Find a photograph to analyze

Writing 101

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BASIC INSTRUCTIONS: Find a photograph to analyze. The image itself can interest you for a variety of reasons. The image might be a family photograph, or an image from news, current events, or history. Describe the image using concrete language. As you describe, analyze the physical details of the image to uncover the implicit meanings encoded into the photo. Use at least one reading from this unit to help in your analysis—anything through Day 6 on our daily schedule.

DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS: Every act of description is an act of interpretation, and an act of judgment. The way you describe and analyze the photograph will invite us to interpret it in a particular way. You won’t need to describe every detail, but you will need to describe the key concrete details of the photo so well that we won’t need to see it to understand your interpretation. (You should include it in your essay anyway.) But you’ll also have to ask yourself why you interpret the photo as you do, why certain details are dominant for you, and what contexts and associations influence your interpretations.

If it’s a family photo, how was it displayed, and why does that matter? Who told the stories that went with it? For what purposes? How does the photo challenge or reinforce particular cultural narratives about family? Why is this important?

If it’s an image from elsewhere, ask how the image was presented in a particular context. From what publication did you select the photo, and why might that influence your interpretation of its meanings? What headlines, captions, and corresponding stories ask us to read the image in a certain way? To what extent might you read the image similarly or differently? Why? Who used the image to tell what story? To what purpose? Consider the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown campaign and Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Torture of Others” as examples of people doing this kind of image analysis.

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