Exploring Photo Essays

Consider these photo essays. Each is very different in form and technique.    Which one engages you the most, why?  Subject matter?  Structure?  How are the images working?  What is the narrative–or what is the story being told–or what is being revealed by the series of images?  What stands out to you about the interplay between the text and image.  Click on the links to go to the sites.

From Time Magazine‘s photo essays:

Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio  What the World Eats (2013)

An old school photo essay that stands the test of time.  This project and its photographs engages our interest even all these years later.  How is the project structured?  What makes this series of portraits compelling?  What interests you visually?  How is text used? What information is included?  What is the effect of seeing the scope of photographs included in this photo essay?

Why did the photobook/photoessay makers decide to use only one photo of each family here?  What if more photos were used of each family?  How would it change the series, and the experience of the photo essay itself?  Would it?

from the project “What the World Eats” featured in Time Magazine

Shelly Calton “Concealed: She’s Got a Gun”

Here is another series–a group of photographs that is unified by a theme–women in Texas who are gun owners.  How does photographer Shelly Calton portray these women?  What is the setting?  How are the images composed?  What connects the photographs?  How do they vary?  What other photographs are used to deepen the narrative or inform the viewer?  Why do you think these non-portraits are included?  What work do they do?  Do they add? Do they distract?  Consider the angles included within the portraits.  What do you think Calton wants the viewer to understand after viewing her photo essay?

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photo: Shelly Calton

Diana Markosian  “Inventing My Father”
Consider the design and layout.  How is text used?  What would the sequence be like without the text element? What kinds of photographs and images are used in the sequence?

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photo: Diana Markosian

And,  from photographer Jan Sochor‘s website Fear in El Salvador

Consider how he uses the page to layout the photos with the captions that pop up once one scrolls onto them.  Also, note how he has a title, the photographs with captions in a static sequence, and then a short essay at the end.  What is the effect of this structure?  What works well about it?  When might you use it for your own photo essays?

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photo: Jan Sochor





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