Argument in Photo Essays

A photo collage

If you’re building your first photo essay, get ready for an exciting challenge. A photo essay is essentially a story—or in this case, an argument—that is made through mainly images instead of text.

When you build an argumentative photo essay, just as with any other essay, you’re going think about what your main argument is and what kind of evidence you’ll use to support your claims. In the case of a photo essay, your evidence comes through visually, in pictures.

For example, let’s say you want to create a photo essay about people who live with food insecurity in your area. You would want to take pictures of people who deal with food insecurity, perhaps take pictures of their pantries and refrigerators. These pictures could be extremely powerful and persuasive. The appeals to pathos would be strong and moving.

Of course, you should be sure to get permission before you take anyone’s pictures, but photo essays can be a wonderful opportunity to express your creativity and make your argument in a powerful manner.

Sometimes, seeing an example is the best way to get started with a new project. The video below shows a sample student photo essay on the dangers of plastic. Notice the powerful argument the student is able to make by using images and very little text.

Saavedra, S. (2010, April 18). The plastic soup photo essay. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQh898IcOgM

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