February 18, 2009

How I Teach the Photo Essay

While I have shot photo essays ranging from the underground arts scene in the Soviet Union to political and economic change in South Korea, I decided that it would be useful for my students if I documented a subject near our school. So I photographed renowned glass artist Josh Simpson.

I liken shooting a photo essay with crafting a five paragraph written essay.

The establishing shot equals the written introduction.

The subject(s) in action, a detail shot and a portrait equate to the 3 body paragraphs.

Showing the result of the subject's activity compares with the conclusion paragraph.

Going beyond the five paragraph format, I also require students to take a risk, to try an experimental approach, to break the rules, for a sixth image. This is my favorite image from Simpson's studio, playing the edge of enough blur to generate interest with enough reality to tell the story.

While spinning the blowpipe with one hand, Josh Simpson shaped molten glass with his other hand. His assistant blew air through the blowpipe to alter the size of the glass.