The photo essay is arguably the most challenging (and yet rewarding) undertaking for a serious photographer. After learning how to make good single images, the accomplished photographer takes on the challenge of making a series of images, unified around a theme, telling a story from the point of view of the authoring photographer.
That point of view can be one of love or hate, appreciation or disdain. The subject matter can be equally diverse. Some photo essays are narrative in nature, others are more introspective. A good personal project can be in almost any form, such as a portrayal of a subculture, a portfolio of landscapes, a series of intimate self portraits, etc. Some photo-essays are meant to be exhibited or published while others are primarily personal explorations. The best personal projects take the photographer (and the viewer) on a journey, be that geographic, intellectual, emotional or political.
While simple to describe, photo essays are very difficult to create. The hardest part of making a great photo essay is figuring out your point of view and establishing how to convey that visually. A photo-essay can be linear, for example a visual narration of a series of events in an individual’s life. Or a personal project can be a portfolio of stand-alone images interpreting a place or theme. All that matters is that the images are unified and they tell a story from the photographer’s point of view.
The beginning of the workshop will involve reviewing student’s existing work to better understand their experience and interests and exploring their long term goals. Students will be encouraged to undertake a project during the week and refine skills to apply to a photo essay after the class.
Within the class, topics covered will include:
- Defining a personal project.
- Fitting a personal project within the larger cultural, political, photographic milieu.
- Writing a project proposal to use in creating, promoting and disseminating a project.
- Potential outlets for the personal project.
- Potential partners for creating, promoting and disseminating the completed project.
- Editing a large body of images from a personal project down to a select few.
The Maine seacoast is an ideal place to develop the skills for completing a photo essay. The area has a wealth of visual opportunities, whether landscapes, communities that are subcultures, aging buildings, or local characters. Students may also find subjects at the nearby Windsor (Maine) Fair, which is happening during the class.
Each student will leave the class with the framework for and the initial parts of a photo essay, which they will complete after the workshop. They will also leave the class with the skills to continue, complete, promote and disseminate their personal projects.