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”

An Introduction to Obituaries

Welcome to a post about death. (Hopefully someone will appreciate my Beetlejuice the Musical reference as an attempt to lighten up this rather dark topic). In the wake of my first experiment, I was left pondering how cathartic it was to embrace some of the frustrations that come from being concerned about the state of the natural environment and dealing with the doom and gloom that comes with a lot of my studies. For my second experiment I decided that fully embracing the dark side of my topic (human control over/impact on nature) could be an interesting way to further explore these feelings through a creative outlet. And thus I have decided to go to the extreme try and write an obituary…… for the Earth.

An obituary is a written notice of death, typically occurring in a newspaper. They usually include a brief biography of the deceased, but their public nature tends to keep them really short and not too personal. When looking up the tradition elements of an obituary I stumbled across a 6-step checklist for everything that needs to be included:

  1. Announcement of death to let readers know who has died
  2. Biographical sketch which recounts the most important events, qualities, contributions, and connections in a person’s life
  3. Family: a list of those surviving them (spouses, siblings, children, ect.)
  4. Service times: time, full date and place of service, name of officiant; time, full date and place of burial; time, full date and place of visitation
  5. Special messages which can include “in lieu of flowers please send…”, prayers, lines from poems, etc.
  6. Photos typically showing off person happy, doing things they loved with people they loved.

While obituaries tend to exist for and in the community that the person lived in, in order to better understand this genre in the scope of an obituary outside of a more centralized community, I looked into obituaries for celebrities to see if there were any tenants of an obituary for someone who had a global impact that were different than what I had come across in my initial research. When looking at an obituary for Prince in the Telegraph I noticed that his obituary was headlined by his time in the public eye and the accomplishments of his career before going into the typical biographical information included in an obituary. The Telegraph also included quotes about their accomplishments and life from other industry professionals and famous friends. Many different publications had written obituaries for Prince, and each one had a slightly different point of view that was meant to encompass the ways in which their readers would have engaged Prince during his life. While even a celebrity obituary has most if not all of the six parts of an obituary listed above (often missing the service times portion), they have a lot more emphasis on the audience and the way that they engaged with the deceased as opposed to just the life of that person.

An obituary is sad in nature, but often serves as a celebration of life. I hope that exploring this genre in the context of this topic will serve both as a warning of the dangers of a lack of concern and action for environmental protection, but also a celebration of the beauty of the natural world.

Intro to Transcendental Essays

My first encounter with transcendental writing came in 11th grade English class when we had to read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. At first I was excited by the idea of diving into this new philosophical writing style that I had never really encountered before, but this excitement died down quickly when I got a concussion and still had to keep up with the transcendentalism unit. If you’ve ever encountered a piece of transcendental writing and thought it was dense, imagine trying to work your way through it while heavily concussed. Needless to say, my first interaction with the genre was not the most engaging or convicting to me as a reader or a writer. Something about it has always stuck with me though. I spend a lot of time musing many of the major points of the transcendental movement; nature, divinity, the connection between people and their environment; but have always held my distance from the genre. I wanted to explore transcendental essays through this experiment in hopes of overcoming my unfortunate introduction and exploring a style of writing I have felt disconnected from.

As I began to research this philosophical movement and the writing style that arose from it, the first thing that I felt like I needed to understand better was what made transcendentalism, transcendentalism. The main things I could find were that transcendental writings were grounded in an understanding of non-conformity and self-reliance with an emphasis on the importance of nature all centered around a air of divinity. There is also a heavy emphasis, overt or not, on the idea of the sublime, a certain abject greatness that one often experiences through interaction with their natural surroundings. In order to see these conventions at work, I went back to where it all began and took on a passage from Walden. The passage was a little different from what one would consider a traditional transcendental piece in that it was not mainly focused on nature. While this was still an important part of the chapter, a lot of it focused on a philosophical take on possession and human desire centered around purchasing a farm. Thoreau states, “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or to the county jail.” Thoreau really emphasizes the pillars of self-reliance and free thought here by promoting an idea of individuality and the benefit of living untied to society. This exploration of transcendentalism showed me a side of the genre beyond just what I expected (which was an author marveling at the beauty of some trees) and opened up the way I could approach the genre and the theme of political control of nature that is expressed in my origin piece.

Walden Pond– the inspiration for Thoreau’s book (photo courtesy of http://bostonmagazine.com)

When researching how to approach transcendental writing I came across a students’ reflection on the genre where they made an observation that really stuck with me. “[Transcendentalism] is about being your own person, using your intuition, and finding your own purpose in life.” (http://transcendentalismexploration.weebly.com/final-transcendental-reflection.html) As I continue through this course seeking not only a purpose for this project but for myself as a writer, attempting a transcendental essay seems as good a place as any to start.

Hi There!

I’ve been sitting in a coffee shop for a solid 45 minutes with my fingers tapping across the keys of my laptop trying to figure out how to start this post. I thought I was being a quiet patron of this public space, but it turns out that my pensive tapping is a lot louder than I thought, but I couldn’t tell because the silky-smooth voices of the Hadestown soundtrack were taking up all of my attention. Whoops, my sincerest apologies to everyone that had to endure that. My bad. The reason that I was struggling so hard and tapping so aggressively was that I had to approach this introduction without a strict set of guidelines to follow.

In all aspects of life, I LOVE RULES. And when I say love I mean cherish and respect with the upmost intensity as they keep me in line and help me make sense of the world. I tend to need a guide to get things up and going, and without one I just feel a little lost. Without something advising me along a journey (especially a writing journey), I feel overwhelmed by the possibilities of what could be and burdened by the idea that most of them are probably not all that interesting. It was in this specific journey to find a way to introduce myself that every fact about me danced through my mind, but none of them seemed quite alluring and attention grabbing enough to start off my MiW introduction with. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that my favorite way to get to know someone is to get to know the little mundane facts that make up the nuances of who they are as a person, so why do I think those things don’t matter about myself? So, here is my attempt to describe myself using some of my most unremarkable facts:

I spend far too much time gazing at the sky (which is dangerous for someone who trips over absolutely everything and should really be looking where I am going at all times). I am way too emotionally invested in the Food Network’s Kid’s Baking Championship(if you want to see me hit some high highs and low lows emotionally, we should watch an episode together sometime). I have an uncontrollable urge to yell “I love you” at every dog I pass (much to the confusion and amusement of their owners who I tend to think can’t hear me, but usually do). The first piece of writing to ever give me chills was a poem I heard when I was 16 and I didn’t know the words of a stranger could have that kind of power before that moment. So, as I embark on this writing journey over my final two years here at Michigan I hope to embrace the importance of the mundane, both about myself and the world around me,  and learn to harness the potential power of the words I will be crafting. I am also realizing while reading this back that I managed to let you know I constantly express my affection for dogs on the street before even stating my name. Hello, my name is Kate Walsh, and I am really excited to be a part of this.