WRITING 201  Art of the Photo Essay

Mondays, 6-8pm      Spring 2017

Instructor: T Hetzel

Spring Office:  1323 North Quad (within Sweetland Center for Writing)

Office Hours: after class Mondays & by appointment


Mail: Sweetland Center for Writing, 1310 North Quad

Class blog:

Brief overview

This course is an inquiry into the power and rhetorical use of images. We will explore the interplay between text and image as we investigate how to build a narrative, explore a question, or evoke feeling through image.

You will have the opportunity to create a simple photo blog, make several photo essays, and design a final individual photo essay project.

Texts and Materials

Photo essays and other materials will be available as links on our class blog.


  • WordPress account for blog (cost: free)
  • Camera Phone or Digital camera (available to check out from the Media Center in the MLB)
  • printing out hard copies of photos for workshop layout and other class activities as needed (CVS, Walgreen’s, camera shop on Washington, etc) (budget $ 10-20

Sweetland’s Gayle Fund:

If financial need makes it difficult for you to purchase books, a laptop computer, or other materials related to our class projects, the Gayle Fund (established in honor of Gayle Morris Sweetland) can loan you the necessary materials. You can talk to me about how to apply, or you can get an application form from the receptionist at the Sweetland Center for Writing office at 1310 North Quad.

Your photographs & your photo blog:

You’ll be using your blog to post new images weekly and for exercises. On the “Home” or landing page of your photo blog, I recommend that you note that all photos, unless otherwise credited, are your own original images and are not to be used without permission &/or are subject to creative commons copyright. –or, if you would prefer, you may give permission for your images to be used.

You may choose to make your blog public – or to make it private, in which case you would invite class members and myself to be viewers of your site (which takes an extra step). Most students do choose to make the site public. Also, if you are concerned about individual images, you could embed a watermark using photoshop to protect them further. Please contact Breanna Hamm at ScholarSpace in Hatcher Grad Library for more information.

Class Mechanics

In our class, to create is defined as a process composed of: doing, discussing, and making.


Click. Snap. You will be taking your own original images for this class every week.

As a way to work with these images and to share them, you will be creating a photo blog as a work-space for your photographs, class exercises and assignments. The photo blog will be shaped during the course of spring term and also will serve as a place to showcase your work by the end of the term.

We will use exercises, experiments and assignments to explore and study images and to build photo essays. Some exercises will investigate composition; some will practice working in a series or in collaboration. While documenting and capturing images this term, you may go outside your comfort zone and find you enjoy it. You will be interviewing people, for example! Some exercises may introduce the element of the serious, the surreal, the silly or the strange.


Photo essays are obviously an important component of our class. Please jot down notes in a notebook for our class (what stands out to you, what is key, what questions you have) as these materials will serve as a springboard for class discussion. We will build on this together in class. Our class discussions along with photo labs/workshops are at the very core of our class.

Our class is a community that depends and thrives on thoughtful and engaged verbal participation. Bring questions.  Active listening also is vital to good discussion. As a member of this new community of photographers, writers and thinkers, it is required that you be present and ready to ask questions and engage each other about ideas and process.

We will work in small work groups that will change periodically. In work groups we will talk about makes a subject compelling, project ideas, and also elements of design and composition. You also will have the opportunity to workshop drafts— and the opportunity to copy edit in pairs for your final project.


This will be a class of making. You are a maker. As noted earlier, you will make photo essays, a photoblog and a final photo essay project. Here you have a chance to work in a community with other people who are curious and who value creating something new out of images and the imagination.  Take risks. Question. Give the unknown a chance. Have fun. Brilliant fun.

Class Policies

Our classroom will be a respectful and engaging learning environment that values each student voice. I have a commitment to the important issues surrounding diversity, climate, equity, identity and student success for every person here.

The introduction to the “Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities” begins:

The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor is dedicated to supporting and maintaining a scholarly community. As its central purpose, this community promotes intellectual inquiry through vigorous discourse. Values which undergird this purpose include civility, dignity, diversity, education, equality, freedom, honesty, and safety.  When students choose to accept admission to the University, they accept the rights and responsibilities of membership in the University’s academic and social community.

 I encourage you to review the entire policy at This policy outlines not only what is expected of you as a student at the University of Michigan but also what you can expect in return from the university community. In our class, we will uphold these values by building an open and respectful community.


We will cover a range of material each meeting. We only meet 5 times!  5!  With an optional 6th class on the 19th (more on this later). Unexcused absences after one will result in a letter grade deduction. For example, if you had an A you would then earn a B. It is your responsibility to learn about and complete any assignments.  Seriously, we only meet 5 times.  Let’s enjoy it.

Religious Observances: If a class session, meeting or due date conflicts with your religious holidays, please notify me so we can make alternative arrangements. In accordance with U-M policy on Religious/Academic conflicts, your absence will not affect your grade in the course.

Cell Phones, Electronic Devices, and Laptops

Please turn off your cell phone and put all electronic devices in your bag before class begins. I ask that you refrain from using your laptop in class unless we are working on the photo blog or using the phone to take pictures for a class exercise. Please take notes in a notebook for our class.  Laptops and other devices are distracting and take the life out of class discussion especially in a small community-based class like ours.

Accommodations for Special Needs

The University of Michigan is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students, and I am committed to making learning as accessible as possible for all of my students. If you have a Learning Difference/Disability, please see me to discuss any classroom requirements. In accordance with U-M policy, I am happy to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, and I will protect the confidentiality of students’ individual learning needs. Please email me by the second week of the term if you would like to show me your letter from Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) describing approved accommodations. I will set up a confidential appointment with you to discuss accommodations.

If you suspect that you may have a disability and would like to be tested, Services for Students with Disabilities can provide free screenings and referrals to low-cost diagnostic services. Here is the contact information for Services for Students with Disabilities:

G-664 Haven Hall (734)763-3000

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing  University of Michigan is committed to advancing the mental health and wellbeing of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available. For help, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (734) 764-8312 and during and after hours, on weekends and holidays, or through its counselors physically located in schools on both North and Central Campus. You may also consult University Health Service (UHS) at (734) 764-8320 and, or for alcohol or drug concerns, see

For a listing of other mental health resources available on and off campus, visit:

 Write to discover. Take pictures to find your vision. Aspire.

Grading point rubric:

Weekly photo posts            10

workshops/participation        10

Exercise #1            5

Exercise #2             15

Final Project           35

Reflective Essay    10

Photo Blog Final     15