Intro to the Photo Essay

Going into this third experiment I was pretty lost as to what I wanted my next genre to be. The previous two came to me pretty easily, but I was really struggling with picking a third because I felt like I had already hit a lot of the ideas I had come into the project with. So in order to gain a fresh perspective I ventured back to the very beginning and tried to figure out what made me passionate about pursuing this topic in the first place, and I realized it was the examples I had seen in my own life of human control of nature that had sparked my interest and passion. So, I figured, if I want to try and get other people to care about this topic like I do, what better method is there than to show them the same things that made me care in the first place?

So before doing my research I was pretty convinced I had the idea of a photo essay down. You get some pictures (photo), and then you put some words with it (essay) and boom you’re done. In many ways my original thought is not wrong, but even just scratching the surface of the topic showed me that there was a lot more I had to consider and how much thought and care really goes into a project like this. 

The basic conventions of a photo essay are as follows

1. Focuses on a specific narrative or theme

2. Has a collection of photographs

3. Captions of varying length (from a few words to full paragraphs)

4. Evokes some sort of emotion in the reader

Now it is that 4thconvention that is going to be a tricky one. I can take pictures and I can write words, but getting people to care about human control over the environment? That’s going to take some creativity and practice. I am really excited to play around with this genre and see what I can create with it and hopefully how I can relate it to the emotions I have been exploring with my previous experiments. 

When doing this research, I decided to look at some photo essay examples, and found one from The Guardian looking at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It was an interesting array of photographs that outlined not only the sport, but also the cultural interaction and community development that comes with an international sports competition like this. The author used quotes from coaches and players and connected them with groups of photos in a way that made me feel connected to a story I have no outside ties to. This piece gave me a better understanding of how the captions and photos can be used together to generate emotion in the reader. 

An example from The Guardian Photo Essay “Rugby World Cup 2019: the story of the tournament in pictures and quotes”

3 thoughts to “Intro to the Photo Essay”

  1. This seems like a really cool genre for what you want to do! Epecially because your first experiment was pretty focused on the Huron River, I’m sure you can capture some powerful images there. It would be interesting to see scenic pictures juxtaposed with facts about the specific ways humans have changed this environment to really highlight the dichotomy you were getting at in that first transcendental essay between natural beauty and human conquest. I’m really excited to see what you do with this!

  2. I think that this genre could be a really interesting way for you to explore your topic! With so many crazy things happening in our world and in relation to the earth, I’m sure you’ll be able to create images that evoke some sort of emotion for the reader. If you decided to focus again on the Huron River, maybe you could find old pictures of the river vs the now or find a way to show how humans have ‘conquered’ the river? I’m excited to see where you go with this!

  3. I think this is going to be an awesome genre for you. After reading your reason behind doing it–which makes complete sense and was warm in the sense of going back to your roots–a photo essay really struck me as a way to emphasize the purpose of your work a lot. You can talk about enviornmental destruction and human control, but actually experiencing it–or seeing it–is different. It’s tangible and in your face, and I think this photo essay will really make that impact on your audience.

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