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DPChallenge Forums >> Individual Photograph Discussion >> Asking for a honest opinion - photo essay
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07/30/2017 03:10:07 PM · #1
Henry (21.gif insteps) aroused my interest for the photo essay side challenge some time ago. He also provided me with some links to some really high class essays.

I liked this medium from the beginning and took part every time there was a call to submit, but I have serious problems with it...please let me explain it:

This is one of the definitions of a photo essay that I found in the internet:
A photographic essay is an image series that illuminates the different facets of a theme. In contrast to the reportage, which wants to convey a particular piece of information, a photographic essay is more likely to stimulate the imagination of the viewer, so that he himself is able to open up the subject by means of the thought impulses given by the individual images.

Oh - how Iíd love to create such an essay myself but so far Iím not able to cross the border from a mere documentary to an essay!

Here is the link to a very poor attempt to show you a public pool which used to be a nature bath at a river but is now a modern pool without access to the river any more, due to security reasons and concern about the water quality. As much as I do understand these issues (I like to have controlled, clean water myself) I also regret that the nature bath Ė a childhood remembrance - is gone... Now the river banks are neglected and not quite inviting any more. My emotions about this place are tinged with sadness.

public pool

What could I have done to make it more emotional?
Is it the subject? Is it too shallow?
Are there too many pictures?
What about people... is it good to have some in this essay? Or are they expendable?
Should I have choosen b&w? Or some desaturation on the pictures of the old part?

Any thoughts and critical feedback is highly appreciated!
Thank you in advance
07/30/2017 04:52:03 PM · #2
Some of my thoughts as I looked at the photos:

To add emotion to the old part, shoot in the evening or on a stormy day. Shooting in the sunshine doesn't give an abandoned or sad feeling. Black and white or desaturating would probably help with the emotional impact.

If the goal is to show that even though the pool is in use, you still feel sad, then I would do the new part without people and use the same time/conditions and processing throughout.

If the goal is to show that people are enjoying the pool as it is today, then having people works, as does full color and sunshine.

The subject is not too shallow. It is something that affects you, and is a story worth telling. I don't think there are too many photos.
07/30/2017 05:39:38 PM · #3
thank you Elaine for taking your time to look and answer!
You're right about the weather conditions... actually I'm only at the pool when the weather is good. I will try again when the sun isn't shining as bright
You gave me something to think about - the issue with poeple or not, I'm not quite sure what my goal is, probably more the joy being there
07/31/2017 06:14:47 PM · #4
Barbara, Iím happy to see you're still working on photo essays. What makes a photo essay interesting is the same thing that makes a photograph interesting. Itís the unknown that allows the viewer space to wonder, making the story his own.

The inevitable consequence of time, like the loss of your nature bath, is a wonderful subject for a photo essay. This is a difficult story to tell through current photographs alone. We are not equipped with your childhood memories. For the viewer of an essay, itís easier to imagine what will come than what was lost. Some contrasting vintage photographs of the nature baths, at the height of their glory, might pull this story together. You could also write about your memories of this place. Not a technical description but events and people that you remember.

The last image, mother holding toy squirt gun, is a wonderful catch on its own. Iím reminded of Williams Kleinís New York book.
08/01/2017 01:46:16 AM · #5
Originally posted by insteps:

Itís the unknown that allows the viewer space to wonder, making the story his own.



Thank you very much Henry, this is a very wise advice - I should remember it when I'm working on an essay in the future.
I'll keep on trying
08/01/2017 05:10:57 AM · #6
This collection of photographs is an essay already, though presently a shapeless one only because there's no narrative path through it. That's not always a bad thing at least up to a point, for the reason that Henry mentioned: "... space to wander, making the story [the viewer's] own". But I think that wandering viewer does need at least a small nudge to start moving, and even just a paragraph or two based on your Photographer's Comments notes would be a good introduction, and maybe that's all you'd need here: an introduction, and a final sparse word at the end, like this.

I'm much more inclined to the literary than the visual, so my own photo-essays are usually heavier on the essay aspect and lighter on the photo side.
I'd not be able to resist writing about this subject, but I'd probably say too much and exclude that opportunity for the viewer to make the story their own.

Your photographs are mostly very good. Some of them are al lot better than very good: 318, 320, 322, 311 and 321 are all outstanding for me, though for reasons unrelated to the point of the nascent essay here. Once you started to feel for a narrative path through these images, there are probably 2 or 3 photographs here that you'd not find a place for. That's no bad thing: pretty much everything in the arts, maybe in life, is better, more memorable & more powerful for being trimmed by 10-15%.

You have the photographs, you obviously have the story and the emotions swirling around the photographs. It just needs to be a little more coherent, which is in this case merely a matter of presentation.
08/01/2017 02:54:28 PM · #7
For me there are some practical concerns, storytelling concerns. I don't have a way to connect the "abandoned to nature" shots with the "people at the pool" shots. It would be great to have one or more photos at a wide angle to show us how both of these worlds are connected. Then I would actually alternate nature and people instead of grouping them together. The photos you have now are good. I have no problems with those.

If such a wide shot is not possible, then as others have suggested a written explanation, whether at the beginning/end or on every photo, would be helpful.
08/02/2017 06:37:35 AM · #8
Paul and Don - your insights are truly appreciated! Thanks a lot!

That is interesting Paul, that you mentioned Henrys On the edge Of Precipice Ė essay, because I like that extremely well and consider this as a very good example of a copacetic work. And youíre right, some words, a retrospect would help the viewers to get involved. I donít have an own website so this dpc platform will have to doÖMaybe I can mix in some pictures with text next time.
And thanks a lot for praising several pictures!

Don, here is a picture of a more wide angle scene.
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1203532.jpg
You can see guests at the pool but also the fence and the old bridge in the background. Is that what you had in mind? I can understand why you would mix the order of the pictures, my intent was to make it easier for the viewer by sorting them into the neglected and the nowadays part.

08/02/2017 10:46:38 AM · #9
I went through the shots in the sequence they are presented in DPC. Without your introduction to this thread I would not really have a clue what it is about. Even with this introduction, they still are somewhat disrelated.

For instance the first is an old entrance - could be any entrance. Maybe there is still an old sign somewhere, "Freibad" or something, that would help to give some context to the whole series? Then the bridge (DSCF1153) has no visible connection to any bath - it's just a bridge over a pond. DSCF1156 is somewhat more understandable for me, although the fences make it a bit messy as a photo. (Not really your fault - they are there, what can you do.) I like DSCF1162 very much in its own right. DSCF1173 is much better in my eyes than the one with the fences. Similar with DSCF1178 and DSCF1180. DSCF1184 is another cool one of its own.

DSCF1186 shows a fence. I can guess that this separates the old and the new, but it's just a guess. If so I found out in the third run through the shots. But then the next one seems to go back to the old Umkleidekabinen.

The slide is from the new bath, I'd think. I like the shot as such, same with the green umbrella. Nice mood on that one. Overall the mood of the new bath is better conveyed to me than the old one.

I agree with previous posters that the narrative path is somewhat missing, that could help, but I think is difficult to shoot. As for your intention, I think alternating, as posthumous suggested, would be best. Old entrane, new entrance, old ladder to the water, new ladder to the water, something along that line.

My 0.02 Euro...
08/02/2017 02:13:13 PM · #10
Originally posted by primabarbara:


Don, here is a picture of a more wide angle scene.
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1203532.jpg
You can see guests at the pool but also the fence and the old bridge in the background. Is that what you had in mind? I can understand why you would mix the order of the pictures, my intent was to make it easier for the viewer by sorting them into the neglected and the nowadays part.
yes, this picture and hopefully a couple more to establish the larger picture. this is more important than my "alternation" idea, imho.
08/03/2017 06:33:34 AM · #11
Wow - I'm so pleased about you guys giving me such substantial feedback!

Don,
unfortunately I don't have more wide angle shots. It's somewhat difficult, because shooting in a public bath is a grey area... pool attendants will tolerate it if you take picture of your own family with a mobile but not from perfect strangers in bathing suits..

Björn,
I can understand that my way of viewing is totally different to a viewer's way who is approaching the pictures with a fresh mind. Thanks for pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of individual Pictures and their order.

You all gave me some new ideas on how to make an essay easier to understand. I'll keep on trying! If I manage to get some more/new shots I will go over this particular essay again

Thank you all
08/03/2017 03:04:57 PM · #12
What an interesting thread!

I don't have any detailed feedback...just general advice. I enjoyed the series, but I think DPC is not a great way to present this...a blog would be better. And if you were to write a story or outline as to what each photo shows, whether you showed it or not, it would help you decide what photos should stay, and what photos should not--what photos are missing, and what people would need to know to form an opinion based on your story. I still would include some captions or text, even if you want to leave the details you write of the story out.

Like any intellectual or artistic work, IMO, describing what you are trying to say in some detail, out loud to another person, or writing it up, really helps YOU to understand what is right and what is needed.

08/04/2017 04:01:49 AM · #13
Neil,
thanks for your advice. I have to admit that I cooked up this essay without telling somebody about it. Usually I ask my son what he thinks about my posting ideas - but I didn't do it this time because he's on vacation. And you're sure right, that helps to get a clearer view myself.
08/04/2017 04:17:29 AM · #14
Barbara, I think you are already familiar with Lenscratch, a place of excellent photo-essayists, and more to the point maybe, interesting commentary about their work from the site curators. I think their categories section is a great place to explore.

But for pure coherence, accessibility and all-around practical example/inspiration, you really can't do better than our own Henry Foster 21.gif insteps and I know you are familiar with Henry!
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