By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
As the world self-quarantines and works from home, cabin fever can set in. A photo essay uses a series of photographs to wordlessly tell a full story. A proper photo essay balances many factors of a story.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, many people stuck at home are longing for vacations and other adventures. Many photographers, including Gray Malin, are taking the opportunity to publish new and exciting travel photographs in order to bring the world inside to those who are staying indoors. Building an effective photo essay requires the balance of many vital factors.
The List, Part One
In his video series The Fundamentals of Travel Photography, award-winning National Geographic Photographer Bob Krist outlined a list of topics he keeps with him when shooting for story.
“Geography is a huge category and it can mean getting plenty of those overviews that show what a place looks like. In city coverages, this category would include skylines and street scenes; out in the countryside, it’s landscapes. People is another super important category that [includes] lots of pictures of local people living their lives as well as visitors and tourists enjoying and interacting with the location.”
Next on Krist’s list is culture, meaning visual representations of local performing arts such as outdoor plays and concerts, street entertainers, and museums—but for pictures of people enjoying the museum, not just a photograph of the art itself, but of the onlooking people.
Festivals or special events, such as parades, also feature. Whether covering Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or the Day of the Dead in Mexico, capturing cultural traditions and celebrations can make a viewer feel as though they’re in the middle of the action.
The List, Part Two
Next up is everyday life.
“Unfortunately, every day can’t be a festival or parade or holiday,” Krist said. “So besides those high points, we’ve also got to give a good pictorial look at the day-to-day life of the streets. This is a tough category because it poses the existential question, ‘How do you make interesting and unusual pictures of ordinary, day-to-day life?'”
Sports and recreation is an obvious category, as is wildlife. Animal and plant life often thrive exclusively in certain climates and regions, while communities rally around various sporting events.
Krist said he lumps food, lodging, shopping, and nightlife into a kind of general “lifestyle” category since they show things tourists may be interested in seeing but aren’t as visually arresting as festivals or skyscrapers.
Natural resources like glaciers and local industry also bring a location to life for viewers, Krist said, as do historically significant sites like ancient architecture or monuments.
“Finally, there’s oddities, funkiness, and serendipity,” he said. “This is a catchall category for those cultural peccadillos that are hard to explain but can make for some interesting photographs.” He said these can include people in Krampus costumes in Austria’s Christmas festivities, the Times Square “Naked Cowboy,” and other peculiarities that speak volumes.
By keeping as many of these facets of a location in mind as possible, travel photographers can tell a story to help keep viewers entertained while self-quarantining.