In Hurn and Jay’s reading about photo essays, they said that most photographers work on projects, not making a single, fantastic image. And often “single images” are drawn from these projects that they have an integral part of. In my experience I’ve never gone out to make just one image. I’ve always thought there should be a story-making mentality, no matter how you think it will turn out.
They also said that how a project turns out depends greatly on what publication it’s supposed to be for. Magazines vs. newspapers, and if it was commissioned to tell a biased point of view, etc. Stories can be edited, and even manipulated, in many ways so that the feel of the entire piece can be altered significantly. It’s good for the photographer to whittle down these things and figure out why they’re doing a project so that they can shoot more in line with their intended outcome. They have to know what they’re trying to say, especially in essays, which are often about social issues and often take a more biased viewpoint than photo stories.
It’s especially important to lay out the ideas of the photo essay beforehand since they can be disjointed and confusing. It’s the photographer’s job to make sure that the story is as cohesive as possible, which is difficult when there are so many characters and settings in an essay. Doing “visual research”, as Hurn said, beforehand is very important to getting the story right.
I also found it really interesting when Hurn said that photographers often make the mistake of taking photos of the most visually interesting things, not necessarily what would represent the story or event the best. It seems counterintuitive to say that you shouldn’t only look for visually interesting things. As a photojournalist the first responsibility is to the reader, who needs to know the facts of the story. If the more true, informative images are less visually appealing, it’s the photographer’s job to make them as visually appealing as possible. The truth wins out in the end.