One Screen School House: The Photographic Essay
I trust you egged some houses over the weekend like the rowdy students I know you are The highlights for the #juxtschoolhouse tag have gotten more and more fantastic. So much so we are moving the hughlights to their own post on the weekend. I can’t wait for you to see what they have come up with this time!
This week I am going to give you an actual assignment! So get out your assignment books. Your assignment is a photographic essay. Now before you totally panic you can make this as easy or as hard as you want. And you already do this all the time, you just didn’t realize it. First, lets define photographic essay, shall we?
A photographic essay is a grouping of at least 5 photos that details an event, a person, or an idea. It can be intended to evoke emotion or range of emotions. It can be purely photographic, can contain captions, or an entire story to accompany the photos. Have you seen the life of Chloe? It’s written by my dear Ale and is a great example of photos with stories. Or you can check out BP’s story on the lucha libres for a more autobiographical essay. Another one of our Juxters, Craig, creates whimsical and dark narratives around his images.
There are two types of essays- the thematic and the narrative. A narrative essay tells a story through a sequence of events. A narritive can chronical a specific event like a birth or a festival. A thematic essay is centered around one main theme and all the images pertain to that specific theme. Think of your shots as paragrpahs in a story. What photo is strongest? Which photo evokes the most emotion? What are your “supporting” photos that fill out your essay? What idea do you want the viewer to walk away with?
Once you have settled on a type of essay it is important to have a few key components to round out your essay.
- Strong images
- A clear theme or story line
- Variety of perspectives within the choosen photos
So I set out to do this as a challenge to myself. I began brain storming a topic that I could shoot easily. My 8 month old doesn’t let me get out much to shoot so I had to make it count when I got to go. I found that a broad topic like “small towns” wasn’t challenging enough. So I kept whittling away at my idea. Recently, I visited a town called Winchester to shoot the downtown area. It’s a small central KY town and while I was walking around I was amazed at how dilapidated it was. All of the buildings seem to have been built around the same time and only a few have been updated. Many of the buildings felt like tenements with boarded up windows in one place and curtains hanging in another. The shops varied from fancy coffee shops and nice hardware stores to empty facades and junk shops. Of all the buildings in the 5 block radius only the courthouse looked new. The first time I shot there I did it in broad strokes to get a better feel for the area. The second time I went back I shot with a more focused intent. My essay is by no means finished but I will share a few shots here so you can get a visual on what I saw. Through my trip to Winchester and my love for the forgotten, I hit upon a topic that spoke to me. Beauty in decay. And more specifically, decay in the small towns that surround me. My essay has turned into a labor of love.
I have a deep love for Kentucky and all it’s small nooks and crannies.
So back to your essay. Start with an idea. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can simply be shots from your day or all the shoes of your coworkers. Or you can create photographs or art around an emotion whether that’s joy or loneliness. Start broad and work your way down to a topic that suits you. The only requirement is that your essay communicates an idea or story.Because this is a large assignment I’m giving you until the first of January to finish. Plenty of time to pick a style of essay, choose a topic, and get to shooting. I am excited to see how you challenge yourself with this essay.