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!


Introduction to Photo Essays

I am interested in the genre of a photo essay because it is a genre that I have never explored before and am excited to write and put together. I think this genre also fits well with the communications essay that I am repurposing. As an academic essay, I can completely change it into an emotional and thought-provoking photo essay that questions biases and images that are portrayed in the news.

A photo essay “ is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer” according to the handy and reliable Wikipedia. Photo essays are meant to be emotional, touching, and symbolize/ convey strong meaning to the viewers. Photos can be placed in slideshows or in lines on the page. The text in photo essays tends to vary. They can be as short as captions under the photo or as long as an essay, an introduction, or explanations beneath each photo.

The essay can be sequential or non sequential. If it is non sequential, it evoke more emotion and if it is sequential, it tends to read and look more like a plot and storyline. The photos in the essay should show the plot rather than tell.


This was the first image that came to mind as it was an emotional image of a young, distraught child being separated from her mom or parents at the border of the United States. I hope to incorporate thought provoking and upsetting images similar to this, to keep students and people questioning and thinking about our government and the country and atmosphere we are living in (cause it’s pretty crazy).

One example that really inspired me was a photo essay written on transgenders by the New Yorker. It is called The Trans Community of Christopher Street. The bulk of the text in the essay is about the neighborhood of surrounding Christopher Street and how the LGBTQ community began and grew in this neighborhood. Interspersed between the essay are photos of transgender individuals and the caption below shares a snippet of their story, family, and transition. I like this sample because it evokes a lot of emotion being so realistic and true but it also has a plot line of Christopher street and the LGBTQ movement. I like how the photos split up the plot line, keeping the reader engaged. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.