt from A Theory of Genre
  • Having a conversational tone – inviting readers to join the conversation, weigh in their inputs and challenge mine. I would hope readers contribute to the conversation in order to spread the message
    • Going off of this point, knowing who the conversation is with. For this blog post, my audience will most likely be other feminist bloggers as well as my fellow MiW friends 🙂
  • Breaking up the format (no walls of text- Thanks for this tip Vivek!). Personally I struggle with finding pictures or other non text visuals that are meaningful yet relatable to the content. Bear with me as I search the internet to find the perfect meme
  • Have a point. People read blogs to be entertained, and to be informed. I need to captivate my audience and give them a purpose to read (and share) my blog

 

     The blogosphere is an unfamiliar and overwhelming realm I am about to delve into… and it looks like I have my work cut out for me!