Time Sequence Photo Essay

Now You Try!

You may have created a time sequence photo essay and not even know it! Do you have a baby book? All of the photos of your child show him or her getting older, showing different events such as a first tooth or first haircut. This is an example of a longer time sequence. The essay started when your child was born, and will continue on as long as you keep documenting his or her life.

To get started doing a time sequence essay, you need a camera, an idea, and some patience. You can start with something simple such as documenting your day. Start by taking a photo of your bed. This is a good starting point because before you do anything, you must first wake up! Next, you could take a picture of your bathroom or shower. This is assuming you take a shower after you wake up. Continue this throughout your day taking photos of your office, your car, where you ate lunch, and so forth. Anything that you do during the day, take a photo. Later on you can sort these photos out and keep only those that you feel best document what you accomplished today.

What is the difference between a photo essay and a photo project?  In “15 Creative Photography Project Ideas to Get You Shooting,” Jim Harmer presents a number of varied photography project ideas to help you find inspiration. Photo projects offer a great way to try something new and can help you get out of a rut. Suppose, though, that you’re not in a rut and don’t necessarily need inspiration but are rather looking for a project that relates to a special interest or one that you want to focus your attention on. This is where photo essays can come in.

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A photographic essay is a set or series of photographs that are intended to tell a story or evoke a series of emotions in the viewer. It allows the photographer to tell more than what is possible with a single image. Essays can range from purely photographic (no text) to photographs with captions, small texts or full text essays accompanying them. Photo essays are typically either thematic (addressing a specific topic or issue) or narrative (tells a story, usually in chronological sequence).

Following are ten photo essays ideas to consider…

Photo Essay #1: Document a Local Event. The town I live in has an annual bicycle classic. To turn this into a photo essay, one could arrive early to catch the cyclists and sponsors as they are preparing, then photograph the cyclists riding throughout the day, and finish with some shots of tents coming down and everyone heading home.

Photo Essay #2: Exhibition. Find an exhibition going on at a nearby gallery or museum. Not only photograph the pieces themselves but also those in attendance—how they are interacting with the pieces and among themselves. If you can, attend the reception so you can also capture the artist or artists whose work is on display or the curators of the exhibit.

Photo Essay #3: Transformation (Short-term). For this photo essay, find a subject that is undergoing a short-term transformation. This could include a group of men growing mustaches to celebrate Movember or a stray dog brought in to a shelter that is groomed and adopted. This sort of essay should take no longer than a month or so to tell its story.

Photo Essay #4: Transformation (Long-term). Think pregnancy, from the baby bump through to birth and maybe even the first birthday, or following a returning soldier and their transformation back to civilian life. This project should last months and could be worked around other projects being completed at the same time.

Photo Essay #5: A Day in the Life. For this essay, find someone such as a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, or police officer willing to let you follow him or her for a day, both behind the scenes and during their job. If there are times when photos cannot be taken, then you can use the text option for a photo essay and supplement your photos with some captions or short written passages.

Photo Essay #6: Raise Awareness. Find a local charity and document their daily operations, their personnel, and who or what they are helping. Give a visual sense of what they are trying to accomplish and why it is important.

Photo Essay #7: Turn a Day Out into Reportage. Find a location one would normally go to for a day out but treat this day out more as reportage—photograph behind the scenes shots, interview workers and customers. Locations could include amusement parks, nature preserves, or movie theaters.

Photo Essay #8: Give Meaning to Street Photography. Hit the streets and document the faces of the homeless or the lives of streetwalkers. Try to go deeper than the surface and look for what passersby tend to ignore.

Photo Essay #9: Neighbors. Find a neighborhood and, after photographing the homes, ask to photograph those inside the homes. You could photograph them inside their homes or just in their doorways, depending upon what you want the focus to be on—the interiors or the individuals within those interiors.

Photo Essay #10: Education. Find a school and photograph its students, teachers, and classrooms. Show the students studying and playing and the teachers teaching and on break. Photograph the computer labs and technology if it is a more affluent school or focus on what the teachers make do with if it is a less affluent school. For a longer essay, you could compare and contrast a rural school to a city school.


About the Author

Jeremiah Gilbert

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Jeremiah Gilbert is a college professor, photographer, and avid traveler. His first love is landscape photography, though he also enjoys urban exploration and street photography. Through his work with models, both in studio and on location, he has been internationally published in both digital and print publications. His blog, photo portfolio, and travel tales can be found at www.jeremiahgilbert.com.

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