Photo Essay Assignment and Its Basics

You’re given a photo essay assignment and don’t know what to do about it? Or just want to share the world with your beautiful photographic art? In any case, this article can help.

Awesome Clipart for Educators is a great informational site for both students and professional photographers. It’s dedicated to exploring, analyzing, and creating photo essay assignments. 

The site provides a countless amount of photographs, images, logos, and such, aimed to help create the best photo essay assignment possible. Because unfortunately, professional help from EssayPro can’t be of any use in this case, unlike with usual text essays. Everything will have to be done by yourself. 

And it’s pretty obvious, as the photographs and the photo essay theme must be unique. Otherwise, the work will not only be unrecognized but can also be accused of plagiarism and all of its consequences.

But what is a photo essay assignment itself, where can I find photo essay examples, and what photo essay themes exist? Let’s find out.

Photo Essay Assignment

Basically, a photo essay assignment is a set of photographs, created with an intention to tell a story, describe a subject or a concept, or evoke a certain emotion or reaction. The number of photographs in one set usually ranges from 8 to 15.

However, there aren’t certain standards or rules (unless you’re given instructions on how to do it). That means a photo essay assignment can contain even only 1-2 pictures. But of course, they need to be absolutely astonishing, unique, have a great and easily recognized concept to be able to express something.

In general, the captions or any other text notes aren’t used. Because the whole meaning of a photo essay assignment is to express thoughts through the pictures themselves. However, some essays may require captions, titles, or even descriptions for the whole idea to be understood in the right way. Or for the idea to be visible at all. Also, sometimes it’s needed for a thesis to be present, which should be supported by arguments.

The photographs may be taken and shown in a particular order, for example, chronological to depict a certain story and the changes. But they also might be unsequenced and united by the concept only. All in all, everything is aimed to let the viewer see the images, analyze and recognize what’s behind them. Or to let the viewers find a meaning themselves. But of course, don’t forget about the visual art value of the whole thing.

Photo Essay Assignment Themes

Best photo essays always have a general topic they describe. Otherwise, it cant be even considered one but a simple gathering of photographs, with no particular sense.

Photo essay themes can be absolutely different. A story of people, a landscape change, a national tragedy, wonders of nature, technologies, anything, you name it.

The most important point is for the topic to be visible, though. That means, the images themselves need to have something in common. Something they all represent and what most viewers will recognize. On the other hand, the main statement can also be hidden deeply, like a secret meaning. 

In that case, it’s a good idea to give hints through either the captions or small details in each picture. Just make sure that the hidden meaning can be found. Otherwise, everything will seem meaningless and the result will be disappointing.

If you’re not given a certain subject to make a photo essay assignment on or want to make one but don’t know where to start, here are a few useful tips:

  • Consider ideas that are relevant nowadays. The most popular ones are usually global problems, like the pandemic or ecological situation. Check the TV or online news to easily find the hot topics.
  • Analyze yourself to find what is important for you. Be it personal issues, global problems, social interactions, technological progress, anything.
  • Check some free resources or non-profit organizations that can be used for help or even for collaboration.
  • Check your acquaintances for the presence of people who would grant you access to some restricted areas, for example. Maybe they would provide other benefits. That way the pictures you take will be unique and highly valuable, as they will depict something nobody else could take shots of.
  • Find out what your preferences in photographing are. Choose the subject you like the most to achieve the best result.
  • Scan through sites or galleries to inspire yourself by watching other people’s works. Maybe some of them will give you a hint as to what to do.

Photo Essay Assignment Examples

Here we’ll try our best to show the possible concepts of photo essay assignments. The notes will be provided to help explain the ideas behind them and how the result is achieved.

Example 1: A Narrative Sequence “Grandpa Goes to Heaven” by Duane Michals

Grandpa Goes to Heaven Photo Essay Assignment

A narrative sequence is probably the easiest concept to understand. Photos are taken and placed in chronological order. They tell a certain story that has occurred in a certain period in time. As a perfect example, we used a narrative sequence “Grandpa Goes to Heaven” by Duane Michals

The first photographs usually depict the state of persons at the beginning. 

The pictures in between from first to last usually tell a story, how people on the picture interact, how they change, what emotions feel, and such. This is used to make a viewer understand what is going on, all aimed to lead to the last photo.

The last picture is the most important one, as it finishes the work and a story. It’s the one that will leave a viewer with certain emotions and feelings that will remain even after you stop looking at it.

That’s how a narrative sequence is able to both tell something and evoke feelings.

Example 2: A Set of Photographs of XX’s Century Machinery

This photo essay assignment example depicts different photographs of the previous century’s machinery. While there’s no clear message that is shown directly, anyone will find it for themselves.

XX’s Century Machinery Photo Essay Assignment

As the images mostly contain people, it is shown that many processes were done manually even with the presence of innovative (for those times) machines. 

They show the craft of workers who had to operate and service them, to be able to use all the advantages of new technologies. It can be understood as “a gallery of the times when the industries weren’t computerized and automated by robots”. 

But the main point is to show how it looked like in the times when industrialization wasn’t as technological as now, without describing or saying anything.