Photo Essay References

They say that practice makes perfect, and while I’d need to go to visit way more than four museums or galleries to develop a truly effective photo essay, this week’s reference assignments truly opened my eyes to the different ways photography can be used to communicate a message, the types of messages it can convey, and how those emotions (intended or otherwise) are evoked.

I started my journey at MoMA, where the Special Exhibition was particularly compelling. Having little previous experience with photography, this exhibit allowed me to see not only examples of effective topics (“stories”, so to speak) for a photo essay, but also another important component – layout and presentation. Everything from a chocolate bar to parts of a computer to various bouquets to a lady’s hairstyle could be used to convey a story through imagery.


I next went to Whitney, where Edward Hopper’s photography gave me some inspirational ideas for working in color:


Can’t leave Whitney without checking out the Jeff Koons exhibit as well!


In comparison, the  photographs I was most drawn to at the Aperture gallery took on a more serious tone, such as Sebastiao Salgado’s photographs from the Persian Gulf War. The monochrome images work so well together to narrate a story, from beginning to end – once again boiling down to careful selection of photographs and their strategic placement and display:


The display becomes crucial in Paolo Pellegrin’s coverage of the crisis in Darfur:


And last but not least, the firsthand photographic capturing of 9/11 and its aftermath:IMG_6752 IMG_6755

At ICP, unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photographs so this is all I have:


However, Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis exhibit showed Mother Nature in all its beauty – crisp, rugged, monochrome images shot in such a way that the similar aesthetic acts as a unifying element between the different photographs (from purely nature shots to pictures of indigenous peoples, to peoples interacting with their environment).

I also made my way over to the NY Art Book Fair, and, while not dealing specifically with photography, this was a great experience to see different mediums that art, or a person’s artwork, can be represented in (there were even grey areas as to what constitutes a book!). Artists from all over were gathered to showcase their work, and it was great to see how different styles and aesthetics from different cultures and languages are represented in book form.


All in all, this was an amazing exercise to get us inspired for our own photo essays – I’d definitely love to go back to all of these venues in my spare time to seek even more inspiration and hope everyone was as inspired as I was!


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