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!


Intro to the Photo Essay

Returning back to my original piece and its focus on hegemonic masculinity in American football, I decided to flip the script: I will pursue a photo essay surrounding the evolution of women’s professional football in the U.S.

Did you know the U.S. had women’s professional football leagues? Did you know there are multiple? 

I didn’t, until my favorite Big Brother contestant Kaycee was one.

The general conventions of a photo essay are according to my personal favorite and always reliable source, Wikipedia, are as follows: a series of photos, made to evoke emotions for the viewer; can be purely photographic, include small captions, or full text essays that include photographs.

I am not a regular consumer of photo essays; therefore, this will be a bit out of my comfort zone (not as far out as a podcast would be, but definitely not as comfy as the op-ed). I found some really incredible examples to help me in this endeavor:

Brief captions:

A more interactive, multimedia approach:

Because I cannot travel to these games, nor travel back in time, these will have to be photos that I obtain from various media outlets. I still do not know exactly what the structure of the essay will be – this is something I could use all of your help on. Initially, I wanted to focus on the Legends Football League – former title, the Lingerie Football League. I worry, though, that a photo essay will play into the sexualization of these players and not tell the full story. Many are women who genuinely love the sport of football, and I do not want to contribute to a narrative that reduces these women to their uniform. If I focus on this league, I want to be sure to tell the whole story – how this is a product of American society, not the women’s autonomy. There are other leagues that I can focus on, that do not have quite the same, let’s say, controversial overtones: the Women’s Professional Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, the United States Women’s Football League, among others. I want to do my best to portray the current status of women’s professional football in the U.S, something that I’m assuming most of us don’t know too much about. Any input you guys have is welcomed, and frankly, necessary. Plz help me.

Introduction to the Daily article

Going into Experiment 3, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I felt really great about my open letter last time around, and I wasn’t sure how to follow that up with a new idea. My original plans were to write a photo essay about certain works by Manuel Alvarez Bravo (he is the photographer of the image I analyzed in my origin piece). After researching that a bit, I had difficulty articulating my thoughts about each photograph and how they related to one another. I could not think of a way to move forward after that. Well, at least until I saw Julie’s comments during my workshop. She suggested figuring out my explicit audience for the open letter and writing an article based on what that person/organization was doing (or failing to do) about the current state of mental illness on the Michigan campus. I thought about doing a news report, but that seemed too broad for me. So I decided to do the next best thing, one that is directly tied into University of Michigan’s lifestyle: the Daily article.

Now, I’m not a writer for the Daily, so I am unfamiliar with how they do things over there. So, instead of researching typical conventions of the Daily article (not even sure that exists), I decided to read a few political pieces of the Daily to see how student writers would go about tackling those sorts of issues. The first thing I noticed was the episodic framing of each article. The authors usually insisted on basing the article around a personal anecdote or story of a student or faculty member. I’m not sure how I would go about talking to faculty members if this were my final project, but let’s take things one step at a time. Next, there was a consistent theme of policy focus. Each article not only referenced specific policies that the University has instated, but also discusses how faculty and staff fail to adhere to these policies/ what would be done differently if the policy was followed correctly.

Those are the main conventions I noticed in the articles I read. If anyone actually works for the Daily (or knows someone who does), let me know. I’d love to hear their experiences! Also, I’m pretty tired right now, so please enjoy this picture of some puppies!


Introduction to the How-To Article

Today, I’m going to describe how to… write a how to article. I know, it’s ironic, but bear with me. How to write the how to might be helpful for all of us to see the origin of the content when we google “how to cook an over easy egg perfectly” (thanks Alton Brown!) or “how to fix the thing that is broken.” I love how-to articles, because it’s like calling my mom but in detailed, written form!


Thanks Alton Brown for your step by step guide that helped teenage Mary Jo perfect making an over easy egg! (My mom makes perfect over easy eggs and tried to teach me, but somehow this article stuck more.)

After talking with Julie, I realized that I needed to narrow my focus for this experiment. In Experiments 1 and 2, I focused on overarching ways activist work could be done and how it could help. We realized that I needed to focus on my own personal experiences to make Experiment 3 something that had meaning to me and could develop into a final project.

I am a facilitator for Feminist Forum, a one-credit course in the RC that is very activist based with the topics we discuss. I was very much thrown into being a facilitator of Feminist Forum, with a short online course my only training. This led to some confusion and growing pains among me and my co-facilitators in the beginning. Now, having a year under my belt as a facilitator, I want to write a how-to article to help future facilitators of Feminist Forum (and other forums) be the best they can be. This can include simple aspects like leading a discussion, and more complex ones like dealing with students who dominate the discussion.

According to Writer’s Digest, a how-to article requires 6 steps:

  1. Select Your Topic – Pick a topic that interests you and write a rough draft!
  2. Address Your Audience’s Needs – Decide who your article is intended for – is your rough draft appropriate for this audience?
  3. Research – Look for facts, statistics, definitions, and quotes that can make your article more authoritative
  4. Tighten Your Draft – Write another draft with the information you’ve found in steps 2 and 3
  5. Make It Specific – Make sure your article stays to the point and includes thorough information
  6. Read, Revise, Repeat – Keep revising, get advice from other people, and try to make your article the best it can be!

WikiHow is a website that has an array of different how-to articles on what seems to be every subject imaginable. The front page of WikiHow gives a multitude of examples of how-to articles, with everything from How to Boil Carrots, to How to Create an iOS Developer Account, to the Halloween-themed How to Hide Candy in Your Room. This shows the breadth of the topics how-to articles can cover. How-to articles also have room for fun and creativity! Related to my topic, NBC had an article titled How to be an Activist for Causes You Believe In. My how-to article will probably be more nuanced than these examples, but these provide a good starting point for me to see the basics of how-to articles. I’m excited to write this!

Intro to the live blog

I’ve finally done it. I managed to get away from writing about sports. Big day. Couldn’t have made it this far without you all.

After talking with Julie, I’ve figured out how I will do this — centered around the election and my interest in politics. My origin piece was the article I wrote from the Final Four. My first experiment was a short story, in which I wrote about two characters on the team and about the events that lead up to the emotion seen in the game. My second experiment was a journal about my own experience. This time, I’m switching it up.

I’m going to take that experience — covering a team in a short period of time and issuing immediate reaction — and turning it into a live blog about my experience following the election. I told you it’d be different. Here goes nothing.

This genre will be akin to what most news outlets will do tomorrow on their websites: a live, running blog, with time stamps and reactions. This is a new era genre — one that probably didn’t exist 10 years ago, but one that is highly prevalent with major events these days Theirs often highlight what the results are telling us, and how predictive they will be about any big-picture trends that are developing through the night.

— Here’s an example:

— Here’s another:

Mine won’t exactly resemble that. It’ll be less strictly analytical and will be more a personal stream-of-consciousness rant. Buckle in. I have no idea how this is going to go.

Introduction to Blogs

For my first two experiments, I did an op-ed and a photo essay. These experiments focused a lot on what college essays are, specifically if they accurately represent people and if the questions and the nature of college essays as a whole give students the opportunity to present themselves as complex, honest individuals.

For my third experiment, I want to move away from exploring the intent and results of college essays and focus more on the content of my college essay itself. I wrote a lot about anxiety and how it has made me a stronger individual, a more capable leader, and a more empathetic person to help others deal with their anxiety. All of this is true, but the nature of the competitive college application process encourages people to present obstacles as ones they have fully overcome and are better because of. In reality, anxiety disorders are often chronic and lifelong. People in my group suggested I annotate my college essay to comment on things that were unsaid then and now. Incorporating this idea, I’m going to write a blog discussing this.

Blogs are a pretty versatile genre and allow for individual expression, but there are a few general guidelines to follow.

  • Find a focus. This allows you to target and retain a certain audience that is consistently interested in the content you’re discussing. It also gives you more credibility, rather than dabbling in various areas that you might not know that much about, or write or think about often.
  • Make your blogs interactive. Using links, pictures, gifs, and other interactive elements make blogs more interesting and informative. Links provide more information for people who may be further interested in a topic you’re discussing and give credibility and support to what you’re talking about. Graphics make your blog more interesting, fun, and easy to read.
  • Be relatable and authentically yourself. Blogs are supposed to express the voices and opinions of individuals, and the best writing is when it is authentic.

The most important part of blog writing is to be yourself and talk about things you’re passionate about. If you do this, your blog will attract people who are interested in what you have to say. And since everyone here has gone through the college application process, and many college students experience chronic anxiety, I’m hoping this will be interesting.

Introduction to Memoirs

What, Briana’s talking about herself…again!? 

Listen folks, it’s what I do best.

(Also…bare with me through this post, I’m functioning on a whole 4 hours of sleep and 3 coffees)

And what better way to describe my overly complicated, extremely diverse experience with the male gaze, and as a woman of color in the LGBTQ+ community (hi! I’m the B!). I found that with each experiment cycle, my ideas started to become more and more narrow, as I found that a lot of my experiences and the theories I discussed overlapped (not to mention my dying love for SZA’s music and how it literally helped me get out all my frustration about a shitty relationship).

There are moments where I’m overwhelmed with my relationship to men, so much, that I want to delete every single one from my life. Like not in a “I want you dead way” but in a “I probably would not be bothered if you just fucked off right about now” way. And how that ties so heavily to my identity, how it shaped who I pursue, and how I’ve begun internalized all of it.

So what better way to do that than within a genre where my experience becomes the authority…within a ~memoir~?

Image result for its me gif

A memoir is a collection of experiences coming from an one individual’s perspective. Specific moments are described in great emotional detail, describing the moral or immoral conflicts the author had at the moment. Ultimately, they come to a resolution during some portion of the memoir, or frame it as though they are “still growing”. Think, like, Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. She reveals the difficulties of poverty through an emotionally narrow lens, since her life speaks to broader truths about poverty in America.

Often authors utilize creative writing techniques to evoke stronger connection to places and characters in their stories. By doing so, allows their audience to view them as human, rather than a writer. Unlike a autobiography, a memoir is not just summary of someone’s life, but specific moments are picked apart in order to find the bigger truths behind huge life events, and how they string together.

My story probably isn’t as heart-wrenching and tragic as Walls’, but it definitely would help others understand what it means to be a “victim” of the male gaze, whilst navigating the world as a minority. Julie helped me find a lot of great authors to base my piece around, as well as ones I could reference to give myself a bit more credibility. I enjoyed the passages I read from Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rage and believe that a more comical (or, I probably should say relatable), upbeat beginning to my story can show off who I really am, while providing a solid background for my personal accounts. By specifically doing so, I can lay the foundation to explain my dissonance between projection by self and perception by others, and how my race and sexuality effect how males view me, and how I view males.

Introduction to Genre 3- Interview Based Article

I believe the topic behind my two experiment cycles this far has been trying to understand myself in different spaces and what my identity exactly is as a junior at U of M. For my first two experiences I used genres that required me dissecting my personal experiences through writing. However, for my third experiment I am going in with the goal of writing about the identity discovery experience of a different college student.

I decided the third genre I want to practice is an interview based article. I think I will gain a lot of perspective through understanding the challenges with identity someone else in a very different space is having throughout college. I feel this will give me perspective on my own identity challenges and struggles.

From the article I pasted above I learned that it is very important that interview based articles have a main focus and go beyond just surface information. One of the biggest tips it gives for conducting the interview is that you don’t just write the answers down physically but also utilize a voice recording, so you can utilize every detail when you go back to analyze the interview. It then recommends that after you review your transcript you narrow in on what the focus is of you article and pick the relevant details/information from there.

I think when considering my interview I want someone not involved in similar social organizations on campus. Additionally, I want them to have different challenges in regard to their ethnicity, skin color, sexuality, etc. I am hoping through my interview to discover some identity challenges that I take for granted and never have to think about.

Right now I am not sure who to go about finding this person to interview. There are definitely different pros/cons of knowing who I interview.



Introduction to Open Letters


As our second experiment cycle came to an end, I was initially dumb-founded as to what genre I was going to pick next.  I didn’t want to do another article, I already ventured out into the (sometimes) scary world of poems, and I knew I didn’t want to necessarily do anything that was necessarily “academic” or research based.  The topic of my origin piece is something extremely personal, and I was honestly at a loss for as to how I would turn this into yet another fitting genre.  After going back and rethinking what was most important from my origin piece, it hit me.  What would I have wished that I had at the time that I had written these short diary-like notes in my phone?  Advice, intuition, and thoughts from someone who had been through it all before.


What better way to do this than to do an open letter to my past self from my current self.


By definition, an open letter is “a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally.”  Some open letters are addressed to a specific person but meant to be read by a larger audience, while some letters are undressed but also meant to be read by a lot of people.  One of the most important conventions of an open letter is that they all have a purpose.  They are written with a goal in mind, and they attempt to make that goal clear throughout that letter.


One famous example of an open letter is the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  King was arrested and put in jail after engaging in a non violent protest, so his letter was a response to the statement by Alabama clergyman that said these anti segregation demonstrations must stop and be dealt with in court.  This letter was widely published, and it eventually became an important text for the American Civil Rights movement.  You can read more about the power of this letter here.


I’m honestly excited to explore doing an open letter as my next genre.  I think it will be a unique way for me to reflect on my past experiences and what I think about my these past experiences now that I might “know better.”




Getting creative while keeping it real; Creative Nonfiction

For my next experiment, I want to try writing a creative nonfiction piece where I will be able to bring in personal stories about sexual assault and account for the real memory and event that happened to Dr. Blasey Ford.


Lee Gutkind defines creative nonfiction as “true stories well told.” This simple definition fits perfectly into my goals for my final experiment. Previously, I have taken a very broad and general position, analyzing images from the hearings and explaining its symbolism. For my third experiment, I want to make the far away hearings, not so broad and far away. I want to tie in what has been happening in the Supreme Court, with the #MeToo movement, and with my personal relationships. While mine might be different and not “as bad,” every form of assault is horrible, and every woman should be able to tell her story and be believed for the problem to come to an end.


Through a creative nonfiction piece I’ll be able to engage my readers through a storytelling genre but enlighten and teach them as well, as the piece is nonfiction; The goal of creative nonfiction is to “make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.”


I’m leaning toward public creative nonfiction, because I believe my topic, while relating personally to me, also encapsulates a more universal topic of sexual assault in the United States.


Skimming through some examples of creative nonfiction, I saw they were split up with dialogue. The dialogue puts the nonfiction in creative nonfiction. Some include images throughout the essay, some just include images at the beginning. There are many vivid details and describers that draw the reader in and prove to the reader that this is in fact a true story. The stories reel you in and make you attached to the characters through emotion.