Essay 3: The Photo-Essay: Arguing with Words and Images
As we have seen, however, these decisions may matter more than we think. When left unexamined, the images we chose to document reality can alter that reality in ways that distort, exaggerate, even demean who we are and what we experience. Moreover, composing arguments with images entails much more than just parachuting pictures into our writing. How we express the relationship between words and images dramatically affects how effortlessly readers “take in” or consume what we write about.
Essay Genre, Purpose, and Audience
The purpose of your photo-essay is to help a reader (your classmates and instructor) appreciate the complexity of some idea or subject that is important to you and that cannot be adequately understood without the use of both text and image. As we have seen in the readings for this section, composing a photo-essay isn’t as easy as it may seem. Remember that images cannot entirely “speak” for themselves—you must help them speak by using both text and images strategically to persuade a reader to understand the subject of your essay in a way that will preserve its complexity and your relation to it.
The photographs you use for this essay can come from many sources. They may be prepared specifically for this paper (cheap disposal cameras are readily available); they may be shot either by you or by a classmate or friend; or, they may be photos already available to you in photo-albums, magazines, and books, or on electronic databases (as the Reference Desk at Carrier Library for help). Whatever the source of your photos, they should represent a subject—a group of people or a place, a history and/or geography—that you know well and that appears to be misunderstood or underappreciated.
How To Begin
You could also begin with an existing set of images of a subject (or a set you took for this occasion) that you care deeply about but that cannot “speak” until you’ve positioned these images in some order (think here of what Coles does with the girl in the field; what Bordo does with the Häagen Dazs ad; and what Berger does with the Van Gough painting). In this case, the meaning you’re making is more in the way you sequence the images together to show some pattern.
Length and Format Requirements
Evaluating Your Work