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Pre-Writing Checklist for Analyzing Photos

Pre-Writing Checklist for Analyzing Photos. Content: What, literally, does the photograph depict? Who or what is the subject of the photo? What is the setting?

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Pre-Writing Checklist for Analyzing Photos

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  1. Pre-Writing Checklist for Analyzing Photos • Content: What, literally, does the photograph depict? Who or what is the subject of the photo? What is the setting? • Cultural Context: What is the historical contest of the photo? If it “documents” a particular event, person, or historical moment, how prominently does this photograph factor into our understanding of this event, person, or place? (For instance, is it the only known photo of an event, or is it one of a series of photos taken of the same subject?)

  2. Checklist, con’t • Material Context: Where was this photo reproduced or displayed (an art gallery, the cover of a magazine, the front page of a newspaper)? If it was published elsewhere originally, does this source credit the original? • Argument: What, thematically, does the photo depict? What is its message to the audience? For instance, while the photo might SHOW a group of people standing together, its argument might be about love, family unity across generations, or a promise for the future.

  3. Checklist, con’t. • Photographer: Who took this photo? What was the person’s purpose? • Genre: Is this a news photo? A self-portrait? A piece of art? How does it fulfill or confound the expectations of this genre? (For example, the expectation for a news photo is that it clearly captures a person, moment, event; the expectation for a self-portrait is that it evokes an artist’s sense of his/her own persona.)

  4. Checklist, con’t • Audience: Was the photo intended to persuade a larger audience or to function as a more personalized expression of a point of view? • Purpose: What is the photo’s purpose? Is it intended to be overtly argumentative and to move its audience to action? Or is the argument more subtle, even to the point of “seeming” objective or representational?

  5. Checklist, con’t. • Rhetorical Stance: How does the composition of the photo convey a sense of the rhetorical stance or point of view of the photographer? Pay attention to issues of focus(what is “in focus?” This may differ from the ostensible “focus” of the picture); cropping (what is “in” the picture, and what has been left “out/”); color (is the picture in black and white? Color? Sepia?); setting (what backdrop has the photographer chosen?); and perspective (are we looking down? Up?).

  6. Checklist, con’t. • Representation vs. Reality: Does this photo aspire to represent reality, or is it an overtly abstract piece? Is there any indication of photo manipulation, editing, or other alteration? If so, what rhetorical purpose does this serve—what argument does this alteration make? • Word and Image: Does the phto have a caption? Does it accompany an article, essay, or other lengthy text? How does the image function in dialogue with this verbal text? Does it offer visual evidence? Does it argue an independent point? Does it provide a counterargument to the print text?

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