Introduction to the Photo Essay

I have chosen to use a photo essay for my second experiment. Photo essays convey a story or a topic through visual means, with minimal text. Ideally, a photo essay should use images to evoke the same, or a more powerful, response than a traditional written essay. A specific topic or theme is important for a photo essay so that it can evoke meaning and emotion in the viewer. According to Collective Lens, there are two types of photo essays, narrative and thematic. Narrative photo essays tell a story, while thematic photo essays all center around an idea or theme. I expect my photo essay to be more thematic, as I plan to include photos that I take or that I edit surrounding activist work.

The organization of a photo essay is also important. There should be one or two lead photos that introduce the topic of the photo essay to the viewer. Then, the creator of the photo essay should use discretion of what other types of photos to use throughout, but it is usually suggested that a variety of different types of shots should be utilized throughout the essay. There also should be an impactful closing shot that brings the photo essay together.

I became interested in doing a photo essay after seeing the emotional impact that visual images surrounding activism can have on people. For example, visual images from women’s marches across the world in January 2017 seemed to capture the spirit of the movement. I’m intrigued to make my own impact with photos surrounding activism. I also have always been interested in photography but have not had the time to study it, so this would be a great opportunity to look at one use of photography.

This photo essay is impactful to me because it creates a narrative through showing the everyday experiences of various people. It is very thematic, and also includes text to further explore the experiences of people in Addis Ababa in the past. I enjoyed this photo essay because I did not have prior knowledge of the lives of Ethiopian people in the past, but I feel as if this photo essay educated me and evoked more emotion than words could. I am very excited to see where my photo essay takes me!

2 thoughts to “Introduction to the Photo Essay”

  1. The photo essay seems like a perfect medium for your topic, Mary Jo! I actually gifted the published photo essay of the Women’s March, “Why We March” to one of my best friends for her birthday. The way it was told was so impactful, and I’m so glad that you mentioned it because it gives me a better picture of your motivation. Do you plan on focusing on a certain type of activism, or issue? Additionally, will you focus on college age activists specifically, or a wide range of ages?

  2. Like Ryan, I also have the “Why We March” book and really love it and found that to be such a helpful guideline for what you’re envisioning for your photo essay! Do you think you’ll focus on student activism within the university, or students who are passionate about activism on broader levels or both? I think either could be really interesting, but something that you could definitely look into if you’re interested is the ongoing issues with Israel and Palestine and student activism, as that’s something that always seems to be a huge deal on our campus and you could definitely get a lot of varied and contentious perspectives on.

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