Introduction to Photo Essays

For my final experiment, I am going to experiment with a photo essay. I had no idea what genre to pick for this last round, but Julie suggested a photo essay and I thought I would try it because a photo essay can be a pretty creative genre and flexible genre. While I’m not sure what I want the subject of my photo essay to be yet, Julie thought of doing something with tennis fashions, so I am considering that!

Hopefully I will be inspired over the next few days and come up with a great subject. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comment or in class!! Especially am open to ideas that might be more out-of-the-box with respect to my origin piece, which discussed gender equality in professional tennis. I want to do something more creative/fun/light/apolitical.


In the meantime, here are some conventions and examples of photo essays:

  • A photo essay focuses on a particular theme, story, or subject
    • Experiences are often the subject of photo essays, from what I have seen
    • Usually, the author of a photo essay will introduce their work in the beginning, maybe telling the reader what inspired them and what they hope to accomplish
  • They have a title
  • There are several photographs and they are usually accompanied by text
  • The amount of text can vary, from shorter captions to a longer essay
  • Photo essays are often meant to evoke emotions in the reader/viewer
  • There is some type of conclusion or resolution to the work

I found through my research that photo essays can be very diverse in subject and message. This article describes a famous photo essay/book called 42nd and Vanderbilt by photography Peter Funch. Funch captures pedestrians on the street on their way to work over a span of years, which I found super cool.

This website chronicles the past and present of Detroit through photographs, and struck me as pretty remarkable. There are many longer pieces of text scattered throughout this website. The theme of this website seems to surround the “fall” of Detroit, as most images show the dilapidated buildings and other abandoned sites.

Here is a photo essay from The Boston Globe website that has little text, with only captions excluding the introduction. In the introduction, the author explains her motivation for the work, which was to try to rediscover the city for herself and learn to appreciate it in a new or different way.

I am looking forward to exploring this genre further over the course of my experiment. Again, if you have any suggestions, please please send them my way!


3 thoughts to “Introduction to Photo Essays”

  1. Hey Lily! I hope the things we talked about today in class helped you find a path for this visual essay. I think doing a visual comparison of the “Fashion of Sports” would be really interesting. Also, when I started talking about leisure sports ware (wear?), I was specifically thinking of this SNL skit: I think its so wonderful+interesting+kind of sad that athletic clothing can just be able the brand name, instead of its actual function at times.

    I dunno if that helps, but hope you got a laugh out of the skit!

  2. Hi Lily! I love your idea of doing a photo essay for this topic. I hoped some of our ideas in class helped! As I mentioned in class, Serena Williams seems to consistently push the limits of women’s fashion in tennis, and also fights for equal representation of women. If you decide to go with women’s tennis fashion, I found a great collection of Serena Williams’ tennis fashion over the years: (my personal favorite is the 2004 gladiator look because it’s so different than normal tennis outfits). I don’t know if this will help, but I thought I would include it!

  3. Hey Lily,
    I think a photo essay is a great way to change up the origin piece and get a chance to be inspired. I think that fashion and the ideas we talked about in class will allow you to broaden your topic a bit and hopefully will feel like the change in scenery and topic you seem to be searching for! I think you could even use the pictures and your comparison of them as a template for a broader argument, like maybe using a celebrity professional athlete and their attire as an example of a broader problem and then looking at how this is seen in other social arenas of fashion. I’m excited to see what you do with this, and hopefully this will allow you to explore a different side to your origin piece and find inspiration and excitement!

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