What is a Photo Essay?

6 11 2010

To be a contender for the awards given out by photophilanthropy you must submit a photo and a photo essay. When I first read about this in the guidlines for submitting a photo I was completely mystified. Throughout all my photojournalism research I had never once come upon the vocabulary word: photo essay.
I looked for an example of what photophilanthropy was talking about when they said “photo essay” and I came upon one (amongst many other choices) written by Hillary Duffy titled Young Lives at Risk. She was writing and photographing on behalf of the nonprofit, Covenant House International. As described in the photo essay, Covenant House International “provides street outreach, shelter, legal aid services, rehabilitation, educational and vocational programs for at-risk, homeless and exploited youth in the US, Canada, Mexico and Central America.”
The outline of Duffy’s three-paragraph photo essay is as follows: 1. the first paragraph introduces the nonprofit the photographer is representing 2. The second paragraph explains why the photographer has chosen to represent this specific nonprofit and the importance of its work. 3. Finally, the third paragraph explains the goals of the photographer. In Duffy’s essay she said that her goal “is to spread public awareness and understanding by illustrating the reality of what these youth endure.”

If you would like to read Duffy’s full essay go here:



3 responses

7 11 2010
Mister Fischer

This sounds like an essay ABOUT a photograph. I wonder. I always thought that a photo essay was a collection of photos that, together, make a point. That is, they tell a story (together) or advance an idea–just as a written essay would, but, in this case, the essayist uses photographs rather than words.


8 11 2010

Photo essays are crazy powerful. Is one were to agree with the statement that a picture is worth a thousand words, than a photo essay must be worth 10 times that (depending on how many photos) haha.

But this photo essay feels more like a photo essay essay. Like Mr. Fischer, I’ve always thought that a photo essay was just a collection of related photos.

9 11 2010

Well I might have completely incorrectly define “photo essay” if both of you, Jakie and Mr. Fischer, believe a photo essay to be collection of photographs..
If you guys look at the link I provided at the bottom of the blog you can see that along with the three paragraph essay Duffy provided, she also had a slide show of pictures.
I will try to post them on my blog right now.

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