Photo essays are a powerful form of multimodal writing. I fell in love with them when I was introduced to James Mollison and his incredibly important books: “Where Children Sleep” and “Where Children Play”. These books show, through pictures and words, the inequities of children’s lived experiences around the globe.
When I show these photo essays to teachers and students, they are equally struck by how profound a form of writing it can be. This usually leads to students wanting to write their own photo essays.
So, together as a class, we co-constructed “What makes a quality photo essay?”. We read lots of examples – both in book form and digitally – and answered the following questions:
What do you notice about the photo essay?
How would you define “Photo Essay”?
What makes a quality photo essay?
Some of the books we read were:
Where Children Sleep by James Mollison
James and Other Apes by James Mollison
Before Their Time: The World of Child Labour by David L. Parker
Earth Then and Now: Amazing Images of a Changing World by Fred Pearce
We also looked at digital photo essays that I compiled on a SWAY so the students could view them on their own devices.
Since students will be creating digital photo essays, it’s important that you show them different online tools that they can use. Canva, SWAY, Powerpoint, and Piktochart were the ones we explored.
I find that the photo essays students create tell a lot about themselves and how they view the world. Spending some time on personal photo essays at the beginning of the school year would be a great way to explore identity.