Introduction to Photo Essays

I am interested in the genre of a photo essay because it is a genre that I have never explored before and am excited to write and put together. I think this genre also fits well with the communications essay that I am repurposing. As an academic essay, I can completely change it into an emotional and thought-provoking photo essay that questions biases and images that are portrayed in the news.

A photo essay “ is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer” according to the handy and reliable Wikipedia. Photo essays are meant to be emotional, touching, and symbolize/ convey strong meaning to the viewers. Photos can be placed in slideshows or in lines on the page. The text in photo essays tends to vary. They can be as short as captions under the photo or as long as an essay, an introduction, or explanations beneath each photo.

The essay can be sequential or non sequential. If it is non sequential, it evoke more emotion and if it is sequential, it tends to read and look more like a plot and storyline. The photos in the essay should show the plot rather than tell.


This was the first image that came to mind as it was an emotional image of a young, distraught child being separated from her mom or parents at the border of the United States. I hope to incorporate thought provoking and upsetting images similar to this, to keep students and people questioning and thinking about our government and the country and atmosphere we are living in (cause it’s pretty crazy).

One example that really inspired me was a photo essay written on transgenders by the New Yorker. It is called The Trans Community of Christopher Street. The bulk of the text in the essay is about the neighborhood of surrounding Christopher Street and how the LGBTQ community began and grew in this neighborhood. Interspersed between the essay are photos of transgender individuals and the caption below shares a snippet of their story, family, and transition. I like this sample because it evokes a lot of emotion being so realistic and true but it also has a plot line of Christopher street and the LGBTQ movement. I like how the photos split up the plot line, keeping the reader engaged. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.


3 thoughts to “Introduction to Photo Essays”

  1. Wow, that New Yorker article was extremely powerful – I didn’t want to stop scrolling. And it seems like a story that couldn’t be done justice without that sequence of photos. It’s amazing they way that photos can evoke emotions, as words can, but just in a completely different way. I also remember seeing that photo of the child back when it was first published. It’s definitely stuck with me, in a way that I don’t even remember the headline/ story, but I do remember the picture.

    I think the angle you’re taking with the transition from an academic article to a photo essay is so interesting, and relevant in the current political climate with the discussion of the news media, as you said. I hope you choose this as your final project so I can see the final result!

  2. Wow Sophie, The New Yorker article you provided is so powerful. The photos almost speak for themselves but when you combine that with the captions below and the article itself… it really drives it home. I am excited to see what you do with your piece because I think you can evoke so much emotion with your readers.

  3. Hey Sophie,
    I really loved your use of examples in your article. They really helped me to understand what a photo essay is, and were supported by your detailed description. I also like that they were both examples rooted in social justice and equality, which is something you seem to be interested in.

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