Ways of Seeing?

The old way of writing, at least in terms of U.S. schooling, was ALL text.  The new way often looks like ALL image.  What I want to do as a teacher is join the two, so that students learn to make genuinely multimedia compositions, ones in which they can practice the full intellectual and expressive range that the new literacy affords.

But to teach such practices, I need to be fluent in them myself.  So I want to use this blog to share my own journey as I learn  to make an online photo essay.

The first thing I did was scour the Internet for model photo essays (at the end of this blog, I’ll list a few sites where high-quality, vetted photo essays can be found).  Here I want to look briefly at a single photo essay that appeared recently in the Denver Post: Mark Hirsch’s account of using his iPhone to photograph, every day for a year, a tree in a southwestern Wisconsin cornfield (thank you Beth Bouquet for sharing this piece with me).  It’s an extraordinary project.  Here are three of the photographs that appear in the Denver Post article:

An iPhone Photo Journal documenting A Year in the Life of That TreeAn iPhone Photo Journal documenting A Year in the Life of That TreeA Year in the Life of That Tree

Since I’ve done a similar project, I thought I would take Hirsch’s idea and try to replicate it with my own photo essay.  I used the tutorials from Digital Writing 101 (Amy Goodloe’s excellent site) to compose an essay in iMovie.  Obviously, there are other ways to design such a composition – in fact, I could have composed it here in WordPress.  But I thought I’d take advantage of iMovie’s ability to stream still images over a soundtrack.  This is what I’ve got so far:

As you can see, it’s a first draft.  I’m still working on the timing, transitions, and soundtrack.  And right now, it’s almost all image (with a looped audio clip from iMovie itself).  To be the kind of photo essay I want my students to produce, it needs an accompanying text, something more substantial than a caption but more visual than a stand-alone, all-verbal text.  In fact, I’ve done a lot of writing about the Bridge Project; the next step, then, is to pull out an essay that could accompany this slide show.  I’ll try to blog about that in the coming days.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of the bridge photos, or of photo essays in general.  And if you know of any good sites on the Internet where such essays can be found, send them my way!


The Denver Post article about Mark Hirsch’s photo essay can be found by clicking here.

And here’s the link to the relevant tutorials on the Digital Writing 101 site.

Finally, here are a some good sites with collections of photo essays:

Lens: New York Times photojournalism

Photo Essays from NYTimes Magazine

Magnum in Motion photo essays

Photo essays from Mother Jones

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