Photo Essay

Perhaps my favorite project this semester was the Photo Essay. Writing an “essay” in photos seemed to suggest a type of writing that I had never considered. I found through my travels and my taking photographs a way of opening my eyes to a wider, more expositional view of objects as material culture, in that, there are so many different ways of looking at one thing; an object carries a multiplicity of meanings and as a rhetor, taking a photo and incorporating it into an essay of sorts proves to be a very subjective task, loaded with choices that alter the rhetorical scope of the project. This was a place where I revised many times, experimenting with different captions and different orderings of the photos to get a final piece that I believed to be rhetorically sound.

Through the class discussions and feedback I received through the grading rubric for the Photo Essay, one thing that became most apparent to me was this notion of revision. Since composing this essay was pretty experimental in that I had no background for it, the sense that I could revise my work as much as I wanted to brought some comfort to a sense of groundlessness. One of the things that some of our more pedagogical readings pointed out is that groundlessness is not at all a bad thing for students; away from boundaries and structure, creativity and critical thinking can happen. In revising the Photo Essay, I went back and corrected some numbering issues that I discovered in the original. I recaptioned many of the pieces, and did a slight shuffling of the order. In my recaptions and titles, I tried to go more deeply into the notions that I had painted, to make the contextualization more streamlined.

Here’s an excerpt from the Photo Essay reflection that I wrote concluding the initial project:

Photography as a mode of composition is altogether new for me, but photographs have immense rhetorical power, and the photographer has a lot of rhetorical agency. Just as writing is all about choices, so is photography. I think photography requires more of the rhetorician that does writing, because one cannot just think of a concept, idea, object or situation and instantaneously photograph it. There is a kairos of the photo. The composition process in photography is, therefore, fundamentally different. One must either decide what to photograph and then go find it and take the pictures, or on the other hand, the photographer must take pictures and then decide how to purpose a statement through what ever he or she finds. Either photographic mode of composition has its unique challenges.

The process of crafting a photo essay has been a first for me; it has been equal parts chaos, randomness, envisioning, discovery, and revision. At the outset, I didn’t have inkling as to what to photograph or how to craft a photo essay. In completing the assignment, I had to undergo experiential learning as I endeavored to figure out “the whole Flickr thing.” I used the iPhone 4s to photograph each object. I began with objects around the house­– the shoes, the coffee filters, and the Apple logo. From there, I expanded my search for objects to my daily travels and to the workplace. I didn’t make any special trips or efforts to find any of the objects; rather, I kept a vigilant eye from day-to-day. I used the proprietary filters and editing features within the Flickr web app to crop and revise the photos. I revised the captions and titles several times. My final edits to the photos included a numbering and reordering of the pictures to curate, what I believe, to be an effective aesthetic lineup. Had I more time, I would have looked for more damaged items, those objects that would have been more rhetorically effective in characterizing what I fear to be the dark side of branding and material culture.