Photograph Essay Unit


Through a series of lessons, students will learn that the photo essay is a canvas of creative expression, giving voice to social concerns. Students will review photos and essays by Smith, Parks, Salgado, etc. In addition, students will learn elements of composition: rule of thirds, framing, leading lines, etc. At the end, students will produce their own photo essays that follow Eugene Smith\’s recommendations that captions and photos while each independent will act as a cohesive unit.


Students will engage in numerous activities that push their social awareness and build their confidence for the final project: compiling pictures from various photographers, connecting themes with their own point-of-view; writing a paragraph that verbally connects a current social issue with a famous photograph; taking pictures that explore composition elements, combining representations of social or political issues; sharing their work and discussing their ability to express a creative voice.


Throughout the unit, photo images must be compiled from established artists to demonstrate the essay and composition. The teacher should model each assignment in the unit as well. Projection works best to display photographs for discussion. In addition, students will need access to a digital camera, a flash drive to keep their photos, the internet to research for primary and secondary source information for the project\’s captions, and, for the final project, a printer.

Other Information

Because this project is complex, combining aspects of art, research, writing, and editing, students will need multiple teacher conferences that help them in the research process, incorporating research smoothly in their captions, selecting only six photographs, and typing a Works Cited. Having a completed project includes six pictures and thoughtful captions that call an audience to action, displayed cohesively on foam or poster board, and a Works Cited attached on the back of the board.

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