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Photo Essays  

This LibGuide introduces students to the development and publication of Photo Essays.
Last Updated: May 14, 2010 URL: Print Guide

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What is a Photo Essay?

A Photo Essay is a collection of images placed in a specified order to tell a story, explain a problem, argue a claim, or develop an idea while evoking certain emotions.  Written text is often used in conjunction with the images in order to add specific details/facts and add emphasis to the essay.


 It was a perfect day to

spend at the beach with

my sister, looking for shells.

I found the most beautiful

shell, spotted like a leopard.

I tucked it in my pocket so

I could save it as a momento

of our day together.


After returning home, my

sister and I removed our sandals

to reveal some strange tan lines!

Embarrassed to show her feet,

my sister covered up, saying

next time she went to the beach,

she would wear sneakers.


Why Photo Essays?

 Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups.  As society and technology change, so does literacy.  Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies.  These literacies - from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms - are multiple, dynamic, and malleable.  As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups.  Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally      
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilites required by these complex environments

 - The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies  


Photo Essay Guidelines

Your photo essay should contain the following:

1.  A thought-provoking title

2.  At least 10 pictures strategically arranged to explain/describe/evaluate/argue your topic

3.  Carefully imbedded text that further explains, supports, and/or emphasizes what the pictures are "saying"

4.  A Works Cited slide that properly cites information used in the essay from any outside sources

*5.  Imbedded music used to help create an appropriate mood or tone that matches the topic


* Not required, but suggested

Some Sample Photo Essays

Below are some links to photo essays on the web.  Each has a different purpose and format.  There is no one way to create a photo essay!


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