Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An EFL Photo Essay

I came across this site on how to create a photo essay. Although it is not aimed at ESL/EFL learners but I think that it could be used as a student project. As most of my students have mobile phones with digital cameras, access to such technology is becoming more and more widespread.

Photo Essays Step by Step

Wendy Folse

Photo Essays: Step by step
  • Pick a subject that interests you.
  • Decide on a theme or a viewpoint.
  • Make a list of shots that would reinforce and illustrate the theme.
  • Make a list of possible locations to shoot at and times.
  • Visit the site for several days and at different times.
  • Get to know your subjects.
  • Sort the pictures by relevance.
  • Construct photo essay into a flowing story.

    Shooting a Photo Essay:

    A photo essay is nothing more than a group of photos tied together by a common theme. The photos illustrate a point of view carried through the text.

    In my last article I touched on the merits of Dorothea Lange's career. Lange frequently shot photo essays of migrant farm workers. This would be a subject. The theme may be the conditions in which they lived, the bonds they formed, the way they see themselves, the way the outside world views them, etc.

    The theme acknowledges the photographers intended viewpoint just as in a written essay. The photos would reinforce the thesis. Shooting photo essays is not difficult and offers great practice for the photographer. It forces the photographer to think out the photo shoot in advance and to plan the shots accordingly.

    Some excellent subjects to begin with might be neighborhoods, playgrounds, playtime, racetracks, backyard wildlife. Deciding on the theme takes a little more thought.

    Let's work with one subject for example. Let's say that we choose the subject of playgrounds. What about playgrounds?

    • "Places of carefree abandonment"
    • "Accidents waiting to happen"
    • "Backyard Traps"
    • "Gathering Places"
    • "Kingdoms and Castles"

    Or let's consider another subject. Say barndoors for example. What is so interesting about barndoors?

    • "Windows to Rural America"
    • "Modern Drawbridges"
    • "Defending the Castle"
    • "Rural Zoos"

    Or maybe stain-glass windows, or old churches, or butter churns, or road signs? Whatever subjects you are interested in can be fair game for a photo essay. Just remember that it isn't the subject that makes the essay, it is the theme. All the photos must have a common theme and must tell the story from a viewpoint.

    How about city life as a subject. "Urbania" for example.

    • "Cul de sacs"
    • "Manicured Lawns"
    • "Soccer Moms"
    • "Urban Jungles"
    • "Home of the SUV"

    As you can see by the above examples, each subject can be portrayed in a vastly different way depending on your viewpoint. That is what makes a photo essay. It is a collection of photos that have a common theme. Below is a simple outline for working on a photo essay.

    Remember to carry model release forms with you and ask permission before shooting. Some people are flattered to be asked and others may treat you like a criminal. Respect their wishes and get Hanging around a playground with a camera and photographing people's children may cause a great deal of suspicions and raise a few eyebrows. Choose locations in your own neighborhood. Talk to the parents and explain your project. Most of the time you will get their enthusiastic cooperation.a signed permission form whenever possible, especially if working with children.

The projects can be posted on the student's individual or class blog. Alternatively, you could make a slide show or a Photo Story video.

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