How to write a photo essay

My origin piece is something that I wrote in English 125.  It was a deeply personal narrative, but I felt like a lot of the things that I discussed–family history, self-esteem, and lack of confidence–were universal themes.  My plan for my experiment is to change this personal narrative into a photoessay that reflects how these feelings are universal, and shows the extent that we change who we are.  My idea is to create a persuasive photoessay that shows photos on Instagram and the same photos pre-filter.  Ideally this would result in a visual that shows people being more honest about who they are.

So here we go…How to write/create a photoessay


To start, I’ve already learned that the guidelines for the genre photoessay are very vague.  According to WikiHow, photoessays are great if they are centered around a narrative.  I think that my narrative will start off with photos that are very edited and slowly progress to revealing more of who I actually am.

Essentially I want to show how my photos go from this version (which is never seen):



to this version (which was posted on Instagram):


Everything about this process eliminates the flaws, the personality, and the honest truth about who I am.  It makes a gray, cold, and cloudy day seem warm and vibrant.  I’ve been trying to edit my photos less and less, but it’s not something that I am always consciously thinking about.  I don’t know how many of these photos I want to do, but I also want to show how selection is just as important in the process.  I might show all the photos from one night and show how there’s about fifteen that we took but I only posted the one that I look the best in.

I’m fear that people might not understand exactly what it is that I want to do, but this ad from Google is really close to my goal.  I have seen this ad replicated different times and know that I could really make a compelling argument based on replicating the format.  Mine is not an advertisement, but as the Digital Photography School says, placing specific images in a planned order to make a point is a unique quality of the photoessay.  I would have these unedited/edited versions of myself and also include photos that I feel really reflect my personality.  Anyway, if you’re trying to get a sense of what I’m doing, the video below is a good start.



I love how saturated in emotion this ad is, and I feel like it really captures the entire year of 2017.  Like I said, I’m not trying to create an advertisement, but a photoessay will really allow me to create a multimedia project with text and music that ideally will illicit some of the same emotion felt in the ad.

I also plan to copy one of the ads that Apple used for their new iPhone.  Similar to the ad above, it uses music to create a feel and pace the entire ad.  I want to replicate the same kind of beat that the ad created to really get a certain vibe.

I know that I have defined the photoessay as some loose genre, but that’s because it is.  Time Magazine, in a article titled, “How Photographers Are Changing the Definition of the Photoessay,” describes the loosening definition of the genre and emphasizes the importance of a narrative, photos, and possibly text or music.

I fully expect my photoessay to contain photos and videos that aren’t my own, as I want to make this a piece that shows it’s more than just on person.  Hopefully I’ve done a decent job explaining where I want this to go, but feel free to shoot me any questions if there’s still confusion.

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