Different Kinds of Photo EssaysWednesday, June 16th, 2010
Not every photo essay is the same
Photo essays are a series or set of photographs which can either be “telling a story” or evoking a certain emotion in the viewer, and they can include text as well. While some are just images, others add captions of text or even a full essay which photographs illustrate. They are, then, ideal for those who don’t like writing! But preparing a photo essay is not simpler than writing other kind of essays. In fact, they take a lot of hard work, imagination and thought from the photographer. Because, even when a picture is worth a thousand words, it is not easy appealing to a stranger’s emotions.
Different essays depending on the support
The photo essay you may produce will be different to others according to its physical support. Many photography essays are articles in a publication, whether a full page or a two-page spread. Many times mass media present multi-page photography essays about significant events: travelling, for example, a sports championship, a war, an ecological disaster. You may also organize your essay especially for a slide show, to be delivered on a DVD or on a web site, and in such case you may also need to choose the music or sounds as well as any spoken text it could appear.
Different essays depending on the contents
The type of essay you decide to choose will determine the photos you will need to take and ensemble. You may also choose the amount of pictures in your essay. The easiest way to go is choosing an event or situation, and tell its story through the photos, although there is no need to keep linear time. For the past century, photography and cinema, as well as television, have played a privileged role in human storytelling. Way before that, literature (both oral and written) had supplied that human need. Think of photography as something in between, ideal for telling a great story: a birthday party, a local wedding, a national event.
There are also location photo essays, which are usually thematic instead of linear. The good part is you get to travel a little! You can arrange your photos someway to be viewed all at once, or you can let the viewer choose the order.
The most abstract kind of photography essay is not based on storytelling and it is never a linear sequence, but instead it is based on a more abstract idea. Pictures are arranged to represent concepts such as health, freedom, love, hope, patriotism, work, etc. Take into account that, while every photography essay is a collection of photographs, not every collection of photographs is itself an essay: the title you give to your work will be the key to interpret it the right way. And always remember that the best way you can connect with the audience through your photo essay is by drawing out emotions and using them as a connection point between the photographs and the viewer’s feelings.
One last piece of advice: take lots and lots of pictures, so you have more chances to pick the best ones for your essay.