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How to Create an Engaging Photo Essay (with Examples)

Photo essays tell a story in pictures. They're a great way to improve at photography and story-telling skills at once. Learn how to do create a great one.

Learn | Photography Guides | By Ana Mireles

Photography is a medium used to tell stories – sometimes they are told in one picture, sometimes you need a whole series. Those series can be photo essays.

If you’ve never done a photo essay before, or you’re simply struggling to find your next project, this article will be of help. I’ll be showing you what a photo essay is and how to go about doing one.

You’ll also find plenty of photo essay ideas and some famous photo essay examples from recent times that will serve you as inspiration.

If you’re ready to get started, let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

What is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a series of images that share an overarching theme as well as a visual and technical coherence to tell a story. Some people refer to a photo essay as a photo series or a photo story – this often happens in photography competitions.

Photographic history is full of famous photo essays. Think about The Great Depression by Dorothea Lange, Like Brother Like Sister by Wolfgang Tillmans, Gandhi’s funeral by Henri Cartier Bresson, amongst others.

What are the types of photo essay?

Despite popular belief, the type of photo essay doesn’t depend on the type of photography that you do – in other words, journalism, documentary, fine art, or any other photographic genre is not a type of photo essay.

Instead, there are two main types of photo essays: narrative and thematic .

As you have probably already guessed, the thematic one presents images pulled together by a topic – for example, global warming. The images can be about animals and nature as well as natural disasters devastating cities. They can happen all over the world or in the same location, and they can be captured in different moments in time – there’s a lot of flexibility.

A narrative photo essa y, on the other hand, tells the story of a character (human or not), portraying a place or an event. For example, a narrative photo essay on coffee would document the process from the planting and harvesting – to the roasting and grinding until it reaches your morning cup.

What are some of the key elements of a photo essay?

  • Tell a unique story – A unique story doesn’t mean that you have to photograph something that nobody has done before – that would be almost impossible! It means that you should consider what you’re bringing to the table on a particular topic.
  • Put yourself into the work – One of the best ways to make a compelling photo essay is by adding your point of view, which can only be done with your life experiences and the way you see the world.
  • Add depth to the concept – The best photo essays are the ones that go past the obvious and dig deeper in the story, going behind the scenes, or examining a day in the life of the subject matter – that’s what pulls in the spectator.
  • Nail the technique – Even if the concept and the story are the most important part of a photo essay, it won’t have the same success if it’s poorly executed.
  • Build a structure – A photo essay is about telling a thought-provoking story – so, think about it in a narrative way. Which images are going to introduce the topic? Which ones represent a climax? How is it going to end – how do you want the viewer to feel after seeing your photo series?
  • Make strong choices – If you really want to convey an emotion and a unique point of view, you’re going to need to make some hard decisions. Which light are you using? Which lens? How many images will there be in the series? etc., and most importantly for a great photo essay is the why behind those choices.

9 Tips for Creating a Photo Essay

long essay picture

Credit: Laura James

1. Choose something you know

To make a good photo essay, you don’t need to travel to an exotic location or document a civil war – I mean, it’s great if you can, but you can start close to home.

Depending on the type of photography you do and the topic you’re looking for in your photographic essay, you can photograph a local event or visit an abandoned building outside your town.

It will be much easier for you to find a unique perspective and tell a better story if you’re already familiar with the subject. Also, consider that you might have to return a few times to the same location to get all the photos you need.

2. Follow your passion

Most photo essays take dedication and passion. If you choose a subject that might be easy, but you’re not really into it – the results won’t be as exciting. Taking photos will always be easier and more fun if you’re covering something you’re passionate about.

3. Take your time

A great photo essay is not done in a few hours. You need to put in the time to research it, conceptualizing it, editing, etc. That’s why I previously recommended following your passion because it takes a lot of dedication, and if you’re not passionate about it – it’s difficult to push through.

4. Write a summary or statement

Photo essays are always accompanied by some text. You can do this in the form of an introduction, write captions for each photo or write it as a conclusion. That’s up to you and how you want to present the work.

5. Learn from the masters

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Making a photographic essay takes a lot of practice and knowledge. A great way to become a better photographer and improve your storytelling skills is by studying the work of others. You can go to art shows, review books and magazines and look at the winners in photo contests – most of the time, there’s a category for photo series.

6. Get a wide variety of photos

Think about a story – a literary one. It usually tells you where the story is happening, who is the main character, and it gives you a few details to make you engage with it, right?

The same thing happens with a visual story in a photo essay – you can do some wide-angle shots to establish the scenes and some close-ups to show the details. Make a shot list to ensure you cover all the different angles.

Some of your pictures should guide the viewer in, while others are more climatic and regard the experience they are taking out of your photos.

7. Follow a consistent look

Both in style and aesthetics, all the images in your series need to be coherent. You can achieve this in different ways, from the choice of lighting, the mood, the post-processing, etc.

8. Be self-critical

Once you have all the photos, make sure you edit them with a good dose of self-criticism. Not all the pictures that you took belong in the photo essay. Choose only the best ones and make sure they tell the full story.

9. Ask for constructive feedback

Often, when we’re working on a photo essay project for a long time, everything makes perfect sense in our heads. However, someone outside the project might not be getting the idea. It’s important that you get honest and constructive criticism to improve your photography.

How to Create a Photo Essay in 5 Steps

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Credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh

1. Choose your topic

This is the first step that you need to take to decide if your photo essay is going to be narrative or thematic. Then, choose what is it going to be about?

Ideally, it should be something that you’re interested in, that you have something to say about it, and it can connect with other people.

2. Research your topic

To tell a good story about something, you need to be familiar with that something. This is especially true when you want to go deeper and make a compelling photo essay. Day in the life photo essays are a popular choice, since often, these can be performed with friends and family, whom you already should know well.

3. Plan your photoshoot

Depending on what you’re photographing, this step can be very different from one project to the next. For a fine art project, you might need to find a location, props, models, a shot list, etc., while a documentary photo essay is about planning the best time to do the photos, what gear to bring with you, finding a local guide, etc.

Every photo essay will need different planning, so before taking pictures, put in the required time to get things right.

4. Experiment

It’s one thing to plan your photo shoot and having a shot list that you have to get, or else the photo essay won’t be complete. It’s another thing to miss out on some amazing photo opportunities that you couldn’t foresee.

So, be prepared but also stay open-minded and experiment with different settings, different perspectives, etc.

5. Make a final selection

Editing your work can be one of the hardest parts of doing a photo essay. Sometimes we can be overly critical, and others, we get attached to bad photos because we put a lot of effort into them or we had a great time doing them.

Try to be as objective as possible, don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and make various revisions before settling down on a final cut.

7 Photo Essay Topics, Ideas & Examples

long essay picture

Credit: Michelle Leman

  • Architectural photo essay

Using architecture as your main subject, there are tons of photo essay ideas that you can do. For some inspiration, you can check out the work of Francisco Marin – who was trained as an architect and then turned to photography to “explore a different way to perceive things”.

You can also lookup Luisa Lambri. Amongst her series, you’ll find many photo essay examples in which architecture is the subject she uses to explore the relationship between photography and space.

  • Process and transformation photo essay

This is one of the best photo essay topics for beginners because the story tells itself. Pick something that has a beginning and an end, for example, pregnancy, the metamorphosis of a butterfly, the life-cycle of a plant, etc.

Keep in mind that these topics are linear and give you an easy way into the narrative flow – however, it might be difficult to find an interesting perspective and a unique point of view.

  • A day in the life of ‘X’ photo essay

There are tons of interesting photo essay ideas in this category – you can follow around a celebrity, a worker, your child, etc. You don’t even have to do it about a human subject – think about doing a photo essay about a day in the life of a racing horse, for example – find something that’s interesting for you.

  • Time passing by photo essay

It can be a natural site or a landmark photo essay – whatever is close to you will work best as you’ll need to come back multiple times to capture time passing by. For example, how this place changes throughout the seasons or maybe even over the years.

A fun option if you live with family is to document a birthday party each year, seeing how the subject changes over time. This can be combined with a transformation essay or sorts, documenting the changes in interpersonal relationships over time.

  • Travel photo essay

Do you want to make the jump from tourist snapshots into a travel photo essay? Research the place you’re going to be travelling to. Then, choose a topic.

If you’re having trouble with how to do this, check out any travel magazine – National Geographic, for example. They won’t do a generic article about Texas – they do an article about the beach life on the Texas Gulf Coast and another one about the diverse flavors of Texas.

The more specific you get, the deeper you can go with the story.

  • Socio-political issues photo essay

This is one of the most popular photo essay examples – it falls under the category of photojournalism or documental photography. They are usually thematic, although it’s also possible to do a narrative one.

Depending on your topic of interest, you can choose topics that involve nature – for example, document the effects of global warming. Another idea is to photograph protests or make an education photo essay.

It doesn’t have to be a big global issue; you can choose something specific to your community – are there too many stray dogs? Make a photo essay about a local animal shelter. The topics are endless.

  • Behind the scenes photo essay

A behind-the-scenes always make for a good photo story – people are curious to know what happens and how everything comes together before a show.

Depending on your own interests, this can be a photo essay about a fashion show, a theatre play, a concert, and so on. You’ll probably need to get some permissions, though, not only to shoot but also to showcase or publish those images.

4 Best Photo Essays in Recent times

Now that you know all the techniques about it, it might be helpful to look at some photo essay examples to see how you can put the concept into practice. Here are some famous photo essays from recent times to give you some inspiration.

Habibi by Antonio Faccilongo

This photo essay wan the World Press Photo Story of the Year in 2021. Faccilongo explores a very big conflict from a very specific and intimate point of view – how the Israeli-Palestinian war affects the families.

He chose to use a square format because it allows him to give order to things and eliminate unnecessary elements in his pictures.

With this long-term photo essay, he wanted to highlight the sense of absence and melancholy women and families feel towards their husbands away at war.

The project then became a book edited by Sarah Leen and the graphics of Ramon Pez.

long essay picture

Picture This: New Orleans by Mary Ellen Mark

The last assignment before her passing, Mary Ellen Mark travelled to New Orleans to register the city after a decade after Hurricane Katrina.

The images of the project “bring to life the rebirth and resilience of the people at the heart of this tale”, – says CNNMoney, commissioner of the work.

Each survivor of the hurricane has a story, and Mary Ellen Mark was there to record it. Some of them have heartbreaking stories about everything they had to leave behind.

Others have a story of hope – like Sam and Ben, two eight-year-olds born from frozen embryos kept in a hospital that lost power supply during the hurricane, yet they managed to survive.

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Selfie by Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer whose work is mainly done through self-portraits. With them, she explores the concept of identity, gender stereotypes, as well as visual and cultural codes.

One of her latest photo essays was a collaboration with W Magazine entitled Selfie. In it, the author explores the concept of planned candid photos (‘plandid’).

The work was made for Instagram, as the platform is well known for the conflict between the ‘real self’ and the one people present online. Sherman started using Facetune, Perfect365 and YouCam to alter her appearance on selfies – in Photoshop, you can modify everything, but these apps were designed specifically to “make things prettier”- she says, and that’s what she wants to explore in this photo essay.

Tokyo Compression by Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf has an interest in the broad-gauge topic Life in Cities. From there, many photo essays have been derived – amongst them – Tokyo Compression .

He was horrified by the way people in Tokyo are forced to move to the suburbs because of the high prices of the city. Therefore, they are required to make long commutes facing 1,5 hours of train to start their 8+ hour workday followed by another 1,5 hours to get back home.

To portray this way of life, he photographed the people inside the train pressed against the windows looking exhausted, angry or simply absent due to this way of life.

You can visit his website to see other photo essays that revolve around the topic of life in megacities.

Final Words

It’s not easy to make photo essays, so don’t expect to be great at it right from your first project.

Start off small by choosing a specific subject that’s interesting to you –  that will come from an honest place, and it will be a great practice for some bigger projects along the line.

Whether you like to shoot still life or you’re a travel photographer, I hope these photo essay tips and photo essay examples can help you get started and grow in your photography.

Let us know which topics you are working on right now – we’ll love to hear from you!


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Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

Penelope G. To Ana Mireles Such a well written and helpful article for an writer who wants to inclue photo essay in her memoir. Thank you. I will get to work on this new skill. Penelope G.

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How to Make a Photo Essay

Last Updated: September 27, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Heather Gallagher . Heather Gallagher is a Photojournalist & Photographer based in Austin, Texas. She runs her own photography studio named "Heather Gallagher Photography" which was voted Austin's Best Family Photographer and top 3 Birth Photographers in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Heather specializes in family Photojournalism and has over 15 years of experience documenting individuals, families, and businesses all over the world. Her clients include Delta Airlines, Oracle, Texas Monthly, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Austin American Statesman. She is a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP). There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 287,117 times.

Photo essays are an increasingly popular medium for journalists, bloggers, and advertisers alike. Whether you’re trying to show the emotional impact of a current news story or share your hobby with friends and family, images can capture your topic in a personal, emotional, and interesting way. Creating a photo essay can be as easy as choosing a topic, getting your images, and organizing the essay.

Things You Should Know

  • Reflect long and hard on your topic, considering your audience, current events, and whether to go for a thematic or narrative approach.
  • Create an outline, including your focus image, establishing shot, clincher, and other image details.
  • When you finally take your photos, remember to take more photos than you think you need and don't be afraid to let the project change as you create it.

Finding Your Topic

Step 1 Review current events.

  • Offer a photo essay of your place of business as a training tool.
  • Use a photo essay about your business as a sales or social tool by publishing it on your website or social media page.
  • Create a how to photo essay to help others learn about your hobby, so they can take it up as well. [4] X Research source

Step 4 Select an interesting subject.

  • Thematic subjects are big ideas including things like local gun laws, at-risk youth, or welcoming home soldiers.
  • Narrative essays can include a day in the life, how to tutorials, or progression series that show changes over time such as tracking a building project.
  • If you have been given a commission or specific publication to work with, you may need to choose a topic that will fit a thematic or narrative approach as outlined by the publication. Make sure you are aware of any publication guidelines in advance.

Organizing Your Shoot

Step 1 Get permission.

  • Consider how difficult it will be to get permission to photograph your subjects. If you already have relationships established, it will be easier. If not, allow for extra time to get permission and/or waivers.
  • Schools, daycares, and other places with kids typically have more regulations on who can be photographed and for what purposes. You’ll usually need to get parental approval, in addition to permission from those in charge. [7] X Research source

Step 2 Research your subject.

  • Consider doing interviews with people involved prior to the shoot. Ask things like, “What’s the most interesting thing you do during this event?” or “How long have you been involved with this organization?”
  • These interviews are also a great opportunity to ask for permission and get waivers.
  • If you’re going to visit a job site, charitable event, or other large group activity, ask the person or persons in charge to explain what you’re doing to everyone before you arrive. [8] X Research source

Step 3 Create an outline.

Capturing Your Images

Step 1 Check the light.

  • Many new photographers stay away from high ISO shots because they allow more light through producing a “busy” image. However, these images are often easier to edit later as there’s more information to work with. [11] X Research source
  • If it’s very bright in your location or you’ve set up artificial lighting, a low ISO is likely adequate, For darker areas, you’ll likely need to use a higher ISO.
  • If you need one second to capture an image with a base ISO of 100, you’ll need one eighth of a second to capture with an ISO of 800. [13] X Research source

Step 2 Consider composition.

  • Even snapping candid shots, which you may need to capture quickly, take a few moments to think about how objects are placed to make the most impact.
  • Always think about how the main subject’s surroundings play into the overall image, and try to create different levels and points of interest.
  • You can change composition as part of the editing process in some cases, so if you can’t line up the shot just right, don’t let it deter you from capturing the image you want. [14] X Research source

Step 3 Take more photos than you need.

Organizing the Essay

Step 1 Exclude photos you don’t need.

  • If you’re doing a day in the life photo essay about a frustrated person working in an office, an image of that person struggling to open the front door against the wind might be an apt focus shot.
  • If your essay is about the process of building a home, your focus image may be something like a contractor and architect looking at blue prints with the framed up home in the background.
  • If your essay is about a family reunion, the focus image may be a funny shot of the whole family making faces, pretending to be fighting, or a serious photo of the family posed together. Capture whatever seems natural for the family. [18] X Research source

Step 3 Categorize your remaining photos.

  • Regardless of essay type, you’ll need a focus image to grab attention.
  • Use an overall shot to give context to your essay. Where is it, when is it happening, who’s involved, what’s going on, and why should someone be interested? The five “W’s” of journalism are a great way to determine what your overall shot should capture.
  • Find your final image. This should be something provocative that asks your viewer to think about the topic.
  • Between the focus and overall shot and ending image, include a series of images that move the viewer from the lead-in shots to its result. Use images that build in intensity or draw the viewers further into the essay.

Step 5 Ask for feedback.

  • If the images aren’t telling the story, ask your friends to look at your other photos and ask, “I wanted this image to make this point. You got a different idea. Would any of these images make this point to you more clearly?”
  • If the others like the images you’ve chosen, you may still want to ask them to look at your other photos and tell you if they think any of the images you didn’t include should be added in. They may see something you missed. [20] X Research source

Step 6 Add text.

  • If you're commissioned to add photos to an essay, you should make sure images reflect the written word, but also add emotion and context the writing could not capture. For example, an essay on poverty may include an image of a child and parent living on the street could capture more emotional context.
  • Captions should only include information the viewer could not derive from the photo itself. For instance, you can include a date, the subject’s name, or a statistic relevant to your subject in the caption.
  • If you choose not to have any text or just a title and some introductory and/or closing words, make sure you convey all necessary information succinctly. [21] X Research source

Expert Q&A

Heather Gallagher

  • Be creative with your topics. However, something as simple as "things I like" will suffice so long as you stay creative. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Make sure you're familiar with your camera. It will make the photo composition a lot easier. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Don't get discouraged. It may take several tries to get the desired results in your photos. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

Heather Gallagher

To make a photo essay, start by selecting a subject that is easy to capture and that inspires you, like a friend or a family pet. Then, decide if you want to present your photo essay as thematic, which shows specific examples of a big idea, or narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end. Next, create an outline of your essay to determine which photos you’ll need, like an establishing shot. Finally, take your photos, select which images you want to use in your essay, and organize them according to your theme before adding text to explain the essay. To learn how to capture the best images, keep scrolling! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Pictures That Tell Stories: Photo Essay Examples

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Like any other type of artist, a photographer’s job is to tell a story through their pictures. While some of the most creative among us can invoke emotion or convey a thought with one single photo, the rest of us will rely on a photo essay.

In the following article, we’ll go into detail about what a photo essay is and how to craft one while providing some detailed photo essay examples.

What is a Photo Essay? 

A photo essay is a series of photographs that, when assembled in a particular order, tell a unique and compelling story. While some photographers choose only to use pictures in their presentations, others will incorporate captions, comments, or even full paragraphs of text to provide more exposition for the scene they are unfolding.

A photo essay is a well-established part of photojournalism and have been used for decades to present a variety of information to the reader. Some of the most famous photo essayists include Ansel Adams , W. Eugene Smith, and James Nachtwey. Of course, there are thousands of photo essay examples out there from which you can draw inspiration.

Why Consider Creating a Photo Essay?

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth 1000 words.” This adage is, for many photographers, reason enough to hold a photo essay in particularly high regard.

For others, a photo essay allow them to take pictures that are already interesting and construct intricate, emotionally-charged tales out of them. For all photographers, it is yet another skill they can master to become better at their craft.

As you might expect, the photo essay have had a long history of being associated with photojournalism. From the Great Depression to Civil Rights Marches and beyond, many compelling stories have been told through a combination of images and text, or photos alone. A photo essay often evokes an intense reaction, whether artistic in nature or designed to prove a socio-political point.

Below, we’ll list some famous photo essay samples to further illustrate the subject.

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Famous Photo Essays

“The Great Depression” by Dorothea Lange – Shot and arranged in the 1930s, this famous photo essay still serves as a stark reminder of The Great Depression and Dust Bowl America . Beautifully photographed, the black and white images offer a bleak insight to one of the country’s most difficult times.

“The Vietnam War” by Philip Jones Griffiths – Many artists consider the Griffiths’ photo essay works to be some of the most important records of the war in Vietnam. His photographs and great photo essays are particularly well-remembered for going against public opinion and showing the suffering of the “other side,” a novel concept when it came to war photography.

Various American Natural Sites by Ansel Adams – Adams bought the beauty of nature home to millions, photographing the American Southwest and places like Yosemite National Park in a way that made the photos seem huge, imposing, and beautiful.

“Everyday” by Noah Kalina – Is a series of photographs arranged into a video. This photo essay features daily photographs of the artist himself, who began taking capturing the images when he was 19 and continued to do so for six years.

“Signed, X” by Kate Ryan – This is a powerful photo essay put together to show the long-term effects of sexual violence and assault. This photo essay is special in that it remains ongoing, with more subjects being added every year.

Common Types of Photo Essays

While a photo essay do not have to conform to any specific format or design, there are two “umbrella terms” under which almost all genres of photo essays tend to fall. A photo essay is thematic and narrative. In the following section, we’ll give some details about the differences between the two types, and then cover some common genres used by many artists.

⬥ Thematic 

A thematic photo essay speak on a specific subject. For instance, numerous photo essays were put together in the 1930s to capture the ruin of The Great Depression. Though some of these presentations followed specific people or families, they mostly told the “story” of the entire event. There is much more freedom with a thematic photo essay, and you can utilize numerous locations and subjects. Text is less common with these types of presentations.

⬥ Narrative 

A narrative photo essay is much more specific than thematic essays, and they tend to tell a much more direct story. For instance, rather than show a number of scenes from a Great Depression Era town, the photographer might show the daily life of a person living in Dust Bowl America. There are few rules about how broad or narrow the scope needs to be, so photographers have endless creative freedom. These types of works frequently utilize text.

Common Photo Essay Genres

Walk a City – This photo essay is when you schedule a time to walk around a city, neighborhood, or natural site with the sole goal of taking photos. Usually thematic in nature, this type of photo essay allows you to capture a specific place, it’s energy, and its moods and then pass them along to others.

The Relationship Photo Essay – The interaction between families and loved ones if often a fascinating topic for a photo essay. This photo essay genre, in particular, gives photographers an excellent opportunity to capture complex emotions like love and abstract concepts like friendship. When paired with introspective text, the results can be quite stunning. 

The Timelapse Transformation Photo Essay – The goal of a transformation photo essay is to capture the way a subject changes over time. Some people take years or even decades putting together a transformation photo essay, with subjects ranging from people to buildings to trees to particular areas of a city.

Going Behind The Scenes Photo Essay – Many people are fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes of big events. Providing the photographer can get access; to an education photo essay can tell a very unique and compelling story to their viewers with this photo essay.

Photo Essay of a Special Event – There are always events and occasions going on that would make an interesting subject for a photo essay. Ideas for this photo essay include concerts, block parties, graduations, marches, and protests. Images from some of the latter were integral to the popularity of great photo essays.

The Daily Life Photo Essay – This type of photo essay often focus on a single subject and attempt to show “a day in the life” of that person or object through the photographs. This type of photo essay can be quite powerful depending on the subject matter and invoke many feelings in the people who view them.

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Photo Essay Ideas and Examples

One of the best ways to gain a better understanding of photo essays is to view some photo essay samples. If you take the time to study these executions in detail, you’ll see just how photo essays can make you a better photographer and offer you a better “voice” with which to speak to your audience.

Some of these photo essay ideas we’ve already touched on briefly, while others will be completely new to you. 

Cover a Protest or March  

Some of the best photo essay examples come from marches, protests, and other events associated with movements or socio-political statements. Such events allow you to take pictures of angry, happy, or otherwise empowered individuals in high-energy settings. The photo essay narrative can also be further enhanced by arriving early or staying long after the protest has ended to catch contrasting images. 

Photograph a Local Event  

Whether you know it or not, countless unique and interesting events are happening in and around your town this year. Such events provide photographers new opportunities to put together a compelling photo essay. From ethnic festivals to historical events to food and beverage celebrations, there are many different ways to capture and celebrate local life.

Visit an Abandoned Site or Building  

Old homes and historical sites are rich with detail and can sometimes appear dilapidated, overgrown by weeds, or broken down by time. These qualities make them a dynamic and exciting subject. Many great photo essay works of abandoned homes use a mix of far-away shots, close-ups, weird angles, and unique lighting. Such techniques help set a mood that the audience can feel through the photographic essay.

Chronicle a Pregnancy

Few photo essay topics could be more personal than telling the story of a pregnancy. Though this photo essay example can require some preparation and will take a lot of time, the results of a photographic essay like this are usually extremely emotionally-charged and touching. In some cases, photographers will continue the photo essay project as the child grows as well.

Photograph Unique Lifestyles  

People all over the world are embracing society’s changes in different ways. People live in vans or in “tiny houses,” living in the woods miles away from everyone else, and others are growing food on self-sustaining farms. Some of the best photo essay works have been born out of these new, inspiring movements.

Photograph Animals or Pets  

If you have a favorite animal (or one that you know very little about), you might want to arrange a way to see it up close and tell its story through images. You can take photos like this in a zoo or the animal’s natural habitat, depending on the type of animal you choose. Pets are another great topic for a photo essay and are among the most popular subjects for many photographers.

Show Body Positive Themes  

So much of modern photography is about showing the best looking, prettiest, or sexiest people at all times. Choosing a photo essay theme like body positivity, however, allows you to film a wide range of interesting-looking people from all walks of life.

Such a photo essay theme doesn’t just apply to women, as beauty can be found everywhere. As a photo essay photographer, it’s your job to find it!

Bring Social Issues to Life  

Some of the most impactful social photo essay examples are those where the photographer focuses on social issues. From discrimination to domestic violence to the injustices of the prison system, there are many ways that a creative photographer can highlight what’s wrong with the world. This type of photo essay can be incredibly powerful when paired with compelling subjects and some basic text.

Photograph Style and Fashion

If you live in or know of a particularly stylish locale or area, you can put together an excellent thematic photo essay by capturing impromptu shots of well-dressed people as they pass by. As with culture, style is easily identifiable and is as unifying as it is divisive. Great photo essay examples include people who’ve covered fashion sub-genres from all over the world, like urban hip hop or Japanese Visual Kei. 

Photograph Native Cultures and Traditions  

If you’ve ever opened up a copy of National Geographic, you’ve probably seen photo essay photos that fit this category. To many, the traditions, dress, religious ceremonies, and celebrations of native peoples and foreign cultures can be utterly captivating. For travel photographers, this photo essay is considered one of the best ways to tell a story with or without text.

Capture Seasonal Or Time Changes In A Landmark Photo Essay

Time-lapse photography is very compelling to most viewers. What they do in a few hours, however, others are doing over months, years, and even decades. If you know of an exciting landscape or scene, you can try to capture the same image in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, and put that all together into one landmark photo essay.

Alternatively, you can photograph something being lost or ravaged by time or weather. The subject of your landmark photo essay can be as simple as the wall of an old building or as complex as an old house in the woods being taken over by nature. As always, there are countless transformation-based landmark photo essay works from which you can draw inspiration.

Photograph Humanitarian Efforts or Charity  

Humanitarian efforts by groups like Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders can invoke a powerful response through even the simplest of photos. While it can be hard to put yourself in a position to get the images, there are countless photo essay examples to serve as inspiration for your photo essay project.

How to Create a Photo Essay

There is no singular way to create a photo essay. As it is, ultimately, and artistic expression of the photographer, there is no right, wrong, good, or bad. However, like all stories, some tell them well and those who do not. Luckily, as with all things, practice does make perfect. Below, we’ve listed some basic steps outlining how to create a photo essay

Photo essay

Steps To Create A Photo Essay

Choose Your Topic – While some photo essayists will be able to “happen upon” a photo story and turn it into something compelling, most will want to choose their photo essay topics ahead of time. While the genres listed above should provide a great starting place, it’s essential to understand that photo essay topics can cover any event or occasion and any span of time

Do Some Research – The next step to creating a photo essay is to do some basic research. Examples could include learning the history of the area you’re shooting or the background of the person you photograph. If you’re photographing a new event, consider learning the story behind it. Doing so will give you ideas on what to look for when you’re shooting.  

Make a Storyboard – Storyboards are incredibly useful tools when you’re still in the process of deciding what photo story you want to tell. By laying out your ideas shot by shot, or even doing rough illustrations of what you’re trying to capture, you can prepare your photo story before you head out to take your photos.

This process is especially important if you have little to no control over your chosen subject. People who are participating in a march or protest, for instance, aren’t going to wait for you to get in position before offering up the perfect shot. You need to know what you’re looking for and be prepared to get it.

Get the Right Images – If you have a shot list or storyboard, you’ll be well-prepared to take on your photo essay. Make sure you give yourself enough time (where applicable) and take plenty of photos, so you have a lot from which to choose. It would also be a good idea to explore the area, show up early, and stay late. You never know when an idea might strike you.

Assemble Your Story – Once you develop or organize your photos on your computer, you need to choose the pictures that tell the most compelling photo story or stories. You might also find some great images that don’t fit your photo story These can still find a place in your portfolio, however, or perhaps a completely different photo essay you create later.

Depending on the type of photographer you are, you might choose to crop or digitally edit some of your photos to enhance the emotions they invoke. Doing so is completely at your discretion, but worth considering if you feel you can improve upon the naked image.

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Best Photo Essays Tips And Tricks

Before you approach the art of photo essaying for the first time, you might want to consider with these photo essay examples some techniques, tips, and tricks that can make your session more fun and your final results more interesting. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best advice we could find on the subject of photo essays. 

Guy taking a photo

⬥ Experiment All You Want 

You can, and should, plan your topic and your theme with as much attention to detail as possible. That said, some of the best photo essay examples come to us from photographers that got caught up in the moment and decided to experiment in different ways. Ideas for experimentation include the following: 

Angles – Citizen Kane is still revered today for the unique, dramatic angles used in the film. Though that was a motion picture and not photography, the same basic principles still apply. Don’t be afraid to photograph some different angles to see how they bring your subject to life in different ways.

Color – Some images have more gravitas in black in white or sepia tone. You can say the same for images that use color in an engaging, dynamic way. You always have room to experiment with color, both before and after the shoot.

Contrast – Dark and light, happy and sad, rich and poor – contrast is an instantly recognizable form of tension that you can easily include in your photo essay. In some cases, you can plan for dramatic contrasts. In other cases, you simply need to keep your eyes open.

Exposure Settings – You can play with light in terms of exposure as well, setting a number of different moods in the resulting photos. Some photographers even do random double exposures to create a photo essay that’s original.

Filters – There are endless post-production options available to photographers, particularly if they use digital cameras. Using different programs and apps, you can completely alter the look and feel of your image, changing it from warm to cool or altering dozens of different settings.

Want to never run out of natural & authentic poses? You need this ⬇️ 

Click here & get it today for a huge discount., ⬥ take more photos than you need .

If you’re using traditional film instead of a digital camera, you’re going to want to stock up. Getting the right shots for a photo essay usually involves taking hundreds of images that will end up in the rubbish bin. Taking extra pictures you won’t use is just the nature of the photography process. Luckily, there’s nothing better than coming home to realize that you managed to capture that one, perfect photograph. 

⬥ Set the Scene 

You’re not just telling a story to your audience – you’re writing it as well. If the scene you want to capture doesn’t have the look you want, don’t be afraid to move things around until it does. While this doesn’t often apply to photographing events that you have no control over, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a second to make an OK shot a great shot. 

⬥ Capture Now, Edit Later 

Editing, cropping, and digital effects can add a lot of drama and artistic flair to your photos. That said, you shouldn’t waste time on a shoot, thinking about how you can edit it later. Instead, make sure you’re capturing everything that you want and not missing out on any unique pictures. If you need to make changes later, you’ll have plenty of time! 

⬥ Make It Fun 

As photographers, we know that taking pictures is part art, part skill, and part performance. If you want to take the best photo essays, you need to loosen up and have fun. Again, you’ll want to plan for your topic as best as you can, but don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the experience. Once you let yourself relax, both the ideas and the opportunities will manifest.

⬥ It’s All in The Details 

When someone puts out a photographic essay for an audience, that work usually gets analyzed with great attention to detail. You need to apply this same level of scrutiny to the shots you choose to include in your photo essay. If something is out of place or (in the case of historical work) out of time, you can bet the audience will notice.

⬥ Consider Adding Text

While it isn’t necessary, a photographic essay can be more powerful by the addition of text. This is especially true of images with an interesting background story that can’t be conveyed through the image alone. If you don’t feel up to the task of writing content, consider partnering with another artist and allowing them tor bring your work to life.

Final Thoughts 

The world is waiting to tell us story after story. Through the best photo essays, we can capture the elements of those stories and create a photo essay that can invoke a variety of emotions in our audience.

No matter the type of cameras we choose, the techniques we embrace, or the topics we select, what really matters is that the photos say something about the people, objects, and events that make our world wonderful.

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How to Make a Photo Essay: 5 Tips for Impactful Results

A Post By: Christina N Dickson

how to make a photo essay

Want to tell meaningful stories with your photos? That’s what a photo essay is all about: conveying concepts and narratives through a series of carefully chosen images.

While telling a story with photos can be a daunting task, there are several easy tips and techniques you can use in your photo essays to create striking, stunning, eye-opening results.

And that’s what I’m going to share in this article: five photo essay tips that you can immediately apply to your photography. You’ll leave as a better photo essayist than when you arrived!

Let’s get started.

What is a photo essay?

A photo essay is a collection of images placed in a specific order to convey certain emotions , specific concepts, or a progression of events.

In other words:

The photo essay tells stories just like a normal piece of writing , except with images instead of words. (Here, I’m using the term “story” loosely; as mentioned above, photo essays can encapsulate emotions or concepts in addition to traditional, time-based narratives.)

fire in the street photo essay

Plenty of world-class photojournalists use photo essays, including Lauren Greenfield, James Nachtwey, and Joachim Ladefoged. But the photo essay format isn’t exclusive to professionals, and photo essays don’t need to cover dramatic events such as wars, natural disasters, and social issues. Whether you are a complete beginner, a hobbyist, or a professional, the photo essay is a great way to bring your images to life, tell relevant stories about your own surroundings, and touch your family, friends, and coworkers.

So without further ado, let’s look at five easy tips to take your photo essays to the next level, starting with:

1. Find a topic you care about

Every good photo essay should start with an idea .

Otherwise, you’ll be shooting without a purpose – and while such an approach may eventually lead to an interesting series of photos, it’s far, far easier to begin with a topic and only then take out your camera.

As I emphasized above, a photo essay can be about anything. You don’t need to fixate on “classic” photo essay themes, such as war and poverty. Instead, you might focus on local issues that matter to you (think of problems plaguing your community). You can also think about interesting stories worth telling, even if they don’t have an activism angle.

For instance, is there an area undergoing major development? Try documenting the work from start to finish. Is there a particular park or nature area you love? Create a series of images that communicate its beauty.

a nice park

One key item to remember:

Photo essays are most powerful when you, as the photographer, care about the subject. Whether you choose to document something major and public, like an environmental crisis, or whether you choose to document something small and intimate, like the first month of a newborn in the family, make sure you focus on a topic that matters to you .

Otherwise, you’ll struggle to finish the essay – and even if you do successfully complete it, viewers will likely notice your lack of passion.

2. Do your research

The best photo essays involve some real work. Don’t just walk around and shoot with abandon; instead, try to understand your subject.

That way, you can capture a more authentic series of photos.

For instance, if you document a newborn’s first month , spend time with the family. Discover who the parents are, what culture they are from, and their parenting philosophy.

a newborn child

If you cover the process of a school’s drama production, talk with the teachers, actors, and stagehands; investigate the general interest of the student body; find out how the school is financing the production and keeping costs down.

If you photograph a birthday party, check out the theme, the decorations they plan on using, what the birthday kid hopes to get for their gifts.

If you’re passionate about your topic, the research should come easy. You should enjoy learning the backstory.

And then, when it comes time to actually shoot, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of the topic. You’ll know the key players in the story, the key ideas, and the key locations. You’ll be able to hone in on what matters and block out the flashy distractions.

Make sense?

3. Find the right angle

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll know your topic inside and out.

At which point you’ll need to ask yourself:

What is the real, authentic story I want to tell?

Every story has a hundred different angles and perspectives. And trying to share the story from every perspective is a recipe for failure.

Instead, pick a single angle and focus on it. If you’re documenting a local issue, do you want to focus on how it affects children? The physical area? The economy? If you’re documenting a newborn’s first month, do you want to focus on the interaction between the newborn and the parents? The growth of the newborn? The newborn’s emotions?

a parent and their child photo essay

As you’ll find out during your research, even stories that seem to be completely one-sided have plenty of hidden perspectives to draw on.

So think about your story carefully. In general, I recommend you approach it from the angle you’re most passionate about (consider the previous tip!), but you’re always free to explore different perspectives.

4. Convey emotion

Not all photo essays must convey emotion. But the most powerful ones do.

After all, think of the stories that you know and love. Your favorite books, movies, and TV shows. Do they touch you on an emotional level?

Don’t get me wrong: Every photo essay shouldn’t cover a sappy, heartstring-tugging tale. You can always focus on conveying other emotions: anger, joy, fear, hurt, excitement.

(Of course, if your story is sappy and heartstring-tugging, that’s fine, too – just don’t force it!)

How do you convey emotions, though? There’s no one set way, but you can include photos of meaningful scenes – human interactions generally work well here! – or you can simply show emotion on the faces of your photographic subjects . Really, the best way to communicate emotions through your photos is to feel the emotions yourself; they’ll bleed over into your work for a unique result.

a protester with lots of emotion

5. Plan your shots

Once you’ve done the research and determined the angle and emotions you’d like to convey, I recommend you sit down, take out a pen and paper, and plan your photo essay .

Should you extensively visualize each photo? Should you walk through the venue, imagining possible compositions ?

Honestly, that’s up to you, and it’ll depend on how you like to work. I do recommend that beginners start out by creating a “shot list” for the essay. Here, you should describe the main subject, the narrative purpose of the image, plus any lighting or composition notes. Once you become more experienced, you can be looser in your planning, though I still recommend you at least think about the different shots you want to capture.

You can start by planning 10 shots. Each one should emphasize a different concept or emotion, but make sure to keep a consistent thread running through every composition; after all, the end goal is to create a powerful series of images that tell a story.

One final tip:

While you should stick to your plan pretty closely, at least at first, don’t ignore the potential for spontaneity. If you see a possible shot, take it! You can later evaluate whether it’s a worthwhile addition to your essay.

a toxic container on a beach

Photo essay tips: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about what photo essays are, and – hopefully! – how to create a beautiful essay of your own.

a community gardening event photo essay

Just remember: storytelling takes practice, but you don’t have to be an incredible writer to pull off a powerful photo essay. All you need is a bit of photographic technique, some creativity, and a lot of heart.

Once you start to tell stories with your photos, your portfolio will never be the same!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for doing photo essays? Do you have any essays you’re proud of? Share them in the comments below!

How to Make a Photo Essay: 5 Tips for Impactful Results

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Christina N Dickson

is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography and leadership with .

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How to create a photo essay

  • Author Picfair
  • Level Intermediate
  • Reading Time 8 minutes

Cover images by James Gourley

Create a meaningful set of images by producing a photo essay or story

A photographic essay is a deeper and more meaningful way to use your photography than a single image tends to be. Typically associated with documentary and news-gathering, a photo essay doesn’t necessarily have to follow those genres, but can be used as a way to tell a longer or more in-depth story about all manner of subjects. Creating a photo essay however is about more than just taking a set of images and presenting them as one package. They require more forethought, planning and editing than many other forms of photography, but the results are often more rewarding, too. Follow our guide below if it’s something you’d like to consider putting together. ‍ ‍

1 Find a story

The first thing you will need to do is to figure out what you want to do your photo essay on.

"Inspiration can come from anywhere, but a good starting to place is to look at news sources to see if something catches your eye."

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but a good starting to place is to look at news sources to see if something catches your eye. If you’re not sure where to begin, you could start by looking at what’s going on in your local area - if nothing else, it’ll make the practicalities easier. Start jotting down ideas that you can explore and figure out exactly why you want to do it. Try to be as active as you can in discovering what’s going on in the world and eventually something will keep your attention for long enough that it will seem like the right idea.

long essay picture

‍ 2 Do your research

‍ Next, try and find out as much as you can about whatever it is you want to create your photo story on.

"If you find that others have done photo essays on the same or similar subject, then that’s something you should be aware of."

Importantly, you’ll need to see what else already exists out there - if anything - on your story. If you find that others have done photo essays on the same or similar subject, then that’s something you should be aware of. That’s not to say that you can’t also do one, but it pays to be prepared so that you can perhaps approach it in a different way. You’ll also need to do some research into the practicalities that will be required to help you along the way. You’ll need to look into people you should be contacting, how you will get to the destination (if it’s not local), any requirements you need for visiting the location, any restrictions on what you can and cannot shoot and so on. Doing as much research ahead of time as possible will make the project run smoothly when it comes to actually shooting it. ‍

long essay picture

3 Make a structured plan  

Once your research is complete, it’s time to make a detailed and structured plan about how you’re going to go about shooting your photo essay. It doesn’t have to be completely rigid so as to disallow flexibility, but sorting out shoot times, shoot dates, shoot locations will give you something to work with, even if things eventually go off plan. Some photo essays can be shot in an afternoon, others might take several months or even years to complete. Having an idea of how long you want to spend on a particular project can help focus your mind and give you an end date for when you might want to publish the essay. It’s also useful to tell subjects and those involved with the shoot a rough timeline of events. You might find it helpful to organise everything together in one easily accessible place - such as online calendars and spreadsheets, so you can quickly refer to anything you need to.

long essay picture

4 Tell a story

Your photo essay needs to be more than just a set of images on a similar theme.

"...including some introductory or contextualising shots before you get into the heart of the subject matter is a good approach."

Think of it exactly like a story, which usually requires a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it, but photographically, including some introductory or contextualising shots before you get into the heart of the subject matter is a good approach. There might not necessarily be a neat “resolution” to whatever story you’re trying to tell, and it might not always be a happy ending, but having that at least in your mind as you go along can help to create a neatly-packaged story that has a definite and well-constructed narrative.

long essay picture

5 Stick with a cohesive style

Exactly how you’re going to shoot your photo essay is entirely up to you, but in order for your story to have a cohesive look, it’s usually best if you stick to the same style throughout.

"With a photo essay, you want the images to hang extremely well together as a set, so keeping things consistent will help you do that..."

That could be as simple as not mixing black and white and colour, always using a particular lens, always shooting in a particular way, or even applying the same post-processing techniques to the finished shots. With a photo essay, you want the images to hang extremely well together as a set, so keeping things consistent will help you do that - that is, unless you’re actively trying to use disparate styles as an artistic or storytelling technique. ‍

long essay picture

5 Create a strong edit

The chances are that in the process of creating your photo essay, you will have shot dozens, if not hundreds of images.

"It can help to step away from your essay for at least a few days if you can to give yourself some distance and perspective - don’t be afraid to be brutal and keep your final selection down to only those that are the strongest or the best."

For the final edit of your photo story, you need to make sure that the images selected to appear are the strongest of the set, with each adding something unique to the finished story. Try to avoid “padding out” your story with too many fillers, even if you think they are strong images on their own. It’s a good idea to avoid too much repetition, and here again you should look to include images that create a strong story arc with a defined beginning, middle and end. It can help to step away from your essay for at least a few days if you can to give yourself some distance and perspective - don’t be afraid to be brutal and keep your final selection down to only those that are the strongest or the best. There’s no defined number for how many images should be included in a final story, but as a general rule, you’ll probably want it to be under 20 for the most impact.  ‍

long essay picture

6 Ask for input

It’s very easy to get so close to your subject and your images that you become blind to any flaws in them, or the structure of your story. Asking for advice and input from somebody you trust can help to tighten up your story even further.

"Asking for advice and input from somebody you trust can help to tighten up your story even further."

In certain situations, it can be helpful to ask the subject of the photographs themselves what they think, to make it more of a collaborative process - but you should be able to determine whether that’s appropriate on a case-by-case basis. If you have any contacts who are photographers, editors or publishers, asking them to cast an eye over your finished story is a good idea, too. ‍

7 Add some text  

It can be a good idea to add some text or individual captions for a photo essay, to give some background information and context to whatever is shown in the pictures. If you’re not a writer, try to keep it as basic as possible - including things such as names, locations and dates. A short introduction to the piece to give some background information is useful, too. Ask somebody you trust to check it over for sense, clarity and mistakes.

long essay picture

8 Get the story seen

Once your story is complete and you’re happy with it, the next stage is to get it seen - also known as, the hard part.

"Once your story is complete and you’re happy with it, the next stage is to get it seen - also known as, the hard part."

A sensible first step is to create an album on your Picfair store which is dedicated to your photo essay. That way, anybody who is looking for that particular piece won’t have to wade through all of your other work to find it. ‍ You can then start sending out information about the work to editors and publishers, including a link to the album on your Picfair page as an easy way for them to look at it.

long essay picture

Editor's tip: ‍ If you're not sure where to begin with pitching to publishers, be sure to check our how to pitch guide .

long essay picture

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How to create a photo essay: Step-by-step guide with examples

Published by Feature Shoot • 3 years ago

In the 1930s, Life magazine did something radical; while most magazines of the time prioritized words, its editors published pages and pages of photographs, sometimes accompanied only by brief captions.

Over the next few decades, Life ’s photographers—Gordon Parks, Margaret Bourke-White, and W. Eugene Smith among them—would help pioneer a new genre known as the “photo essay.” They often photographed ordinary people—families, midwives, laborers, and more—and shared their stories with an audience of millions.

By 1945, Life was the most popular magazine in America, read by an estimated 13.5 million people. Throughout its run, the magazine published 200,000 pages of photo essays, proving that often, images could tell stories, promote understanding, and inspire action at least as well as the written word.

75 years later, the photo essay remains a gold standard for photographers of all genres. While it’s a medium most commonly associated with photojournalism and documentary photography, modern photo essays can take many forms, from newspaper spreads to wedding albums. A photo essay is a collection of images that work together to tell a story.

Photo essays come in all forms, from day-in-the-life series to long-term documentaries; they can feature people, animals, events, or landmarks. They might capture international news and politics or uncover the lives of regular citizens overlooked by mainstream media. They can convey a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, or they can be thematic, built around a common subject.

Below, we share our tips for how to make a photo essay, separated into eight steps, with inspiring examples from photo history as well as the 500px community.

Do your research

Daily Life Road Pollution in Nepal by Skanda Gautam on

When finding a subject for your essay, it’s often a good idea to start close to home. Look for topics that are both original and accessible. Follow the local news, talk to members of your community, and keep an eye out for those untold, hidden stories. In 2018, for example, Skanda Gautam , a photojournalist with The Himalayan Times daily newspaper in Nepal, created a remarkable essay on air pollution in Kathmandu.

Pollution in Nepal by Skanda Gautam on

By then, the air quality was so poor that it posed serious threats to the public, and Skanda, who calls the city home, set out to document everyday life for its citizens. He photographed the polluted streets and activists crying out for change; the images were shared around the world, bringing much-needed attention to this pressing issue.

Daily Pollution Life in Nepal by Skanda Gautam on

Stories like this one exist everywhere, if you’re willing to look for them. Find subjects that affect you personally or that resonate with you. Maybe it’s a protest taking place in your hometown or a community group making waves in your neighborhood. Once you find a subject that interests you, dig deeper and do some research. Check to see if any other photographers have already covered it, and if not, reach out to the people involved to see if you can learn more.

This news-gathering and research phase might take a while, but it’s the first step toward creating a meaningful photo essay.

Build trust

When we hear the term “photo essay,” one of the first works that comes to mind is Country Doctor , shot by W. Eugene Smith for Life magazine in 1948. The essay told the story of Dr. Ernest Ceriani, a general practitioner in Kremmling, Colorado, who served as the only physician across a 400-square-mile area.

Smith spent 23 days in the Rocky Mountains documenting Dr. Ceriani and his life’s work. In the beginning, he famously shot without film in his camera; the idea was to get Dr. Ceriani to feel comfortable with him before actually taking any pictures. Eventually, it was like Smith wasn’t even there; he faded into the background.

Trust forms the foundation of every great photo essay, so spend some time getting to know your subjects—without the camera. Take as much time as you need to do this, even if it’s weeks, months, or years. Tell your subject right off the bat what your intentions are, and keep the lines of communication open.

Keep an open mind

Afghanistan by Moe Zoyari on

Sometimes, you’ll go into a project with an idea of what you want only to find another story lingering beneath the surface. In 2009, for instance, when the award-winning photojournalist Moe Zoyari was on assignment for United Press International (UPI) to cover the presidential election in Afghanistan, he also took the time to document daily life in its cities.

Afghanistan by Moe Zoyari on

Over 44 days, he discovered a new project, ultimately titled Life After War , about the vibrancy of civilian life and the resilience of the people. He saw the scars of war, but he also found children playing and local businesses thrumming with life. Moe’s series is a testament to the importance of an open mind; allow your instincts to guide you, and take as many photos as possible, even if they aren’t what you originally planned.

Afghanistan by Moe Zoyari on

The final story might reveal itself later, when you’re back home at the computer, but while you’re out there in the field, take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Look for overlooked details, interesting moments, and unexpected happenings.

Aim for variety

We’ve already mentioned the importance of taking as many photos as you can, but you also want to look for ways to make them all different. As the legendary photo editor Howard Chapnick once put it, great photo essays avoid redundancy, and every image captures a different perspective.

For some, that might mean using different lenses or angles, getting details as well as wide shots, and for others, it might mean capturing one subject in many different settings and scenarios. You can combine portraits and landscapes. In short, it’s not just about quantity; it’s also about diversity.

Morning Washing by Drew Hopper on

When the Australian photographer Drew Hopper documented life on the River Ganges, for example, he woke up early and stayed out late; he saw a man performing his morning prayers, women doing laundry, and boats heading out at dusk. In capturing all these moments, he painted a dynamic and nuanced portrait of a single place, rich with meaning and layers of understanding.

Twilight Boats by Drew Hopper on

Limit yourself

In the heyday of Life magazine, photographers were at least somewhat beholden to editors in terms of image selection and layout. There was only room for a fixed number of images, and because they captured hundreds if not thousands of frames, many had to be cut.

Today’s photographers aren’t limited by the cost of film or limited space; using social media, they can publish as many images as they wish. But at the same time, editing remains at the heart of the photo essay, so be objective and ruthless. Sometimes, the most powerful stories are told with a select few images. Give yourself a number—say, ten to fifteen images—and then try to hold yourself to it.

Cut any images that don’t serve the larger story—or any that feel redundant—and then ask friends and colleagues for their opinions. Sometimes, seeking an outside perspective can be invaluable; you might be attached to an image emotionally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the strongest of the bunch. Don’t rush the process; take several passes over several days or weeks, gradually narrowing down your images.

Also, keep in mind that even if you cut an image from your essay, that doesn’t mean you have to discard it completely. Parks, Smith, and Bourke-White had countless photos cut from publication; many have been published and exhibited throughout the decades.

Trust your gut

Photo essays require an investment of your time, energy, and empathy, so even if a friend suggests you cut this photo and keep that one, the final choice is yours. If you feel strongly about an element of your story, trust that instinct.

In 1961, Gordon Parks did just that. He’d spent weeks documenting the life of a boy named Flavio da Silva and his family, who lived in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, but when his editors saw the images, they initially wanted to include only one photo of Flavio. Still, Parks insisted, and in the end, he convinced them to publish a full ten-page spread focusing on Flavio and his family. They remained in touch for years afterward.

Trusting your gut can be especially important when it comes to the first and last image in your essay. These are your bookends; one introduces your audience to the subject, and the other leaves a final impression. Make sure to select images that pack an emotional punch and make a strong statement.

Incorporate text and captions

Sherbrooke by Chris Forsyth on

From 2014-2017, the architecture photographer Chris Forsyth created a captivating photo essay about the metro stations of Berlin, Montreal, Munich, and Stockholm. Part of the joy of discovery came in researching their history, designs, and nuances, and his captions always provide insight into the meaning and significance of each space.

Berri UQAM by Chris Forsyth on

There’s no rule that says you have to include text in your photo essay, but often, captions can go a long way. When documenting your story, keep a journal of some kind where you can jot down locations, dates, and descriptions. If you interview someone, take notes. You don’t have to publish these notes, but they’ll help you keep track of information as it comes.

Jean-Talon by Chris Forsyth on

Publish your images

In 1951, three years after C ountry Doctor , W. Eugene Smith photographed Maude Callen, a midwife and nurse in South Carolina, for Life . The piece inspired readers to make donations and send food; in the end, $20,000 was raised and used to open the Maude Callen clinic and support her work. One subscriber put it this way : “In all the years I have been reading Life , I have never been so moved or affected by anything as by your article on Maude Callen.”

Photo essays still have the power to transform lives, except these days, you don’t need to be published in Life to reach millions of people. Whether you’re publishing with a magazine or sharing your work online, your images have the potential to create change and make a difference, so when you’re ready, don’t be afraid to share them with the world.

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How to create a photo essay

By Marissa Sapega

A close up of a camera that might be used to create a photo essay.

According to LDV Capital, there will be 45 billion cameras in the world by 2022 . The proliferation of smartphones with hi-res cameras — coupled with our obsession with documenting the mundane on social media — has led to a glut of images shared on the web .

We're talking 3.2 billion images shared online every single day.

A decade ago, observers were predicting that this would spell the end of professional photography. But as we all know from our Instagram feeds, the need for professional photography — properly produced, contextualised, and published — has never been greater.

With the emergence of next generation digital publishing platforms, we're seeing a new era for photographic essays. Many of the most powerful examples are from journalism, where immersive photos are transforming long-form journalism into a more dynamic and interactive experience.

But powerful photos — coupled with immersive, interactive digital storytelling techniques — are being increasingly incorporated in marketing and communications across multiple industries, from brands to nonprofits. 

In this guide, we'll cover:

  • The main types of photo essays
  • The new era of photo essays
  • Tips for making thoughtful and powerful photo essays
  • How to make a compelling photo essay
  • We'll also provide a range of photo essay examples as we go

If you're looking for more examples, check out our roundup of photo essay examples .

Let's dive in!

What do the BBC, Tripadvisor, and Penguin have in common? They craft stunning, interactive web content with Shorthand. And so can you! Publish your first story for free — no code or web design skills required. Sign up now.

Types of photo essays

There are two primary types of photo essays: thematic and narrative.

Thematic photo essays

Thematic essays focus on a topical story (like a natural disaster). One example of a great thematic essay comes from NBC News Olympics photos: Emotion runs high .

This piece encapsulates the overall gloom of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — through a series of powerful behind-the-scenes photographs of athletes in varying levels of distress — but does not focus on a particular subject. 

Screenshots from NBC's photo essay on the Olympics, spread across several devices.

Another example of a great photo story comes from the BBC. In “ From Trayvon Martin to Colin Kaepernick , they tell the story of how Black Lives Matter became entwined with sports. 

Screenshots from the BBC's photo essay on Black Lives Matter in sport , spread across several devices.

Narrative photo essays

Narrative photo essays take the story a step further and tell a specific story through images. 

One striking example is SBS's 28 Days in Afghanistan . This narrative essay documents photojournalist Andrew Quilty's time in the war-ravaged nation through stark photographs and supplementary text.

Screenshots from SBS's photo essay on Afghanistan, spread across several devices.

What is a photo essay in 2023?

A traditional photo essay aims to replace the written word with photographs. Done poorly, it is nothing more than series of images lumped together. Done well, though, the photojournalist or artist takes the reader on an engaging journey.

The main difference between photo essays of yore and photo essays in 2023 is the sophistication of digital publishing. With the rise of digital storytelling platforms, we're seeing a rise in truly interactive and immersive digital photo essays. 

Today, many digital photo essays include quotes and text to supplement the visuals and are formatted using interactive scrollytelling techniques. Scrollytelling is a form of visual storytelling that leverages user engagement (scrolling) to reveal images and text in an interesting and dynamic way. The interactivity compels the viewer to continue consuming the content, and creators have a wide latitude when designing the overall effect.    

Given the benefits of a more dynamic and interactive form of photo essays, it’s easy to see why they have become so popular in recent years. But as with any photo essay, creating an exceptional digital photo essays requires planning, structure, and know-how.

Let's take a closer look with ten tips for great photo essays.

Looking to learn more about interactive visual storytelling? Check out our guide, 8 tips for powerful visual storytelling .

10 tips for great photo essays

A close up of a camera that might be used to create a photo essay.

1. Create visual structure

An authentic photo essay requires visual markers to help transform a collection of images into a narrative. For example, photo chapter headings in Growing up young introduce each new girl in the story.

Similarly, in SBS’s photojournalism story — 28 days in Afghanistan , mentioned above — each dated header delineates a part of the story, providing an easy-to-follow chronological structure and pace.

Daniel Boud intersperses his own thoughts in between a haunting series of photographs of the iconic Sydney Opera House as it underwent a restoration during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Sydney Opera House at Rest .

Text can add depth to the photo essay—but take care where you add it. It should support and enhance the final product, not overshadow it.

Screenshots from the Sydney Opera House's photo essay on life during lockdown, spread across several devices.

2. Make it interactive

In 2023, the best photo essays are interactive. 

One great example of an interactive photo essay is WaterAid’s essay, Water and Climate . This photo essay highlights the people climate change has impacted most brutally, including a video, stark close-up photography, and graphics to get its point across. 

The photo essay uses minimal text, preferring to allow the images to speak for themselves. As a user scrolls, it exposes them to more content. Each visual and supplemental text further immerses the viewer into the story until the end, where they encounter a call to action to join WaterAid in helping those in need.

Nonprofits like WaterAid often use interactive photo essays to compel people to act , because they work. Half the battle of convincing someone to part with their money is creating an emotional connection with them—something a photo essay does particularly well.

Screenshots from the WaterAid's photo essay, spread across several devices.

3. Produce more content than you need

Have you ever seen how much film footage ends up on the cutting room floor for the average movie (known as the shooting ratio)? It’s a lot.   

Why is this? First, filmmakers know that many of the shots they take will be either poor-quality or simply not up to their exacting standards. Second, if a director included all the footage they took throughout the entire production in the final product, her movie would be a bloated mess.

The editor’s job is to strip away the dead weight to reveal a clean, refined, final product that keeps viewers raptly engaged. However, an editor may struggle to do his job if the director has not provided enough usable footage.

The same principles apply to creating an exceptional photo essay. Always assemble more visuals and content than you think you’ll need so you can use the cream of the crop for the final product. Shedding content may be difficult, but it’s necessary, so be prepared to edit your piece without mercy.

Publishing photos on the web, but confused about the range of file formats? Check out our guide to file formats .

4. Use only the best photos

A photo essay is not an excuse to throw together all the imagery you have. Just like any good story, it needs a focused and compelling narrative that keeps things connected. Each image needs to bring something to the table. 

Remember that photo quality plays a significant role in the overall caliber of a photo essay. If your iPhone isn’t doing your subject justice, don’t be afraid to pull in a professional to make your work come alive.

A great example of this comes from Sky Sports. In their photo essay, Pictured: Diego Maradona , they had to be ruthless when deciding upon the imagery to include.

Screenshots from the Sky New's photo essay, spread across several devices.

They no doubt had hundreds — perhaps thousands — of photos to choose from from the many photo shoots in Maradona's life. Yet they knew that each one had to be poignant and compelling in its own way. 

5. Don’t be afraid to edit your photos

Not everyone can be Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz. Happily, with the readily available photo-editing software like Photoshop and high-quality cameras on every smartphone, you don’t need to be. Do your best to acquire top-quality photos, but don’t be timid about improving them!

Thanks to heavy exposure to advertising, viewers today now expect doctored images. Whether you’re refining a photo for a flawless finish or adding a touch of grittiness, use this expectation to your advantage. Dial up the contrast, crop out unnecessary elements, and use filters if they suit your needs.

6. Visit the archives

With so many gleaming, airbrushed-to-perfection photographs online today, exposure to imagery that’s not polished within an inch of its life can be a refreshing change. 

For example, take a look at Mancity’s My Debut Trevor Francis (v Stoke 1981) , which exclusively uses archival images. Not only was this a necessity (the focus was on a decades-old football match), but it lent the entire piece a tattered legitimacy. You wouldn’t expect “Insta-worthy” images because that’s not the experience the author is trying to convey.

Screenshots from the Man City's photo essay, spread across several devices.

7. Storyboard before building

You wouldn’t build a house without drafting a blueprint, would you? (Well, not unless you weren’t too invested in the end-product.) Much like a blueprint, a storyboard helps you convert the vision inside your head into a concrete plan for construction. It can also contribute to your shot list for your photography project. 

Storyboarding forces you to take a step back and evaluate how each element fits into the larger narrative. You may find that half your content is no longer necessary, and that’s okay. It may seem like a barrier to “getting to the fun part” of adding fancy flourishes and creative details, but it’s a critical step for building a good photo essay that genuinely influences viewers.

8. Experiment!

While there are certainly best practices to follow when creating a photo essay, no “one true path” will culminate in perfection every time. Photo essays are a way to express a story; such art is not limited to a template or cookie-cutter outputs.

So, mix it up! Test out different photos, filter effects, text, quotes, and visuals. Pretend you’re playing with a Rubik’s cube when you’re storyboarding and shuffle the content around with abandon. There is no right way to draft a photo essay, and you’ll never settle on one that you believe best conveys your story without a bit of experimentation. (Of course, your first iteration may end up being your best, but at least this way you won’t have any doubts.)

9. Combine data and maps

Adding hard metrics and maps to a photo essay can help support a narrative in ways that photographs can’t. In this essay on segregation in Detroit , NBC included interactive maps of the city that underscored the severity of Detroit’s redlining policy. 

These maps drive home this multimedia photo essay’s primary takeaway: Detroit’s enforced segregation has resulted in almost a century of lower quality of life for its black residents.

10. Get inspired

No matter how compelling the vision in your head is, you can still benefit from a little inspiration. If you're looking for photo essay ideas, consider: 

  • Focusing on a single subject for a day (known as a day in the life photo essay).
  • Document local events, such as art shows, protests, or community gatherings — this is an endless source of photo essay topics.
  • Capture social issues from your local area.
  • Start a photo series, in which you document the same specific subject over a period of time.
  • Research the great photo essayists from history, such as W. Eugene Smith, and James Nachtwey.
  • Dive into the archives of the great photo essay magazines, such as National Geographic and Life Magazine.
  • Do some research on your potential subject. This will help you formulate different angles from which to approach your photo essay.
  • Sign up to Shorthand's newsletter , which rounds up the best visual stories on the web every other week. 

Now, let's dive into how to make a stunning photo essay using Shorthand.

How to make a stunning digital photo essay

Traditionally, photo essays on the web were little more than a series of images pasted into a blog post. Because most blogs are structured primarily for words, these photos essays didn't do justice to their source media. 

However, as web browsers became more powerful and bandwidth increased, a range of content platforms — including no-code digital storytelling platforms like Shorthand — have evolved to make it easier to create stunning visual stories. We've linked to many of these in this guide. 

In this section, we're going to run through how to make a photo essay using Shorthand. If you're not a Shorthand customer, you can sign up here and follow along.

1. Create a new story

In your Shorthand dashboard, click 'New Story.' If you'd like, you can choose from any of our templates to help you get started. For now, though, we're going to start with a blank canvas.

A screenshot of the template gallery in the Shorthand app.

The template chooser

2. Add your title image

Every photo essay needs a stunning title image to hook the reader. Depending on what kind of photo essay you're creating, this could be a photo of the subject or theme of the piece. You can also choose to add a title, subtitle, and author. 

A screenshot of the title image in the Shorthand app

3. Add a text section

Every photo essay needs a written introduction, to help contextualise the images that follow. Simply click 'New Section' and 'Text', before pasting in your introductory copy.

A screenshot of how to select a Text section in the Shorthand app

Adding a Text section.

4. Add your first photo

Now it's time to add the first photo in your essay. Simply click 'New Section' and 'Media.' In photo essays, hierarchy is critical, so make sure you've thought about which photo is most appropriate at the top of your essay. In Shorthand, your photo will appear in all its  full-screen glory.

A screenshot of how to add a photo to your photo essay in the Shorthand app

Image in a 'Media' section.

5. Add a Reveal section

You also have the option of adding a 'Reveal' section, which allows you to add text that floats over your images. This text can act as a commentary or de facto caption for each photo in your essay.

Simply click 'New Section' and 'Reveal.' You'll be able to also upload a version of the image for mobile, and set focus areas to make sure the most important parts of your image are shown.

long essay picture

A 'Reveal' section with accompanying text box.

6. Add transition effects

Depending on the nature of your photo essay, you may wish to add transition effects between some images. A ‘Reveal’ section is the best way to achieve this. You'll have the option of choosing from several types of transitions that occur as your reader scrolls from one full-screen image to the next, and each image can have its own text box, too.

Testing a Reveal section in the Shorthand editor

7. Add Scrollmation effects

If you want to use images in concert with large amounts of text, then consider using Shorthand's Scrollmation feature. This allows you to transition through a range of images as the reader scrolls down a column of text. 

To do this — you guessed it — simply click 'New Section' and 'Scrollmation' or 'Background Scrollmation.' 

The difference between the two is simple: In a Scrollmation section, the text appears in a column beside your images, while in a Background Scrollmation section,  images fill the screen and the text column appears over the images. A sequence of related images can give the effect of animation triggered by the reader’s scrolling.

A Scrollmation section within the editor

Background Scrollmation in the editor

8. Add a Media Gallery

If you have many different images, and want to create a mosaic effect in your essay, then you can use a media gallery. To do this, simply click 'New Section' and 'Media Gallery.' 

You can then upload your images, and experiment with their size and arrangement to achieve your intended effect.

A screenshot of a Media Gallery in the Shorthand app

Creating a Media Gallery section in the editor

9. Preview your story

Photo essays — more than many other genres of content on the web — can run into problems with different screen sizes. Before you publish, make sure you test your story using Shorthand's preview option. 

You'll be able to see what your story looks like on desktop, mobile, and tablet viewports, and make adjustments as needed. You can also share your preview link with collaborators, and get pre-publication feedback and quality-assurance.

Examples of previews of a Shorthand story in two different devices.

Story previews in the editor, simulating a phone and iPad.

10. Publish 🚀

The final step is to publish your essay to the world! You now have an immersive, potentially interactive photo essay — without writing a line of code. 

Contemporary photo essays are creative endeavours rife with opportunities for interactivity. Organisations and artists alike use them as modern, impactful vehicles to convey powerful stories. Try creating one for yourself using Shorthand for free today!

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How to Create a Photo Essay in 9 Steps (with Examples)

Photo Editing , Tutorials

Great blue heron standing in shallow water with a reflection and vegetation in the background.

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What is a photo essay?

  • Photo essays vs photo stories
  • How photo essays help you
  • 9 Steps to create photo essays

How to share your photo essays

Read Time: 11 minutes

Gather up a handful of images that seem to go together, and voila! It’s a photo essay, right? Well… no. Though, this is a common misconception.

In reality, a photo essay is much more thoughtful and structured than that. When you take the time to craft one, you’re using skills from all facets of our craft – from composition to curation.

In this guide, you’ll learn what makes a photo essay an amazing project that stretches your skills. You'll also learn exactly how to make one step by step.

  • Photo essay vs photo story

A photo essay is a collection of images based around a theme, a topic, a creative approach, or an exploration of an idea. Photo essays balance visual variety with a cohesive style and concept.

What's the difference between a photo essay and a photo story?

The terms photo essay and photo story are often used interchangeably. Even the dictionary definition of “photo essay” includes using images to convey either a theme or a story.

But in my experience, a photo essay and a photo story are two different things. As you delve into the field of visual storytelling, distinguishing between the two helps you to take a purposeful approach to what you’re making .

The differences ultimately lie in the distinctions between theme, topic and story.

Themes are big-picture concepts. Example: Wildness

Topics are more specific than themes, but still overarching. Example : Wild bears of Yellowstone National Park

Stories are specific instances or experiences that happen within, or provide an example for, a topic or theme. Example: A certain wild bear became habituated to tourists and was relocated to maintain its wildness

Unlike a theme or topic, a story has particular elements that make it a story. They include leading characters, a setting, a narrative arc, conflict, and (usually) resolution.

With that in mind, we can distingush between a photo essay and a photo story.

Themes and Topics vs Stories

A photo essay revolves around a topic, theme, idea, or concept. It visually explores a big-picture something .

This allows a good deal of artistic leeway where a photographer can express their vision, philosophies, opinions, or artistic expression as they create their images.

A photo story  is a portfolio of images that illustrate – you guessed it – a story.

Because of this, there are distinct types of images that a photo story uses that add to the understanding, insight, clarity and meaning to the story for viewers. While they can certainly be artistically crafted and visually stunning, photo stories document something happening, and rely on visual variety for capturing the full experience.

A photo essay doesn’t need to have the same level of structured variety that a photo story requires. It can have images that overlap or are similar, as they each explore various aspects of a theme.

An urban coyote walks across a road near an apartment building

Photo essays can be about any topic. If you live in a city, consider using your nature photography to make an essay about the wildlife that lives in your neighborhood . 

The role of text with photos

A photo story typically runs alongside text that narrates the story. We're a visual species, and the images help us feel like we are there, experiencing what's happening. So, the images add significant power to the text, but they're often a partner to it.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes photo stories don’t need or use text. It’s like reading a graphic novel that doesn’t use text. Moving through the different images that build on each other ultimately unveils the narrative.

Photo essays don’t need to rely on text to illuminate the images' theme or topic. The photographer may use captions (or even a text essay), or they may let the images speak for themselves.

Definitions are helpful guidelines (not strict rules)

Some people categorize photo essays as either narrative or thematic. That's essentially just calling photo stories “narrative photo essays” and photo essays “thematic photo essays.”

But, a story is a defined thing, and any writer/editor will tell you themes and topics are not the same as stories. And we use the word “story” in our daily lives as it’s defined. So, it makes far more sense to name the difference between a photo essay and a photo story, and bask in the same clarity writers enjoy .

Photo stories illustrate a particular experience, event, narrative, something that happened or is happening.

Photo essays explore an idea, concept, topic, theme, creative approach, big-picture something .

Both photo essays and photo stories are immensely powerful visual tools. And yes, the differences between them can certainly be blurred, as is always the case with art.

Simply use this distinction as a general guideline, providing extra clarity around what you’re making and why you're making it.

To dig into specific types of images used to create powerful photo stories, check out this training: 6 Must-Have Shots for a Photo Story. 

Meanwhile, let’s dig deeper into photo essays.

A sea nettle jellyfish floats alone on a white surface

Photo essays are a chance to try new styles or techniques that stretch your skills and creativity. This image was part of an essay exploring simplicity and shape, and helped me learn new skills in black and white post-processing.

How photo essays improve your photography

Creating photo essays is an amazing antidote if you’ve ever felt a lack of direction or purpose in your photography. Photo essays help build your photographic skills in at least 3 important ways.

1. You become more strategic in creating a body of work

It's easy to get stuck in a rut of photographing whatever pops up in front of you. And when you do, you end up with a collection of stand-alone shots.

These singles may work fine as a print, a quick Instagram post, or an addition to your gallery of shots on your website. But amassing a bunch of one-off shots limits your opportunities as a photographer for everything from exhibits to getting your work published.

Building photo essays pushes you to think strategically about what you photograph, why, and how. You're working toward a particular deliverable – a cohesive visual essay – with the images you create.

This elevates your skills in crafting your photo essay, and in how you curate the rest of your work, from galleries on your website to selecting images to sell as prints .

2. You become more purposeful in your composition skills

Composition is so much more than just following the rule of thirds, golden spirals, or thinking about the angle of light in a shot.

Composition is also about thinking ahead in what you’re trying to accomplish with a photograph – from what you’re saying through it to its emotional impact on a viewer – and where it fits within a larger body of work.

Photo essays push you to think critically about each shot – from coming up with fresh compositions for familiar subjects, to devising surprising compositions to fit within a collection, to creating compositions that expand on what’s already in a photo essay.

You’re pushed beyond creating a single pleasing frame, which leads you to shoot more thoughtfully and proactively than ever.

(Here’s a podcast episode on switching from reactive shooting to proactive shooting.)

3. You develop strong editing and curation skills

Selecting which images stay, and which get left behind is one of the hardest jobs on a photographer’s to-do list. Mostly, it’s because of emotional attachment.

You might think it’s an amazing shot because you know the effort that went into capturing it. Or perhaps when you look at it, you get a twinge of the joy or exhilaration you felt the moment you captured it. There’s also the second-guessing that goes into which of two similar images is the best – which will people like more? So you’re tempted to just show both.

Ultimately, great photographers appear all the more skilled because they only show their best work. That in and of itself is a skill they’ve developed through years of ruthlessly editing their own work.

Because the most powerful photo essays only show a handful of extraordinary images, you’re bound to develop the very same critical skill (and look all the more talented because of it).

Photo essays are also a great stepping stone to creating photo stories. If you’re interested in moving beyond stand-alone shots and building stories, shooting photo essays will get your creative brain limbered up and ready for the adventure of photo stories.

An American dipper looks into the water of a stream on a cold morning

A photo essay exploring the natural history of a favorite species is an exciting opportunity for an in-depth study. For me, that was a photo essay on emotive images of the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) as it hunts in streams. 

9 Simple steps to create your photo essays

1. clarify your theme.

Choose a theme, topic, or concept you want to explore. Spend some time getting crystal clear on what you want to focus on. It helps to write out a few sentences, or even a few paragraphs noting:

  • What you want the essay to be about
  • What kinds of images you want to create as part of it
  • How you’ll photograph the images
  • The style, techniques, or gear you might use to create your images
  • What “success” looks like when you’re done with your photo essay

You don’t have to stick to what you write down, of course. It can change during the image creation process. But fleshing your idea out on paper goes a long way in clarifying your photo essay theme and how you’ll go about creating it.

2. Create your images

Grab your camera and head outside!

As you’re photographing your essay, allow yourself some freedom to experiment. Try unusual compositions or techniques that are new to you.

Stretch your style a little, or “try on” the style of other photographers you admire who have photographed similar subjects.

Photo essays are wonderful opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and grow as a photographer.

Remember that a photo essay is a visually cohesive collection of images that make sense together. So, while you might stretch yourself into new terrain as you shoot, try to keep that approach, style, or strategy consistent.

Don’t be afraid to create lots of images. It’s great to have lots to choose from in the editing process, which comes up next.

3. Pull together your wide edit

Once you’ve created your images, pull together all the images that might make the cut. This could be as many as 40-60 images. Include anything you want to consider for the final essay in the wide edit.

From here, start weeding out images that:

  • are weaker in composition or subject matter
  • stand out like a sore thumb from the rest of the collection
  • Are similar to other stronger images in the collection

It's helpful to review the images at thumbnail size. You make more instinctive decisions and can more easily see the body of work as a whole. If an image is strong even at thumbnail size to stand out from similar frames while also partnering well with other images in the collection, that's a good sign it's strong enough for the essay.

4. Post-process your images for a cohesive look

Now it’s time to post-process the images. Use whatever editing software you’re comfortable with to polish your images.

Again, a photo essay has a cohesive visual look. If you use presets, filters, or other tools, use them across all the images.

5. Finalize your selection

It’s time to make the tough decisions. Select only the strongest for your photo essay from your group of images.

Each image should be strong enough to stand on its own and make sense as part of the whole group.

Many photo essays range from 8-12 images. But of course, it varies based on the essay. The number of images you have in your final photo essay is up to you.

Remember, less is more. A photo essay is most powerful when each image deserves to be included.

6. Put your images in a purposeful order

Create a visual flow with your images. Decide which image is first, and build from there. Use compositions, colors, and subject matter to decide which image goes next, then next, then next in the order.

Think of it like music: notes are arranged in a way that builds energy, or slows it down, surprise listeners with a new refrain, or drop into a familiar chorus. How the notes are ordered creates emotional arcs for listeners.

How you order your images is similar.

Think of the experience a viewer will have as they look at one image, then the next, and the next. Order your images so they create the experience you want your audience to have.

7. Get feedback

The best photographers make space for feedback, even when it’s tough to hear. Your work benefits from not just hearing feedback, but listening to it and applying what you learn from it.

Show your photo essay to people who have different sensibilities or tastes. Friends, family members, fellow photographers – anyone you trust to give you honest feedback.

Watch their reactions and hear what they say about what they’re seeing. Use their feedback to guide you in the next step.

8. Refine, revise, and finalize

Let your photo essay marinate for a little while. Take a day or two away from it. Then use your freshened eyes and the feedback you received from the previous step to refine your essay.

Swap out any selects you might want to change and reorder the images if needed.

9. Add captions

Even if you don’t plan on displaying captions with your images, captioning your images is a great practice to get into. It gives context, story, and important information to each image. And, more than likely, you will want to use these captions at some point when you share your photo essay, which we dive into later in this article.

Add captions to the image files using Lightroom, Bridge, or other software programs.

Create a document, such as a Google or Word doc, with captions for each image.

In your captions, share a bit about the story behind the image, or the creation process. Add whatever makes sense to share that provides a greater understanding of the image and its purpose.

Two rocks sit near each other on a wind-blown beach with long lines of texture in the sand

Photo essays allow you to explore deliberate style choices, such as a focus on shapes, patterns, textures, and lines. Since each photo is part of a larger essay, it encourages you to be bold with choices you might not otherwise make. 

5 Examples of amazing nature photo essays

1. “how the water shapes us” from the nature conservancy.

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay How The Water Shapes Us from Nature Conservancy

This gorgeous essay, crafted with the work of multiple photographers, explores the people and places within the Mississippi River basin. Through the images, we gain a sense of how the water influences life from the headwater all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Notice how each photographer is tasked with the same theme, yet approaches it with their own distinct style and vision. It is a wonderful example of the sheer level of visual variety you can have while maintaining a consistent style or theme.

View it here

2. “A Cyclist on the English Landscape” from New York Times’ The World Through A Lens series

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay A Cyclist on the English Landscape from New York Times

This photo essay is a series of self-portraits by travel photographer Roff Smith while “stuck” at home during the pandemic. As he peddled the roads making portraits, the project evolved into a “celebration of traveling at home”. It’s a great example of how visually consistent you can be inside a theme while making each image completely unique.

3. “Vermont, Dressed In Snow” from New York Times’ The World Through A Lens series

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay Vermont, Dressed in Snow from New York Times

This essay by aerial photographer Caleb Kenna uses a very common photo essay theme: snow. Because all images are aerial photographs, there’s a consistency to them. Yet, the compositions are utterly unique from one another. It’s a great example of keeping viewers surprised as they move from one image to the next while still maintaining a clear focus on the theme.

4. “Starling-Studded Skies” from bioGraphic Magazine

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay Starling-Studded-Skies from bioGraphic Magazine

This beautiful essay is by Kathryn Cooper, a physicist trained in bioinformatics, and a talented photographer. She used a 19th century photographic technique, chronophotography, to create images that give us a look at the art and science of starling murmurations. She states: “I’m interested in the transient moments when chaos briefly changes to order, and thousands of individual bodies appear to move as one.” This essay is a great example of deep exploration of a concept using a specific photographic technique.

View it here   (Note: must be viewed on desktop)

5. “These Scrappy Photos Capture the Action-Packed World Beneath a Bird Feeder” from Audubon Magazine

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay by Carla Rhodes from Audubon Online

This photo essay from conservation photographer Carla Rhodes explores the wildlife that takes advantage of the bounty of food waiting under bird feeders . Using remote camera photography , Rhodes gives viewers a unique ground-level perspective and captures moments that make us feel like we’re in conversation with friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. This essay is a great example of how perspective, personality, and chance can all come into play as you explore both an idea and a technique.

25 Ideas for creative photo essays you can make

The possibilities for photo essays are truly endless – from the concepts you explore to the techniques you use and styles you apply.

Choose an idea, hone your unique perspective on it, then start applying the 9 simple steps from above. 

  • The life of a plant or animal (your favorite species, a species living in your yard, etc)
  • The many shapes of a single species (a tree species, a bird species, etc)
  • How a place changes over time
  • The various moods of a place
  • A conservation issue you care about
  • Math in nature
  • Urban nature
  • Seasonal changes
  • Your yard as a space for nature
  • Shifting climate and its impacts
  • Human impacts on environments
  • Elements: Water, wind, fire, earth
  • Day in the life (of a person, a place, a stream, a tree…)
  • Outdoor recreation (birding, kayaking, hiking, naturalist journaling…)
  • Wildlife rehabilitation
  • Lunar cycles
  • Sunlight and shadows
  • Your local watershed
  • Coexistence

A Pacific wren sings from a branch in a sun dappled forest

As you zero in on a photo essay theme, consider two things: what most excites you about an idea, and what about it pushes you out of your comfort zone. The heady mix of joy and challenge will ensure you stick with it. 

Your photo essay is ready for the world! Decide how you’d like to make an impact with your work. You might use one or several of the options below.

1. Share it on your website

Create a gallery or a scrollytelling page on your website. This is a great way to drive traffic to your website where people can peruse your photo essay and the rest of the photography you have.

Putting it on your website and optimizing your images for SEO helps you build organic traffic and potentially be discovered by a broader audience, including photo editors.

2. Create a scrollytelling web page

If you enjoy the experience of immersive visual experiences, consider making one using your essay. And no, you don’t have to be a whiz at code to make it happen.

Shorthand helps you build web pages with scrollytelling techniques that make a big impression on viewers. Their free plan allows you to publish 3 essays or stories.

3. Create a Medium post

If you don’t have a website and want to keep things simple, a post on Medium is a great option.

Though it’s known for being a platform for bloggers, it’s also possible to add images to a post for a simple scroll.

And, because readers can discover and share posts, it’s a good place for your photos to get the attention of people who might not otherwise come across it.

4. Share it on Instagram

Instagram has changed a lot over the last couple of years, but it’s still a place for photographers to share their work thoughtfully.

There are at least 3 great ways to share your photo essay on the platform.

– Create a single post for each image. Add a caption. Publish one post per day until the full essay is on your feed. Share each post via Instagram Stories to bring more attention and interaction to your photo essay.

– Create a carousel post. You can add up 10 photos to a carousel post, so you may need to create two of them for your full photo essay. Or you might create a series of carousel posts using 3-4 images in each.

– Create a Reel featuring your images as a video.  The algorithm heavily favors reels, so turning your photo essay into a video experience can get it out to a larger audience.

I ran a “create a reel” challenge in my membership community. One member created a reel with her still images around a serious conservation issue. It gathered a ton of attention and landed her opportunities to share her message through YouTube and podcast interviews and publishing opportunities. Watch it here.

5. Exhibit it locally

Reach out to local galleries, cafes, pubs, or even the public library to see if they’re interested in hanging your photo essay for display. Many local businesses and organizations happily support the work of local artists.

6. Pitch your photo essay to publications

One of the best ways to reach an audience with your work is to get it published. Find publications that are a great fit for the theme and style of your photo essay, then pitch your essay for consideration. You gain a fantastic opportunity to share your work widely and can earn a paycheck at the same time.

Remember that if you want to get your photo essay published, you may want to hold back from sharing it publicly before you pitch it to publications.

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What is a Photo Essay? 9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story. Unlike a written essay, a photo essay focuses on visuals instead of words. With a photo essay, you can stretch your creative limits and explore new ways to connect with your audience. Whatever your photography skill level, you can recreate your own fun and creative photo essay.

9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

  • Photowalk Photo Essay
  • Transformation Photo Essay
  • Day in the Life Photo Essay
  • Event Photo Essay
  • Building Photo Essay
  • Historic Site or Landmark Photo Essay
  • Behind the Scenes Photo Essay
  • Family Photo Essay
  • Education Photo Essay

Stories are important to all of us. While some people gravitate to written stories, others are much more attuned to visual imagery. With a photo essay, you can tell a story without writing a word. Your use of composition, contrast, color, and perspective in photography will convey ideas and evoke emotions.

To explore narrative photography, you can use basic photographic equipment. You can buy a camera or even use your smartphone to get started. While lighting, lenses, and post-processing software can enhance your photos, they aren’t necessary to achieve good results.

Whether you need to complete a photo essay assignment or want to pursue one for fun or professional purposes, you can use these photo essay ideas for your photography inspiration . Once you know the answer to “what is a photo essay?” and find out how fun it is to create one, you’ll likely be motivated to continue your forays into photographic storytelling.

1 . Photowalk Photo Essay

One popular photo essay example is a photowalk. Simply put, a photowalk is time you set aside to walk around a city, town, or a natural site and take photos. Some cities even have photowalk tours led by professional photographers. On these tours, you can learn the basics about how to operate your camera, practice photography composition techniques, and understand how to look for unique shots that help tell your story.

Set aside at least two to three hours for your photowalk. Even if you’re photographing a familiar place—like your own home town—try to look at it through new eyes. Imagine yourself as a first-time visitor or pretend you’re trying to educate a tourist about the area.

Walk around slowly and look for different ways to capture the mood and energy of your location. If you’re in a city, capture wide shots of streets, close-ups of interesting features on buildings, street signs, and candid shots of people. Look for small details that give the city character and life. And try some new concepts—like reflection picture ideas—by looking for opportunities to photographs reflections in mirrored buildings, puddles, fountains, or bodies of water.

2 . Transformation Photo Essay

With a transformation photography essay, you can tell the story about change over time. One of the most popular photostory examples, a transformation essay can document a mom-to-be’s pregnancy or a child’s growth from infancy into the toddler years. But people don’t need to be the focus of a transformation essay. You can take photos of a house that is being built or an urban area undergoing revitalization.

You can also create a photo narrative to document a short-term change. Maybe you want to capture images of your growing garden or your move from one home to another. These examples of photo essays are powerful ways of telling the story of life’s changes—both large and small.

3 . Day in the Life Photo Essay

Want a unique way to tell a person’s story? Or, perhaps you want to introduce people to a career or activity. You may want to consider a day in the life essay.

With this photostory example, your narrative focuses on a specific subject for an entire day. For example, if you are photographing a farmer, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning and shadow the farmer as he or she performs daily tasks. Capture a mix of candid shots of the farmer at work and add landscapes and still life of equipment for added context. And if you are at a farm, don’t forget to get a few shots of the animals for added character, charm, or even a dose of humor. These types of photography essay examples are great practice if you are considering pursuing photojournalism. They also help you learn and improve your candid portrait skills.

4 . Event Photo Essay

Events are happening in your local area all the time, and they can make great photo essays. With a little research, you can quickly find many events that you could photograph. There may be bake sales, fundraisers, concerts, art shows, farm markets, block parties, and other non profit event ideas . You could also focus on a personal event, such as a birthday or graduation.

At most events, your primary emphasis will be on capturing candid photos of people in action. You can also capture backgrounds or objects to set the scene. For example, at a birthday party, you’ll want to take photos of the cake and presents.

For a local or community event, you can share your photos with the event organizer. Or, you may be able to post them on social media and tag the event sponsor. This is a great way to gain recognition and build your reputation as a talented photographer.

5. Building Photo Essay

Many buildings can be a compelling subject for a photographic essay. Always make sure that you have permission to enter and photograph the building. Once you do, look for interesting shots and angles that convey the personality, purpose, and history of the building. You may also be able to photograph the comings and goings of people that visit or work in the building during the day.

Some photographers love to explore and photograph abandoned buildings. With these types of photos, you can provide a window into the past. Definitely make sure you gain permission before entering an abandoned building and take caution since some can have unsafe elements and structures.

6. Historic Site or Landmark Photo Essay

Taking a series of photos of a historic site or landmark can be a great experience. You can learn to capture the same site from different angles to help portray its character and tell its story. And you can also photograph how people visit and engage with the site or landmark. Take photos at different times of day and in varied lighting to capture all its nuances and moods.

You can also use your photographic essay to help your audience understand the history of your chosen location. For example, if you want to provide perspective on the Civil War, a visit to a battleground can be meaningful. You can also visit a site when reenactors are present to share insight on how life used to be in days gone by.

7 . Behind the Scenes Photo Essay

Another fun essay idea is taking photos “behind the scenes” at an event. Maybe you can chronicle all the work that goes into a holiday festival from the early morning set-up to the late-night teardown. Think of the lead event planner as the main character of your story and build the story about him or her.

Or, you can go backstage at a drama production. Capture photos of actors and actresses as they transform their looks with costuming and makeup. Show the lead nervously pacing in the wings before taking center stage. Focus the work of stagehands, lighting designers, and makeup artists who never see the spotlight but bring a vital role in bringing the play to life.

8. Family Photo Essay

If you enjoy photographing people, why not explore photo story ideas about families and relationships? You can focus on interactions between two family members—such as a father and a daughter—or convey a message about a family as a whole.

Sometimes these type of photo essays can be all about the fun and joy of living in a close-knit family. But sometimes they can be powerful portraits of challenging social topics. Images of a family from another country can be a meaningful photo essay on immigration. You could also create a photo essay on depression by capturing families who are coping with one member’s illness.

For these projects on difficult topics, you may want to compose a photo essay with captions. These captions can feature quotes from family members or document your own observations. Although approaching hard topics isn’t easy, these types of photos can have lasting impact and value.

9. Education Photo Essay

Opportunities for education photo essays are everywhere—from small preschools to community colleges and universities. You can seek permission to take photos at public or private schools or even focus on alternative educational paths, like homeschooling.

Your education photo essay can take many forms. For example, you can design a photo essay of an experienced teacher at a high school. Take photos of him or her in action in the classroom, show quiet moments grading papers, and capture a shared laugh between colleagues in the teacher’s lounge.

Alternatively, you can focus on a specific subject—such as science and technology. Or aim to portray a specific grade level, document activities club or sport, or portray the social environment. A photo essay on food choices in the cafeteria can be thought-provoking or even funny. There are many potential directions to pursue and many great essay examples.

While education is an excellent topic for a photo essay for students, education can be a great source of inspiration for any photographer.

Why Should You Create a Photo Essay?

Ultimately, photographers are storytellers. Think of what a photographer does during a typical photo shoot. He or she will take a series of photos that helps convey the essence of the subject—whether that is a person, location, or inanimate object. For example, a family portrait session tells the story of a family—who they are, their personalities, and the closeness of their relationship.

Learning how to make a photo essay can help you become a better storyteller—and a better photographer. You’ll cultivate key photography skills that you can carry with you no matter where your photography journey leads.

If you simply want to document life’s moments on social media, you may find that a single picture doesn’t always tell the full story. Reviewing photo essay examples and experimenting with your own essay ideas can help you choose meaningful collections of photos to share with friends and family online.

Learning how to create photo essays can also help you work towards professional photography ambitions. You’ll often find that bloggers tell photographic stories. For example, think of cooking blogs that show you each step in making a recipe. Photo essays are also a mainstay of journalism. You’ll often find photo essays examples in many media outlets—everywhere from national magazines to local community newspapers. And the best travel photographers on Instagram tell great stories with their photos, too.

With a photo essay, you can explore many moods and emotions. Some of the best photo essays tell serious stories, but some are humorous, and others aim to evoke action.

You can raise awareness with a photo essay on racism or a photo essay on poverty. A photo essay on bullying can help change the social climate for students at a school. Or, you can document a fun day at the beach or an amusement park. You have control of the themes, photographic elements, and the story you want to tell.

5 Steps to Create a Photo Essay

Every photo essay will be different, but you can use a standard process. Following these five steps will guide you through every phase of your photo essay project—from brainstorming creative essay topics to creating a photo essay to share with others.

Step 1: Choose Your Photo Essay Topics

Just about any topic you can imagine can form the foundation for a photo essay. You may choose to focus on a specific event, such as a wedding, performance, or festival. Or you may want to cover a topic over a set span of time, such as documenting a child’s first year. You could also focus on a city or natural area across the seasons to tell a story of changing activities or landscapes.

Since the best photo essays convey meaning and emotion, choose a topic of interest. Your passion for the subject matter will shine through each photograph and touch your viewer’s hearts and minds.

Step 2: Conduct Upfront Research

Much of the work in a good-quality photo essay begins before you take your first photo. It’s always a good idea to do some research on your planned topic.

Imagine you’re going to take photos of a downtown area throughout the year. You should spend some time learning the history of the area. Talk with local residents and business owners and find out about planned events. With these insights, you’ll be able to plan ahead and be prepared to take photos that reflect the area’s unique personality and lifestyles.

For any topic you choose, gather information first. This may involve internet searches, library research, interviews, or spending time observing your subject.

Step 3: Storyboard Your Ideas

After you have done some research and have a good sense of the story you want to tell, you can create a storyboard. With a storyboard, you can write or sketch out the ideal pictures you want to capture to convey your message.

You can turn your storyboard into a “shot list” that you can bring with you on site. A shot list can be especially helpful when you are at a one-time event and want to capture specific shots for your photo essay. If you’ve never created a photo essay before, start with ten shot ideas. Think of each shot as a sentence in your story. And aim to make each shot evoke specific ideas or emotions.

Step 4: Capture Images

Your storyboard and shot list will be important guides to help you make the most of each shoot. Be sure to set aside enough time to capture all the shots you need—especially if you are photographing a one-time event. And allow yourself to explore your ideas using different photography composition, perspective, and color contrast techniques.

You may need to take a hundred images or more to get ten perfect ones for your photographic essay. Or, you may find that you want to add more photos to your story and expand your picture essay concept.

Also, remember to look for special unplanned, moments that help tell your story. Sometimes, spontaneous photos that aren’t on your shot list can be full of meaning. A mix of planning and flexibility almost always yields the best results.

Step 5: Edit and Organize Photos to Tell Your Story

After capturing your images, you can work on compiling your photo story. To create your photo essay, you will need to make decisions about which images portray your themes and messages. At times, this can mean setting aside beautiful images that aren’t a perfect fit. You can use your shot list and storyboard as a guide but be open to including photos that weren’t in your original plans.

You may want to use photo editing software—such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop— to enhance and change photographs. With these tools, you can adjust lighting and white balance, perform color corrections, crop, or perform other edits. If you have a signature photo editing style, you may want to use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets to give all your photos a consistent look and feel.

You order a photo book from one of the best photo printing websites to publish your photo story. You can add them to an album on a photo sharing site, such as Flickr or Google Photos. Also, you could focus on building a website dedicated to documenting your concepts through visual photo essays. If so, you may want to use SEO for photographers to improve your website’s ranking in search engine results. You could even publish your photo essay on social media. Another thing to consider is whether you want to include text captures or simply tell your story through photographs.

Choose the medium that feels like the best space to share your photo essay ideas and vision with your audiences. You should think of your photo essay as your own personal form of art and expression when deciding where and how to publish it.

Photo Essays Can Help You Become a Better Photographer

Whatever your photography ambitions may be, learning to take a photo essay can help you grow. Even simple essay topics can help you gain skills and stretch your photographic limits. With a photo essay, you start to think about how a series of photographs work together to tell a complete story. You’ll consider how different shots work together, explore options for perspective and composition, and change the way you look at the world.

Before you start taking photos, you should review photo essay examples. You can find interesting pictures to analyze and photo story examples online, in books, or in classic publications, like Life Magazine . Don’t forget to look at news websites for photojournalism examples to broaden your perspective. This review process will help you in brainstorming simple essay topics for your first photo story and give you ideas for the future as well.

Ideas and inspiration for photo essay topics are everywhere. You can visit a park or go out into your own backyard to pursue a photo essay on nature. Or, you can focus on the day in the life of someone you admire with a photo essay of a teacher, fireman, or community leader. Buildings, events, families, and landmarks are all great subjects for concept essay topics. If you are feeling stuck coming up with ideas for essays, just set aside a few hours to walk around your city or town and take photos. This type of photowalk can be a great source of material.

You’ll soon find that advanced planning is critical to your success. Brainstorming topics, conducting research, creating a storyboard, and outlining a shot list can help ensure you capture the photos you need to tell your story. After you’ve finished shooting, you’ll need to decide where to house your photo essay. You may need to come up with photo album title ideas, write captions, and choose the best medium and layout.

Without question, creating a photo essay can be a valuable experience for any photographer. That’s true whether you’re an amateur completing a high school assignment or a pro looking to hone new skills. You can start small with an essay on a subject you know well and then move into conquering difficult ideas. Maybe you’ll want to create a photo essay on mental illness or a photo essay on climate change. Or maybe there’s another cause that is close to your heart.

Whatever your passion, you can bring it to life with a photo essay.

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18 Immersive Photo Essay Examples & Tips

By Tata Rossi 13 days ago, Professional photography

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A photo essay tells a story or evokes emotion through a series of photographs. The essays allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea. Such essays exist in a variety of forms – from photos only to images with brief comments or written essays accompanied by shots. Choose a photo essay example that you can easily do based on your professional level and the equipment you use.

1. Protests

  • View the “Resistance” photo essay by David Moore .

A great idea for photo essays for students is to shoot the protest to show its power. You can capture people with signs and banners to demonstrate what they are standing for. Besides, you can learn how to capture moving subjects. Use the best example of photo essay and don’t forget about angles, composition, and framing.

To create a photo essay , go up to the front and photograph the leader of the protesters walking forward. After that, go back to the end of the group to take pictures of families joining the protest. As a result, you will gain experience shooting big groups of people in motion.

2. Transformation

  • View the “A Self-Portrait Every Day” photo essay by Noah Kalina .

This idea is all about capturing the way a person changes. You may take photos of a pregnant woman and then capture the same model with a child. By documenting the development of the child for several years, you can tell a great story in the form of a photo essay.

However, you can also create a photo essay about the transformation of different objects. For instance, you can create a time-lapse series to capture the history of a renovated building. While you will have to take a lot of similar photos to bring this idea to life, it will allow you to achieve an impressive result.

3. Local Event

  • View the “Monday Marathon” photo essay by Quinn G. Perini .

Whether you are a resident of a large city or a small town, you can find an opportunity to visit a local event, like a marathon or a festival. This is a nice chance to follow modern photography trends and bring photo essay ideas to life.

You can capture the before-and-after stages of the event. Arrive earlier and take pictures of the preparation activities, then shoot the actual event starting with the official beginning.

Keep photographing even when the event is over and capture the cleaning up and disassembling processes.

4. Photowalk

  • View the “Empty Campus” photo essay by Elise Trissel .

Explore the location where you live and find interesting objects to capture in the vicinity. Using the most interesting photo essay examples, you can decide how to make the best decisions. Don’t hurry and try to discover which angles you can use to capture the unique atmosphere of each place.

If you live in the city, you may capture architectural details, wide shots of busy streets, or just take photos of passersby and street signs. Think about the details that make every location unique. For instance, you can try capturing reflections to see how they allow you to see the city from an unusual angle. You can find reflections everywhere, so be sure to pay attention to mirrored buildings, puddles, and fountains.

5. Place Over Time

  • View the “At Home in the Ozarks” photo essay by Kylee Cole .

If you want to document changes and show how the streets, buildings, and parks in your city change over time, select your favorite locations and start to visit them regularly to capture the way they look during different seasons.

  • View the “Last Moments” photo essay by Ross Taylor .

You don’t necessarily have to focus on profound photo essay topics to evoke emotions. Capturing pets enjoying their worry-free and untroubled life seems like an easy but interesting activity.

Choose any animal – from a domestic bird to a dog, cat, or horse. For more emotional images, use such pet photography ideas when your pet is still a baby and recreate these shots when it is older or is in its final days.

7. Street Style

  • View the Tribal Street Photography photo essay by Hans Eijkelboom .

People often express themselves with the help of clothes. The way passers-by on the streets are dressed may reflect the clothing style of a whole society. That’s why you can travel around the world and capture people’s outfits in various areas. When taking portrait photos in the streets, you can also include some of the surroundings to put them in the context.

You can ask people in the streets to pose for you or try to capture them in movement. Select a suitable location for taking photos and create a photo essay to document what kinds of people one can meet in this location. When doing urban photography , you should ask people for permission before taking photos of them. You can ask their contacts and send them your photos later.

8. Abandoned Building

  • View the “Lost Collective” photo essay by Bret Pattman .

Old buildings are excellent architecture photography essay topics for students since you can capture a large number of elements. They allow you to imagine what a particular street looked like in the past. You may use a photo essay example for students as references.

Get approval before going in, but mind that such places are far from being totally safe. Bring various lenses: the macro lenses – for details and the wide-angle one – when you want to include many elements in one shot.

9. Alternative Lifestyles

  • View the “Last Nomad Hippies” photo essay by Roberto Palomo .

Some people decide to lead a lifestyle that differs from the one generally accepted by society. Explore different areas and look for people with an unusual way of living. You can capture candid photos of regular people or take pictures of a person with an unusual hobby.

Take pictures of those, who reside in extraordinary conditions, representatives of various subcultures, or the LBGTQ community. These photo essay topics show other people that it is okay to go out of their comfort zone and run against the wind.

10. Social Issues

  • View the “Juveniles in Prison” photo essay by Isadora Kosofsky .

The best photo essay examples for students are related to social issues, like unemployment, domestic violence, gender discrimination, and more. Address the topic carefully and look for a proper perspective.

Your shots may draw the people’s attention to a truly burning and relevant matter and have a stronger effect than any text.

11. Behind the Scenes

  • View the “Follow Me” photo essay by Marius Masalar .

If you are going to visit an event, get ready to take some behind-the-scenes photos. For instance, you can document the preparations for a festival. Capture the work of the lead event planner and other professionals to tell the story of the festival from an unusual angle.

Alternatively, you can capture the events happening backstage during a drama production. Take pictures of actors and actresses when they are getting ready for the performance. Try capturing the emotions of the main lead and show how stage workers make final preparations. You can also document the work of designers and makeup professionals.

12. Landmarks

  • View the “Volte-Face” photo essay by Oliver Curtis .

The pictures of landmarks are typically taken from a certain spot. One of the best photo essay ideas is to try shooting sights from various angles. You will also have an opportunity to improve your composition and your framing skills.

If you take a look at any pictorial essay example, you will see that the variety of perspectives is endless: through the streets, in the morning, afternoon, and evening, with a drone or including reflections.

    • View the “Family” photo essay by Olivia Moore .

You can capture the way family members interact with each other and demonstrate the strong connection they share. In some cases, it makes sense to focus on capturing candid photos when doing family photography .

However, you may also opt for a different approach and focus on more difficult social topics. For instance, if you want to examine the issue of immigration, you can take pictures of a family from another country. In addition, you may show how families cope with other social issues, including poverty or unequal access to healthcare.

14. A Day in the Life

  • View the “A Day in the Life of Carlos Gaytan” photo essay by Sandy Noto .

One of the best photo essays concepts is related to a day in a person’s life. The main character can be any person – a relative, family member, teacher, writer, or policeman.

People are generally interested in finding out facts about the lives and daily routines of others. The life of every human is incredible, especially if you learn it in more detail. This idea is especially suitable for taking documentary photos. For instance, you can select any photo essay sample you like and then capture a portrait of a person with the tools they use for their work.

15. Education

  • View the “School Day” photo essay by Nancy Borowick .

You can also take great photos in the classroom capturing the interactions of teachers and their students. Avoid distracting them, as it will be easier for you to take natural shots. Using a variety of settings, you can make your photo essay more engaging. For instance, you may visit chemistry labs, capture teachers during a break, and take photos in other locations.

  • View the “Meals From the Motherland” photo essay by James Tran .

You can also focus on specific meals to create a professional photo essay about food. To make it more attention-grabbing, try using different food photography ideas .

For instance, you can take photos of popular meals, capture the meals made by a specific person, or document cooking traditions in different countries. When taking photos in a restaurant, pay attention to the surroundings as well to capture the unique atmosphere of a place.

17. Capture the Neighbors

  • View the “Our Neighbors” photo essay by Jeanne Martin .

Regardless of the place where you live, you have to establish good relationships with your neighbors. People who live nearby can also be great models for professionals who specialize in portrait photography. To implement this idea, make sure to capture people at home or in front of their houses to include some of the surroundings in your photo essay.

You will discover many interesting facts about people who live nearby. Shooting a photo essay will allow you to learn them better and establish a strong connection with them. This way, you can create a sense of community and discover what holds its members together.

18. Climate Change

  • View the “Effects of Climate Change” photo essay by Sanya Gupta .

It is possible to a variety of photo story ideas bring to life examining the impact of climate change. Travel to places most affected by climate change, for instance, glaciers or famous resorts.

Capture the way the continuous drought has influenced the environment, animals, and the inhabitants. As an alternative, take pictures of environmentalist protests or inexhaustible energy sources.

Photo Essay Tips for Students

Explore your topic . An in-depth exploration of the main topic of your photo essay will help you find the best ideas for conveying your message. You can also find some sources for inspiration and useful materials. This stage allows you to learn more about your subject and select the best way of organizing your photo essay.

Create a storyboard . Using a storyboard, you can better understand what shots you need to take and what order can help you to tell a story in the best way. It will also allow you to create the right mood.

Take as many pictures as you can . To create a compelling story, make sure to take a lot of photos. It will allow you to choose the best pictures for your photo essay. Besides, you will always have backup photos if some of your pictures get damaged.

Experiment with different techniques . By changing the angle and using a variety of editing techniques, you can transform the way your photos look. When taking photos, try using different angles to capture the subject in the best way. You can also try changing the distance from the model, using black-and-white film, or employing a range of developing methods.

Add text . While some photographers create photo essays without text, it can still help you bring your point across more clearly and make it easier for a viewer to understand what you imply. By providing extra information, such as some facts, you can change the perception of your image. If you don’t know how to write descriptions, you can hire a professional writer to perform this task.

Enhance your photos . To edit your pictures, make sure to use professional photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Using the available tools, you can improve and change your photos. They allow you to fix issues with lighting, adjust WB, make colors richer, crop your pics to improve the composition, and perform other tasks. In case you need to edit your photos in a consistent style, you can use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets.

In some cases, your pictures may require more advanced editing. If you see that your skills are insufficient or if you don’t have enough time, you can outsource the task of enhancing your photos to the FixThePhoto team. They will professionally enhance your pictures for a budget price. Their prices start from $1.50 per photo.

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17 Awesome Photo Essay Examples You Should Try Yourself

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You can also select your interests for free access to our premium training:

If you’re looking for a photo essay example (or 17!), you’ve come to the right place. But what is the purpose of a photo essay? A photo essay is intended to tell a story or evoke emotion from the viewers through a series of photographs. They allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea. But how do you make one yourself? Here’s a list of photo essay examples. Choose one that you can easily do based on your photographic level and equipment.

Top 17 Photo Essay Examples

Here are some fantastic ideas to get you inspired to create your own photo essays!

17. Photograph a Protest

Street photography of a group of people protesting.

16. Transformation Photo Essays

A photo essay example shot of a couple, the man kissing the pregnant womans stomach

15. Photograph the Same Place

A photo essay example photography grid of 9 photographs.

14. Create a Photowalk

Street photography photo essay shot of a photographer in the middle of the street

13. Follow the Change

Portrait photography of a man shaving in the mirror. Photo essay examples.

12. Photograph a Local Event

Documentary photography essay of a group of people at an event by a lake.

11. Photograph an Abandoned Building

Atmospheric and dark photo of the interior of an abandoned building as part of a photo-essay

10. Behind the Scenes of a Photo Shoot

Photograph of models and photographers behind the scenes at a photo shoot. Photo essay ideas.

9. Capture Street Fashion

Street photography portrait of a girl outdoors at night.

8. Landmark Photo Essay

9 photo grid of the Eiffel tour. Photo essays examples.

7. Fathers & Children

An essay photo of the silhouettes of a man and child standing in a dark doorway.

6. A Day In the Life

 Photo essay examples of a bright red and orange building under blue sky.

5. Education Photo Essay

Documentary photoessay example shot of a group of students in a classroom watching their teacher

4. Fictitious Meals

 Photo essay detail of someone placing a sugar cube into a cup of tea.

3. Photograph Coffee Shops Using Cafenol

A photo of a coffee shop interior created with cafenol.

2. Photograph the Photographers

Street photography of a group of media photographers.

1. Capture the Neighbors

Street photography of 2 pink front doors of brick houses.

Photo essays tell stories. And there are plenty of amazingly interesting stories to tell! Photographing photo essays is a great way to practice your photography skills while having fun. You might even learn something! These photo essay examples are here to provide you with the inspiration to go out and tell your own stories through photos!

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6.2 THE BIG PICTURE: Using Outside Sources of Information

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When you think you found information useful for your academic research essay, stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you really understand the information from the outside source?
  • How much of the information source do you need in your essay? A word or phrase? A sentence? A whole paragraph?
  • Can you paraphrase the information? Or do you need to quote the author’s actual words?

When you are ready to proceed, remember this: Information from outside sources cannot stand alone. You must provide context to your paraphrase or quotation. You must help your reader see how the information is relevant and connected. One easy method is to make a “quotation sandwich.” This method makes sure that information from outside sources is always supporting your own ideas or claims, not taking their place.

The “quotation sandwich”

Writing an academic research essay is like having a conversation with outside sources of information. Just as with a friend or colleague, conversation is a two-way street. This is the “they say / I say” approach to academic writing. It’s a natural back and forth in which you use outsides sources to support your own claims — or as something to argue against — in order to illustrate a point. The “quotation sandwich” is one very effective way to do this. And here’s how it is done.

As you can imagine, most sandwiches have two pieces of bread with a filling in the middle. A “quotation sandwich” is similar. You, your voice, is the bread. The quote, your source’s voice, is the filling. When you put it all together, you’re providing your reader with the necessary context to understand why you are using the quote (relevance) and what it means to your thesis (implication).

Remember, quotes alone don’t make your point for you. Like your instructor, they can’t do your work for you; they can only help you. You have to do the heavy lifting by providing context.

Here’s another way to look at how to make the three ingredients of a “quotation sandwich”:

  • The first sentence (the top layer of bread) is your claim that you want to make related to your thesis.
  • The second sentence has two parts (think of it as the peanut butter and the jelly): the introduction to the quotation and the quotation itself
  • The third sentence (the bottom layer of bread) is an interpretation or explanation of the quotation and how it relates to your claim

Let’s look at an example. Try to identify the three parts of this “quotation sandwich” below:

Great respect is often awarded to people who claim to have a lot of experience, but that experience is not necessarily always filled with success. The prolific Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, for example, suggested that “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” (“BrainyQuote”). In other words, the wisdom that is associated with experience is based as much on a person’s failures as it is on their successes. Works Cited “BrainyQuote.” BrainyQuote, BrainyQuote, 2019,  Accessed 1 Dec. 2019.

Here’s the sample “quotation sandwich” again, this time with a description of each layer:

Verbs of attribution defines attribution as “the act of giving someone credit for doing something.” In the previous sentence, I used the verb “defines” as a verb of attribution. I wanted you to know who or what provided that information.

The verb “to say” does the job of attribution all right, but it’s neither precise nor interesting. And in a long essay with multiple quotes and paraphrases, repeated use of the same verb of attribution can be distracting and boring. Furthermore, some editors restrict the verb “to say” for use only when someone was actually uttered aloud, though in real life we tend to use it even when reporting written communication (for example, The red sign says “Stop.”).

Some common verbs of attribution include:

NOTE: All of these examples are in the present simple verb tense because we usually use the present simple verb tense when using information from outside sources. In some ways, that makes it easier for us to control verb form; however, we must remember to proofread carefully for subject-verb agreement (a singular subject requires a singular form of the verb, while a plural subject requires a plural form of the verb).

Quotation sandwiches are good for you and your writing! Let’s try to make some. First, watch the video below. Then think of your favorite quotation by a famous person or search the internet for one. Share that quotation here in the form of a quotation sandwich. Your should use at least three sentences:

  • Some sort of claim that you want to make
  • The quotation that supports your claim (including the person’s name)
  • Your interpretation or explanation of the quotation

Text adapted from: Guptill, Amy. Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence . 2022. Open SUNY Textbooks, 2016, . Accessed 16 Jan. 2022. CC BY-NC-SA

Video from: Gielissen, Theresa. “How to Do Quote Sandwiches.”, 17 Nov. 2017, . Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

Synthesis Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Format Images in an Essay

How to Format Images in an Essay

  • 5-minute read
  • 27th April 2022

Writing an essay ? It may enhance your argument to include some images, as long as they’re directly relevant to the essay’s narrative. But how do you format images in an essay? Read on for tips on inserting and organizing images, creating captions, and referencing.

Inserting Images

To insert an image into the text using Microsoft Word:

●  Place the cursor where you want to add a picture.

●  Go to Insert > Pictures .

●  Click on This Device to add pictures from your own computer or select Online Pictures to search for a picture from the internet.

●  Select the image you wish to use and click Insert .

See our companion blog post for further detail on inserting images into documents using Word.

Organizing Images

There are two common methods of organizing images in your essay: you can either place them next to the paragraph where they are being discussed (in-text), or group them all together at the end of the essay (list of figures). It can be clearer to display images in-text, but remember to refer to your university style guide for its specifications on formatting images.

Whichever method you decide upon, always remember to refer directly to your images in the text of your essay. For example:

●  An example of Cubism can be seen in Figure 1.

●  Cubist paintings have been criticized for being overly abstract (see Figure 1).

●  Many paintings of this style, including those by Picasso (Figure 1), are very abstract.

Every image that you include in your essay needs to have a caption. This is so that the reader can identify the image and where it came from. Each caption should include the following:

●  A label (e.g., Figure 1 ).

●  A description of the image, such as “Picasso’s Guernica ,” or “ Guernica : One of Picasso’s most famous works.”

●  The source of the image. Even if you have created the image yourself, you should attribute it correctly (for example, “photo by author”).

Have a look at this example:

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Figure 1: Picasso’s Guernica

Photo: Flickr

Here, the image is given both a label and a title, and its source is clearly identified.

Creating Captions Using Microsoft Word

If you are using Word, it’s very simple to add a caption to an image. Simply follow the steps below:

●  Click on the image.

●  Open the References toolbar and click Insert Caption .

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●  Fill in or select the required details and click OK .

You can also add a caption manually.

Referencing Captions

At this point, you’ll need to refer to your style guide again to check which referencing system you’re using. As mentioned above, all sources should be clearly identified within the caption for the image. However, the format for captions will vary depending on your style guide. Here, we give two examples of common style guides:

  • APA 7th Edition

The format for a caption in APA style is as follows:

Note. By Creator’s Initials, Last Name (Year), format. Site Name (or Museum, Location). URL

The image format refers to whether it’s a photograph, painting, or map you are citing. If you have accessed the image online, then you should give the site name, whereas if you have viewed the image in person, you should state the name and location of the museum. The figure number and title should be above the image, as shown:

                     Figure 1

long essay picture

Note . By P. Picasso (1937), painting. Flickr.

If you were to refer to the image in the text of your essay, simply state the creator’s last name and year in parentheses:

(Picasso, 1937).

Remember that you should also include the details of the image in your reference list .

MLA style dictates that an image caption should be centered, and each figure labeled as “Fig.” and numbered. You then have two options for completing the caption:

1. Follow the Works Cited format for citing an image, which is as follows:

Creator’s Last Name, First Name. “Image Title.” Website Name , Day Month Year, URL.

2. Provide key information about the source, such as the creator, title, and year.

In this case, we have followed option 1:

long essay picture

Fig. 1. Picasso, Pablo. “Guernica.” Flickr , 1937,

When referring to the image in the text of the essay, you need only cite the creator’s last name in parentheses:

And, again, remember to include the image within the Works Cited list at the end of your essay.

Expert Proofreading and Formatting

We hope this guide has left you a little clearer on the details of formatting images in your essays . If you need any further help, try accessing our expert proofreading and formatting service . It’s available 24 hours a day!a

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  • How long is an essay? Guidelines for different types of essay

How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

Published on January 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper  or thesis .

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

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Table of contents

Essay length guidelines, how long is each part of an essay, using length as a guide to topic and complexity, can i go under the suggested length, can i go over the suggested length, other interesting articles, here's why students love scribbr's proofreading services.

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In an academic essay, the main body should always take up the most space. This is where you make your arguments, give your evidence, and develop your ideas.

The introduction should be proportional to the essay’s length. In an essay under 3000 words, the introduction is usually just one paragraph. In longer and more complex essays, you might need to lay out the background and introduce your argument over two or three paragraphs.

The conclusion of an essay is often a single paragraph, even in longer essays. It doesn’t have to summarize every step of your essay, but should tie together your main points in a concise, convincing way.

The suggested word count doesn’t only tell you how long your essay should be – it also helps you work out how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This should guide the development of your thesis statement , which identifies the main topic of your essay and sets the boundaries of your overall argument.

A short essay will need a focused, specific topic and a clear, straightforward line of argument. A longer essay should still be focused, but it might call for a broader approach to the topic or a more complex, ambitious argument.

As you make an outline of your essay , make sure you have a clear idea of how much evidence, detail and argumentation will be needed to support your thesis. If you find that you don’t have enough ideas to fill out the word count, or that you need more space to make a convincing case, then consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific.

The length of the essay also influences how much time you will need to spend on editing and proofreading .

You should always aim to meet the minimum length given in your assignment. If you are struggling to reach the word count:

  • Add more evidence and examples to each paragraph to clarify or strengthen your points.
  • Make sure you have fully explained or analyzed each example, and try to develop your points in more detail.
  • Address a different aspect of your topic in a new paragraph. This might involve revising your thesis statement to make a more ambitious argument.
  • Don’t use filler. Adding unnecessary words or complicated sentences will make your essay weaker and your argument less clear.
  • Don’t fixate on an exact number. Your marker probably won’t care about 50 or 100 words – it’s more important that your argument is convincing and adequately developed for an essay of the suggested length.

In some cases, you are allowed to exceed the upper word limit by 10% – so for an assignment of 2500–3000 words, you could write an absolute maximum of 3300 words. However, the rules depend on your course and institution, so always check with your instructor if you’re unsure.

Only exceed the word count if it’s really necessary to complete your argument. Longer essays take longer to grade, so avoid annoying your marker with extra work! If you are struggling to edit down:

  • Check that every paragraph is relevant to your argument, and cut out irrelevant or out-of-place information.
  • Make sure each paragraph focuses on one point and doesn’t meander.
  • Cut out filler words and make sure each sentence is clear, concise, and related to the paragraph’s point.
  • Don’t cut anything that is necessary to the logic of your argument. If you remove a paragraph, make sure to revise your transitions and fit all your points together.
  • Don’t sacrifice the introduction or conclusion . These paragraphs are crucial to an effective essay –make sure you leave enough space to thoroughly introduce your topic and decisively wrap up your argument.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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  • Appeal to authority fallacy
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In 2021, the pandemic forced us all to think hard about who we do and don’t trust

Introduction by david rowell.

As a nation, we are supposed to be built around trust. Look at the back of the bills in your wallet. “In God We Trust.”

Trust the system.

Trust yourself.

Trust but verify.

Trust your instincts.

Love may be the emotion we like to think ultimately propels us, but it’s trust that informs how we go about our daily lives. And yet. Our level of trust, our very foundation, has been crumbling for a long time now. Scandals, abuse and corruption in the major pillars of our society — religious institutions, education, business, military, government, health care, law enforcement, even the sports world — have made us a wary people.

When the pandemic came, first as murmurs that were easy to tune out, then as an unbounded crisis we couldn’t tune into enough, our relationship to trust was newly infected with something we didn’t fully understand. And before long, who and what we trusted — or didn’t — in the form of elected leaders, scientists and doctors became one more cause of death here and all over the world. In this way, distrust was a kind of pandemic itself: widely contagious and passed by the mouth.

As the first American casualties of covid-19 were announced, President Trump kept insisting it would disappear “with the heat” or “at the end of the month” or “without a vaccine.” Like a disgraced, fringe science teacher, he entertained this idea at one coronavirus news conference: “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning?” With leadership like this, the country was receiving an injection — of chaos.

The pandemic ripped through the rest of 2020, and America was not only more splintered than ever, but also a dangerous place to be. Some politicians declared to the public, “I trust the science,” as if that were an unprecedented and heroic stance.

As we navigated our way into 2021, questions about what to believe led — painfully and predictably — to doubts about the most reliable way we had to stay safe: wearing masks. With the return to schools looming, the debate about masks and children — masks as protectors, or masks as educational folly — played out like a plague of rants. No one seemed to trust others to do the right thing anymore, whatever that was. By summer’s end, trust felt like the latest variant to avoid.

Trust takes lots of forms, but can we actually see it in a photograph the way we can identify a cloud or a wave, or an overt moment of joy or sadness? The photo essays that follow capture a full tableau of human responses in year two of the pandemic — trepidation, but also a sense of renewal; celebration, but caution as well. And despite rancor and confusion still being in as steady supply as the vaccine itself, the permutations of trust have their own presence here, too, if we’re open enough to seeing them.

When Jay Wescott went on tour with rock band Candlebox, he was documenting one of the many performing acts that returned to the road this summer, after the long hiatus. On tour there’s a lot variables you can control, and just as many, if not more, that you can’t — and in the time of covid, control and trust form their own essential but perilous interplay. The picture of the band’s drummer, Robin Diaz, who is vaccinated but unmasked, setting up his kit in such proximity to road manager Carlos Novais, vaccinated and masked, not only captures that still-odd dynamic that goes into making any live performance happen right now; it is also a welcome contrast to all the images of masked and unmasked protesters screaming at each other about what and whom to trust. On tour with Candlebox, Westcott observed how trust is carrying the band forward, creating harmonies on and off the stage.

Much farther away, in Michael Robinson Chavez’s pictures from Sicily, we bear witness to religious celebrations as part of saint’s days, which were canceled last year because of the pandemic. The celebrations resumed, though stripped down, this September, with vaccines readily available, but then, as Chavez notes, the people of Sicily were vaccinated at lower numbers than those in other regions of the country. In one image, we see a tuba player, his mask down below his chin as he blows his notes out into the world. Behind him are masked adults and maskless children. And, perhaps all through the festival, a trust in God to watch over them.

Lucía Vázquez trained her lens on the eager crowds of young women who descended upon Miami, a city known for its own style of carnival-type celebrations, though decidedly less holy ones. These women have left masks out of their outfits and are trusting something not quite scientific and not quite political, but more personal: their guts. Such a calculation comes down to a conviction that either you won’t get the coronavirus, or, if you do, you’ll survive. It means placing a lot of trust in yourself.

As a visual meditation, the pictures in this issue offer a portrait of a historical moment in which trust and distrust have defined us. Ultimately, the photographs that follow, reflecting various realities of the pandemic, are tinted with hope that we can reclaim our lives. Not exactly as they were in the past, but in a way that still resembles how we had once imagined them for the future. These images remind us that even in our fractured, confused and suffering world, it remains possible that where we can find trust again, we can be healed.

Ready to Rock

Unmasked fans and mayflies: on tour with the band candlebox, text and photographs by jay westcott.

I n February 2020, after a dear friend passed away (not from covid), all I could think about was getting on the road with a band so I could lose myself in the work and create something that would bring joy to people. The world had other plans, though.

Sixteen months later, I headed out on tour with Candlebox. Almost 30 years has passed since the Seattle hard-rock group released its debut album and saw it sell more than 4 million copies. Frontman Kevin Martin and his current lineup invited me along to document the first part of their tour. I packed up my gear, drove west, and met the band at Soundcheck, a rehearsal and gear storage facility in Nashville, as they prepared for the tour.

Whenever people learn that I photograph musicians, inevitably they ask me what it’s like on a tour bus. I tell people it’s like camping with your co-workers from the office where you all sleep in the same tent. For weeks on end. That sours their midlife fantasies about digging out that guitar from the garage and hitting the road to become a rock star.

The people who do tour and play music, build the sets, mix the sound, sell the merch and lug the gear night after night are some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. They are a special breed of artists, deep thinkers, poets, masters of their instruments. Music has the ability to make you move and stop you in your tracks, to change your mood, make you smile, cry, think. The goal is the same: Put on a great show. Every night. Play like it could be your last show.

It’s easy to sit back and armchair quarterback on social media about the risks of holding festivals and rock concerts amid the pandemic, but this is what people do for a living. Few people buy albums or CDs or even download music anymore. It’s all about streaming and grabbing viewers on social media now. Touring and merch sales are about the only way musicians have to make money these days. Music is meant to be performed in front of people, a shared experience. With everybody on the bus vaccinated and ready to go, we headed to Louisville for the first of a 49-show run.

The crowd of mostly older millennials and GenXers were ready for a rock show. They knew all the words to the hits in the set — especially Candlebox’s mega-hit from the ’90s, “Far Behind” — and were into the band’s new songs too. It felt good. Then came the mayflies, in massive swarms.

The next stop on the tour was a festival along the Mississippi River in Iowa. I was up early, and as soon as we pulled in you could see mayflies dancing in the air all around us. As the day wore on, the flies intensified, and by nightfall any kind of light revealed hundreds upon hundreds of them, dancing in their own way like the crowd of unmasked fans below them. Also there were Confederate flags everywhere. Boats tied together on the river flew Trump flags in the warm summer breeze.

I was asleep when we crossed the river and made our way to St. Louis, the third stop on the tour and my last with the band. A great crowd: Close your eyes and you can easily picture yourself at Woodstock ’94. But it’s 2021 and Kevin Martin and company are still here.

Jay Westcott is a photographer in Arlington.

‘He Gave Me Life’

A cuban single mother reflects on isolation with her son, text and photographs by natalia favre.

S ingle mother Ara Santana Romero, 30, and her 11-year-old son, Camilo, have spent the past year and a half practically isolated in their Havana apartment. Just before the pandemic started, Camilo had achieved his biggest dream, getting accepted into music school. Two weeks after classes began, the schools closed and his classes were only televised. A return to the classroom was expected for mid-November, at which point all the children were scheduled to be vaccinated. According to a UNICEF analysis, since the beginning of the pandemic, 139 million children around the world have lived under compulsory home confinement for at least nine months.

Before the pandemic, Ara had undertaken several projects organizing literary events for students. After Havana went into quarantine and Camilo had to stay home, her days consisted mainly of getting food, looking after her son and doing housework. As a single mother with no help, she has put aside her wishes and aspirations. But Ara told me she never regretted having her son: “He gave me life.”

Natalia Favre is a photographer based in Havana.

Life After War in Gaza

A healing period of picnics, weddings and vaccinations, text and photographs by salwan georges.

A s I went from Israel into the Gaza Strip, I realized I was the only person crossing the border checkpoint that day. But I immediately saw that streets were vibrant with people shopping and wending through heavy traffic. There are hardly any working traffic lights in Gaza City, so drivers wave their hands out their windows to alert others to let them pass.

Despite the liveliness, recent trauma lingered in the air: In May, Israeli airstrikes destroyed several buildings and at least 264 Palestinians died. The fighting came after thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, where at least 16 people died. Workers were still cleaning up when I visited in late August, some of them recycling rubble — such as metal from foundations — to use for rebuilding.

I visited the city of Beit Hanoun, which was heavily damaged. I met Ibrahim, whose apartment was nearly destroyed, and as I looked out from a hole in his living room, I saw children gathered to play a game. Nearby there is a sports complex next to a school. Young people were playing soccer.

Back in Gaza City, families come every night to Union Soldier Park to eat, shop and play. Children and their parents were awaiting their turn to pay for a ride on an electric bike decorated with LED lights. In another part of town, not too far away, the bazaar and the markets were filled ahead of the weekend.

The beach in Gaza City is the most popular destination for locals, particularly because the Israeli government, which occupies the territory, generally does not allow them to leave Gaza. Families picnicked in the late afternoon and then stayed to watch their kids swim until after sunset. One of the local traditions when someone gets married is to parade down the middle of a beachfront road so the groom can dance with relatives and friends.

Amid the activities, I noticed that many people were not wearing face coverings, and I learned that the coronavirus vaccination rate is low. The health department started placing posters around the city to urge vaccination and set up a weekly lottery to award money to those who get immunized.

I also attended the funeral of a boy named Omar Abu al-Nil, who was wounded by the Israeli army — probably by a bullet — during one of the frequent protests at the border. He later died at the hospital from his wounds. More than 100 people attended, mainly men. They carried Omar to the cemetery and buried him as his father watched.

Salwan Georges is a Washington Post staff photographer.

Beyond the Numbers

At home, i constructed a photo diary to show the pandemic’s human toll, text and photographs by beth galton.

I n March 2020, while the coronavirus began its universal spread, my world in New York City became my apartment. I knew that to keep safe I wouldn’t be able to access my studio, so I brought my camera home and constructed a small studio next to a window.

I began my days looking at the New York Times and The Washington Post online, hoping to find a glimmer of positive news. What I found and became obsessed with were the maps, charts and headlines, all of which were tracking the coronavirus’s spread. I printed them out to see how the disease had multiplied and moved, soon realizing that each of these little visual changes affected millions of people. With time, photographs of people who had died began to appear in the news. Grids of faces filled the screen; many died alone, without family or friends beside them.

This series reflects my emotions and thoughts through the past year and a half. By photographing data and images, combined with botanicals, my intent was to speak to the humanity of those affected by this pandemic. I used motion in the images to help convey the chaos and apprehensions we were all experiencing. I now see that this assemblage is a visual diary of my life during the pandemic.

Beth Galton is a photographer in New York.

Finding Hope in Seclusion

A self-described sickle cell warrior must stay home to keep safe, text and photographs by endia beal.

O nyekachukwu Onochie, who goes by Onyeka, is a 28-year-old African American woman born with sickle cell anemia. She describes herself as a sickle cell warrior who lives each day like it’s her last. “When I was younger,” she told me, “I thought I would live until my mid-20s because I knew other people with sickle cell that died in their 20s.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes sickle cell anemia as an inherited red blood cell disorder that causes those cells to become hard and sticky, and appear C-shaped. Healthy red blood cells are round and move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen, whereas sickle cells die earlier and transport less oxygen. The disorder can cause debilitating pain and organ failure.

In June 2020, Onyeka began preparing her body for a stem cell transplant — a new treatment — and underwent the procedure in April. She is now home in Winston-Salem, N.C., recovering from the transplant. Despite the positive results thus far, Onyeka’s immune system is compromised and she is at greater risk of severe illness or death from viruses.

I asked about her life during the pandemic. She told me: “My new normal includes video chat lunch dates. I have more energy now than ever before, but I have to stay indoors to protect myself from airborne viruses, among other things.” Onyeka believes she has been given a new life with endless possibilities — even though she is temporarily homebound.

Endia Beal is an artist based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Baker’s Choice

A fun-loving, self-taught baker decides to open her shop despite the pandemic, text and photographs by marvin joseph.

T iffany Lightfoot is the owner and founder of My Cake Theory, where she merges her love of fashion with her gifts as a baker. Undaunted by the pandemic, she opened her first brick-and-mortar shop on Capitol Hill last year. Lightfoot, 41, combined the skills she learned as a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology with dozens of hours watching the Food Network and YouTube videos — and spun her self-taught baking into a business. With these photographs I wanted to show how much fun she has baking — while building a career she clearly loves.

Marvin Joseph is a Washington Post staff photographer.

Leap of Faith

Despite low vaccination rates, sicilians resume religious parades, text and photographs by michael robinson chavez.

T he island of Sicily has been overrun and conquered by numerous empires and civilizations. The year 2020 brought a new and deadly conqueror, the coronavirus. The lockdown was absolute — even church doors were shut tight. But in 2021, Sicilians brought life and traditions back to their streets.

Saint’s days, or festas, are important events on the Sicilian calendar. Last year, for the first time in more than a century, some towns canceled their festas. The arrival of vaccines this year seemed to offer hope that the processions would once again march down the ancient streets. However, a surge in summer tourism, while helping the local economy, also boosted the coronavirus infection rate.

Sicily has the lowest vaccination rate in Italy. Nevertheless, scaled-down celebrations have reappeared in the island’s streets. In the capital city of Palermo, residents gathered for the festa honoring the Maria della Mercede (Madonna of Mercy), which dates to the 16th century. Children were hoisted aloft to be blessed by the Virgin as a marching band played in a small piazza fronting the church that bears her name. Local bishops did not permit the normal procession because of the pandemic, so local children had their own, carrying a cardboard re-creation of the Virgin through the labyrinth of the famous Il Capo district’s narrow streets.

As the fireworks blossomed overhead and the marching band played on, it was easy to see that Sicilians were embracing a centuries-old tradition that seems certain to last for many more to come.

Michael Robinson Chavez is a Washington Post staff photographer.

Defiant Glamour

After long months of covid confinement, a fearless return to 2019 in miami beach, text and photographs by lucía vázquez.

O n Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive I’ve seen drunk girls hitting other drunk girls, and I’ve seen men high on whatever they could afford, zombie-walking with their mouths and eyes wide open amid the tourists. I’ve seen partyers sprawled on the pavement just a few feet from the Villa Casa Casuarina, the former Versace mansion.

I’ve seen groups of women wearing fake eyelashes as long and thick as a broom, and flashing miniature bras, and smoking marijuana by a palm tree in the park, next to families going to the beach. I’ve seen five girls standing on the back of a white open-air Jeep twerking in their underwear toward the street.

My photographs, taken in August, capture South Beach immersed in this untamed party mood with the menace of the delta variant as backdrop. They document young women enjoying the summer after more than a year of confinement. Traveling from around the country, they made the most of their return to social life by showing off their style and skin, wearing their boldest party attire. I was drawn to the fearlessness of their outfits and their confidence; I wanted to show how these women identify themselves and wish to be perceived, a year and a half after covid-19 changed the world.

Lucía Vázquez is a journalist and photographer based in New York and Buenos Aires.

A Giving Spirit

‘this pandemic has taught me to be even closer to my family and friends’, text and photographs by octavio jones.

M arlise Tolbert-Jones, who works part time for an air conditioning company in Tampa, spends most of her time caring for her 91-year-old father, Rudolph Tolbert, and her aunt Frances Pascoe, who is 89. Marlise visits them daily to make sure they’re eating a good breakfast and taking their medications. In addition to being a caregiver, Marlise, 57, volunteers for a local nonprofit food pantry, where she helps distribute groceries for families. Also, she volunteers at her church’s food pantry, where food is distributed every Saturday morning.

“I’m doing this because of my [late] mother, who would want me to be there for the family and the community,” she told me. “I’ve had my struggles. I’ve been down before, but God has just kept me stable and given me the strength to keep going. This pandemic has taught me to be even closer to my family and friends.”

Octavio Jones is an independent photojournalist based in Tampa.

First, people paused. Then they took stock. Then they persevered.

Text and photographs by anastassia whitty.

W e all know the pandemic has challenged people and altered daily routines. I created this photo essay to highlight the perspectives and experiences of everyday people, specifically African Americans: What does their “new normal” look like? I also wanted to demonstrate how they were able to persevere. One such person is Maria J. Hackett, 30, a Brooklyn photographer, dancer and mother of a daughter, NiNi. Both are featured on the cover.

I asked Maria her thoughts on what the pandemic has meant for her. “Quarantine opened up an opportunity to live in a way that was more healthy while taking on much-needed deep healing,” she told me. “It was my mental and emotional health that began breaking me down physically. ... I put things to a stop as my health began to deteriorate. I decided I will no longer chase money — but stay true to my art, plan and trust that things will come together in a healthier way for us. I focused more on letting my daughter guide us and on her remaining happy with her activities and social life.”

“Enrolling her in camps and classes like dance and gymnastics led me to develop a schedule and routine,” Maria explained, “opening room for me to complete my first dance residency in my return to exploration of movement. I made time to share what I know with her and what she knows with me.”

Jasmine Hamilton of Long Island, 32, talked in similiar terms. She too became more focused on mental health and fitness. She told me: “The pandemic has demonstrated that life is short and valuable, so I’m more open to creating new experiences.”

Anastassia Whitty is a photographer based in New York.

About this story

Photo editing by Dudley M. Brooks and Chloe Coleman. Design and development by Audrey Valbuena. Design editing by Suzette Moyer and Christian Font. Editing by Rich Leiby. Copy editing by Jennifer Abella and Angie Wu.

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A house in the desert with a mannequin on water skis and a small boat in the yard behind a fence in Bombay Beach, Calif.

Opinion Guest Essay

An Idyll on the Shores of a Toxic Lake

Supported by

Text by Jaime Lowe

Photographs by Nicholas Albrecht

Ms. Lowe is the author of, most recently, “Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires.” Mr. Albrecht is a photographer based in Oakland, Calif.

  • March 29, 2024

There are two ways to experience the town of Bombay Beach, Calif., as a visitor: gawk at the spectacle or fall into the vortex. Thousands of tourists cruise through each year, often without getting out of their cars, to see decaying art installations left over from an annual mid-March gathering of artists, photographers and documentarians known jokingly as the Bombay Beach Biennale. When I went to the town for the first time in 2021, I was looking for salvation in this weird desert town on the Salton Sea south of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. I dropped in, felt vibes and left with stories. I stared at the eccentric large-scale art, posted photos on Instagram of ruin porn and a hot pink sign on the beach that said, “If you’re stuck, call Kim.” I posed in front of a mountain of painted televisions, swung on a swing over the edge of the lake’s retreating shoreline and explored the half-buried, rusted-out cars that make up an abandoned ersatz drive-in movie theater. On that trip, it felt as if I were inside a “Mad Max” simulation, but I was only scratching the surface of the town.

I returned in December to try to understand why Bombay Beach remains so compelling, especially as extreme weather — heat, hurricanes and drought — and pollution wreak ever more intense havoc on it. Summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, tremors from the San Andreas Fault strike regularly, bomb testing from nearby military facilities can be heard and felt, and the air is so toxic from pesticide use, exhaust fumes, factory emissions and dust rising from the retreating Salton Sea that one study showed asthma rates among children in the region are three times the national average. By the end of the decade, the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland body of water, at about 325 square miles, may lose three-quarters of its volume; in the past 20 years, the sea’s surface area has shrunk about 38 square miles .

But people who live in Bombay Beach stay because the town offers a tight-knit community in the midst of catastrophe. Though its residents contend with environmental adversity on a daily basis, they’re also demonstrating how to navigate the uncertain future we all face — neglect, the fight for scarce resources, destruction of home, the feeling of having no place to go. They are an example of how people can survive wild climate frontiers together.

The 250 or so town residents live in the low desert on the east shore of the Salton Sea, which formed in 1905 when the then-flush Colorado River spilled into a depression, creating a freshwater lake that became increasingly saline. There used to be fish — mullet and carp, then tilapia. In the 1950s and ’60s, the area was marketed as a tourist destination and was advertised as Palm Springs by the Sea. More tourists visited Bombay Beach than Yosemite. There were yacht clubs, boat races and water skiing. It became a celebrity magnet: Frank Sinatra hung out there; so did the Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher.

Eventually, as agricultural runoff kept accumulating in a body of water with no drainage, it became toxic and created a lake with salinity that is now 50 percent greater than that of the ocean. In the 1980s, dead fish washed up on the sand, car ruins rusted in the sun, tires rotted on the shore. Tourism vanished. But some in the community hung on. One way to define Bombay Beach is through environmental disaster, but another way is as an example of how to live through disaster and how to live in general.

A man places his hands on a shoulder of another man on a bench as a woman looks on near the Salton Sea.

Candace Youngberg, a town council member and a bartender at the Ski Inn, remembers a very different Bombay Beach. When she was growing up in the 1980s, she’d ride bikes with neighborhood children and run from yard to yard in a pack because there were no fences. But over time, the town changed. With each passing year, she watched necessities disappear. Now there’s no gas station, no laundromat, no hardware store. Fresh produce is hard to come by. A trailer that was devoted to medical care shut down. In 2021, 60.9 percent of Bombay Beach residents lived below the poverty line, compared with the national average of 12.6 percent.

As painful as it was to witness the town of her youth disappear and as deep as the problems there go, Ms. Youngberg admits that adversity bonded those who stayed. She wanted to return Bombay Beach to the version of the town she remembered, to recreate a beautiful place to live year-round, not just in winter, not just during the art season, not just for the tourists posing in front of wreckage. She wanted people to see the homes, the town, the community that once thrived thrive again. With the art came attention and the potential for more resources. She got on the Bombay Beach Community Services District, a town council, and started to work toward improvements like fixing the roads and planting trees to improve air quality.

It might just be that Bombay Beach is a small town, but when I visited last winter, there was something that felt more collaborative, as though everybody’s lives and business and projects overlapped. I’m not sure the community that’s there now started out as intentional, but when fragmented groups of people come together as custodians of an enigmatic space, responsible for protecting it and one another, community is inevitable. Plus, there’s only one place to socialize, one place to gossip, one place to dance out anxiety and only about two-thirds of a square mile to wander. Whether you like it or not, your neighbors are your people — a town in its purest form.

When I was there, I walked the streets with Denia Nealy, an artist who goes by Czar, and my friend Brenda Ann Kenneally, a photographer and writer, who would shout names, and people would instantly emerge. A stranger offered a handful of Tater Tots to Czar and me in a gesture that felt emblematic: Of course a complete stranger on an electric unicycle would cruise by and share nourishment. I was given a butterfly on a stick, which I carried around like a magic wand because that seemed appropriate and necessary. I was told that if I saw a screaming woman walking down the street with a shiv in her hand, not to worry and not to make eye contact and she’d leave me alone; it was just Stabby. There was talk of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the beach, the weekly church sermon led by Jack the preacher (who is also a plumber), a potluck lasagna gathering.

Last year Ms. Kenneally created a trash fashion show/photo series for the Biennale in which she created couture designs out of trash collected from the beach, enlisted regulars in town to model the outfits, then photographed them. (She exhibited a similar series at this year’s festival as well.) The work was a way to showcase the people and the place. Jonathan Hart, a fireworks specialist who slept on the beach, posed like a gladiator; a woman who normally rode through town with a stuffed Kermit the Frog toy strapped to her bike was wrapped in a clear tarp and crown, looking like royalty emerging from the Salton Sea. The environment was harsh, the poses striking. Each frame straddled the line between glamour and destruction but also showcased a community’s pride in survival. Residents were undaunted by the armor of refuse; in fact, it made them stronger. The detritus, what outsiders might think of as garbage, became gorgeous. The landscape that is often described as apocalyptic became ethereal and magical. And that’s because it is.

On my second day, we went down to the docks at noon, and I found myself sitting on a floral mustard couch watching half a dozen or so people taking turns riding Jet Skis into the sun. The sun was hot, even though it was the cool season. Time felt elastic. Mr. Hart told me that he and some friends had fixed up the water scooters to give everyone in town the chance to blow off some steam, to smile a little. It had been a rough couple of months in the region. In preparation for Hurricane Hilary, which hit Mexico and the southwestern United States last August, 26 volunteers made 200 sandbags and delivered them door to door. Neighbors helped secure as many structures as possible.

Most media outlets reported that the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm because that’s the weather system that hit Los Angeles, but it was close to a hurricane in Bombay Beach, with winds hitting 60 miles per hour, and most properties were surrounded by water. Roofs collapsed or blew away entirely. “When faced with something like that, they were like, ‘Boom, we’re on it,’” Ms. Youngberg told me. They were together in disaster and in celebrating survival.

It reminded me of the writer Rebecca Solnit’s book “A Paradise Built in Hell,” which considers the upside to catastrophe. She finds that people rise to the occasion and oftentimes do it with joy because disaster and survival leave a wake of purposefulness, consequential work and community. Disasters require radical acts of imagination and interaction. It seemed that because Bombay Beach lived hard, surviving climate catastrophes like extreme weather on top of everyday extremes, it celebrated even harder. It seemed that in Bombay Beach there’s enough to celebrate if you just get through the day, gaze at the night sky and do it all again in the morning.

A lot of the residents who live there now arrived with trauma. Living there is its own trauma. But somehow the combination creates a place of care and physical and emotional presence. People experience life intensely, as one. It’s a town that is isolated, but in spite of a loneliness epidemic, it doesn’t seem so lonely to be there. I felt unexpected joy in what, from everything I’d read from afar, was a place that might as well have been sinking into the earth. I felt so safe and so happy that if we had sunk into the earth together, it wouldn’t have felt like such a bad way to go.

On my last night in Bombay Beach, I went to the Ski Inn, a bar that serves as the center of all social activity. I’d been in town for only two days, and yet it felt as if I’d been to the Ski Inn a million times, as if I already knew everyone and they knew me. A band was playing, we danced and drank, and I forgot about the 8 p.m. kitchen cutoff. The chef apologized, but he’d been working since 11:45 a.m. and had already cleaned the grill and fryer. He’d saved one mac and cheese for the bartender, and when she heard I hadn’t eaten, she offered to split it with me, not wanting me to go hungry or leave without having tried the mac and cheese.

Bombay Beach is a weird place. And this was an especially weird feeling. I had been instantly welcomed into the fold of community and cared for, even though I was a stranger in a very strange land.

I realized I didn’t want to leave. There were lessons there — how to live with joy and purpose in the face of certain catastrophe, how to exist in the present without the ever presence of doom. Next time, I thought, I’d stay longer, maybe forever, and actually ride a Jet Ski.

Jaime Lowe is a Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at the University of Michigan and the author of, most recently, “Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires.” Nicholas Albrecht is a photographer based in Oakland, Calif. His first monograph, “One, No One and One Hundred Thousand,” was the culmination of a multiyear project made while living on the shores of the Salton Sea.

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What Have Fourteen Years of Conservative Rule Done to Britain?

By Sam Knight

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My life divides, evenly enough, into three political eras. I was born in 1980, a year after Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi on her lips: “Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” The Conservative-run Britain of the eighties was not harmonious. Life beyond the North London square where my family lived often seemed to be in the grip of one confrontation or another. The news was always showing police on horseback. There were strikes, protests, the I.R.A., and George Michael on the radio. My father, who was a lawyer in the City, travelled to Germany to buy a Mercedes and drove it back, elated. Until Thatcher resigned, when I was ten, her steeply back-combed hair and deep, impossible voice played an outsized role in my imagination—a more interesting, more dangerous version of the Queen.

I was nearly seventeen when the Tories finally lost power, to Tony Blair and “New Labour,” an updated, market-friendly version of the Party. Before he moved to Downing Street, Blair lived in Islington, the gentrifying borough I was from. Boris Johnson, an amusing right-wing columnist, who was getting his start on television, also lived nearby. Our local Member of Parliament was an out-of-touch leftist named Jeremy Corbyn.

New Labour believed in the responsibility of the state to look after its citizens, and in capitalism to make them prosper. Blair was convincing, even when he was wrong. He won three general elections in ten years and walked out of the House of Commons to a standing ovation, undefeated in his eyes. I was turning thirty when Labour eventually ran out of road, undone by the Iraq War, the global financial crisis, and the grim temper of Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor. He was caught in a hot-mike moment describing an ordinary voter, who was complaining about taxes and immigration, as a bigot.

Since then, it’s been the Conservatives again. In 2010, the Party returned to government in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Since 2015, it has held power alone. Last May, the Tories surpassed the thirteen years and nine days that New Labour had held office. But the third political era of my lifetime has been nothing like the previous two. There has been no dominant figure or overt political project, no Thatcherism, no Blairism. Instead, there has been a quickening, lowering churn: five Prime Ministers, three general elections, two financial emergencies, a once-in-a-century constitutional crisis, and an atmosphere of tired, almost constant drama.

The period is bisected by the United Kingdom’s decision, in 2016, to leave the European Union, a Conservative fantasy, or nightmare, depending on whom you talk to. Brexit catalyzed some of the worst tendencies in British politics—its superficiality, nostalgia, and love of game play—and exhausted the country’s political class, leaving it ill prepared for the pandemic and the twin economic shocks of the war in Ukraine and the forty-nine-day experimental premiership of Liz Truss. Covering British politics during this period has been like trying to remember, and explain, a very convoluted and ultimately boring dream. If you really concentrate, you can recall a lot of the details, but that doesn’t lead you closer to any meaning.

Last year, I started interviewing Conservatives to try to make sense of these years. “One always starts with disclaimers now—I didn’t start this car crash,” Julian Glover, a former speechwriter for David Cameron, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the period, told me. I spoke to M.P.s and former Cabinet ministers; political advisers who helped to make major decisions; and civil servants, local-government officials, and frontline workers hundreds of miles from London who had to deal with the consequences.

Some people insisted that the past decade and a half of British politics resists satisfying explanation. The only way to think about it is as a psychodrama enacted, for the most part, by a small group of middle-aged men who went to élite private schools, studied at the University of Oxford, and have been climbing and chucking one another off the ladder of British public life—the cursus honorum , as Johnson once called it—ever since. The Conservative Party, whose history goes back some three hundred and fifty years, aids this theory by not having anything as vulgar as an ideology. “They’re not on a mission to do X, Y, or Z,” as a former senior adviser explained. “You win and you govern because we are better at it, right?”

Another way to think about these years is to consider them in psychological, or theoretical, terms. In “Heroic Failure,” the Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole explains Brexit by describing Britain’s fall from imperial nation to “occupied colony” of the E.U., and the rise of a powerful English nationalism as a result. Last year, Abby Innes, a scholar at the London School of Economics, published “Late Soviet Britain: Why Materialist Utopias Fail,” which argues that, since Thatcher, Britain’s political mainstream has become as devoted to particular ideas about running the state—a default commitment to competition, markets, and forms of privatization—as Brezhnev’s U.S.S.R. ever was. “The resulting regime,” Innes writes, “has proved anything but stable.”

These observations are surely right, but I worry that they obscure two basic truths about Britain’s experience since 2010. The first is that the country has suffered grievously. These have been years of loss and waste. The U.K. has yet to recover from the financial crisis that began in 2008. According to one estimate, the average worker is now fourteen thousand pounds worse off per year than if earnings had continued to rise at pre-crisis rates—it is the worst period for wage growth since the Napoleonic Wars. “Nobody who’s alive and working in the British economy today has ever seen anything like this,” Torsten Bell, the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, which published the analysis, told the BBC last year. “This is what failure looks like.”


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High levels of employment and immigration, coupled with the enduring dynamism of London, mask a national reality of low pay, precarious jobs, and chronic underinvestment. The trains are late. The traffic is bad. The housing market is a joke. “The core problem is easy to observe, but it’s tough to live with,” Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, told me. “It’s just not that productive an economy anymore.”

With stagnant wages, people’s living standards have fallen. In 2008, Brown’s Labour government commissioned Michael Marmot, a renowned epidemiologist, to come up with ways to reduce England’s health inequalities. Marmot made suggestions in six policy areas, including better access to child care, walking and cycling programs, social-security reforms, and measures to improve people’s sense of agency at work. In 2010, he presented his ideas to the incoming Conservative-led coalition, which accepted his findings. “I thought, Wow, this is great. . . . I was pretty bullish about the whole thing,” Marmot told me. “The problem was they then didn’t do it.”

Ten years later, Marmot led a follow-up study, in which he documented stalling life expectancy, particularly among women in England’s poorest communities—and widening inequalities. “For men and women everywhere the time spent in poor health is increasing,” he wrote. “This is shocking.” According to Marmot, the U.K.’s health performance since 2010, which includes rising infant mortality, slowing growth in children, and the return of rickets, makes it an outlier among comparable European nations. “The damage to the nation’s health need not have happened,” Marmot concluded in 2020. He told me, “It was a political choice.”

And that is the second, all too obvious, fact of British life throughout this period: a single party has been responsible. You cannot say that the country has been ruled against its will. Since 2010, the Tories have emerged as the winner of the popular vote and as the largest party in Parliament in three elections. In December, 2019, Boris Johnson won an eighty-seat majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives’ biggest electoral success since the heyday of Thatcherism.

How is this possible? The opposition has been underwhelming. For years, Labour drifted and squabbled under two unconvincing leaders: Ed Miliband and Corbyn, my old Islington M.P. It is telling that, since Labour elected Keir Starmer, an unimaginative former prosecutor with a rigidly centrist program, the Party is competitive again. But the Conservatives have not survived by default. Their party has excelled at diminishing Britain’s political landscape and shrinking the sense of what is possible. It has governed and skirmished, never settling for long. “It’s all about constantly drawing dividing lines,” a former Party strategist told me. “That’s all you need. It’s not about big ideological debates or policies or anything.” In many ways, the two momentous decisions of this period—what came to be known as austerity and Brexit—are now widely accepted as events that happened, rather than as choices that were made. Starmer’s Labour Party does not seek to reverse them.

If you live in an old country, it can be easy to succumb to a narrative of decline. The state withers. The charlatans take over. You give up on progress, to some extent, and simply pray that this particular chapter of British nonsense will come to an end. It will. Rishi Sunak, the fifth, and presumably final, Conservative Prime Minister of the era, faces an election later this year, which he will almost certainly lose. But Britain cannot move on from the Tories without properly facing up to the harm that they have caused.

The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2010 election was a plain blue hardback book titled “Invitation to Join the British Government.” After the Party’s longest spell out of power in more than a century, its pitch to voters was “the Big Society,” a call for civic volunteering and private enterprise after the statism of Labour. “There was a feeling that it must be possible to be positive about a better future in a way that wasn’t socialist,” Glover, the former speechwriter, said. “And that wasn’t an ignoble thing to try.”

Beginning in 2005, Cameron and George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, had modernized the Tories. The duo represented a new generation of Conservatives: deft and urbane, easy in their privilege. Osborne was the heir to a baronetcy; Cameron’s family descended from a mistress of William IV. Cameron embraced centrist causes, including the environment and prison reform. There was talk of a “post-bureaucratic age.” But the main aim was simpler. “Above all, it was trying to win,” Osborne told me recently.

In the spring of 2009, Cameron told a gathering of Party members in Gloucestershire, “The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity.” The speech was part of a successful campaign to associate Labour’s public spending with the global financial crash, to which Britain had been badly exposed. “The word ‘austerity’ was deliberately introduced into the lexicon by myself and David Cameron,” Osborne said. “Austerity” evoked the country’s sober rebuilding after the Second World War. “The word didn’t have the connotations then that it does now,” Osborne recalled. “It was, you know, a bit like prudence.”

In 2010, the Conservatives fell short of a majority in the House of Commons and formed, with the Liberal Democrats, Britain’s first coalition government in almost seventy years. The state was running a deficit of a hundred and fifty-seven billion pounds—about one and a half times the budget of the National Health Service. Any incoming administration would have had to find ways to balance the books, but, under Cameron and Osborne’s leadership, austerity was a moral as well as an economic mission. “We allowed it to become the defining thing,” the former senior adviser reflected.

“Austerity” is now a contested term. Plenty of Conservatives question whether it really happened. So it is worth being clear: between 2010 and 2019, British public spending fell from about forty-one per cent of G.D.P. to thirty-five per cent. The Office of Budget Responsibility, the equivalent of the American Congressional Budget Office, describes what came to be known as Plan A as “one of the biggest deficit reduction programmes seen in any advanced economy since World War II.” Governments across Europe pursued fiscal consolidation, but the British version was distinct for its emphasis on shrinking the state rather than raising taxes.

Like the choice of the word itself, austerity was politically calculated. Huge areas of public spending—on the N.H.S. and education—were nominally maintained. Pensions and international aid became more generous, to show that British compassion was not dead. But protecting some parts of the state meant sacrificing the rest: the courts, the prisons, police budgets, wildlife departments, rural buses, care for the elderly, youth programs, road maintenance, public health, the diplomatic corps.

Plan A spooked economists because of the risk to economic growth. But, in 2013, the British economy grew by 1.8 per cent. The government claimed victory. Around that time, Osborne declared that the nation could win “the global race” and become the richest major economy in the world by 2030. “We were in complete command of the political landscape,” he recalled. “The U.K. is the country that is seen to have got its act together after the crash. London has become the kind of global capital. So it has worked—there’s a bit of a dénouement coming—but it had worked.” At the general election in 2015, the Conservatives won a majority in the House of Commons, with proposals to make a further thirty-seven billion pounds’ worth of cuts.

“It was devastatingly politically effective,” Osborne told me, of austerity. It’s just that the effects were so horrendous. Between 2010 and 2018, funding for police forces in England fell by up to a quarter. Officers stopped investigating burglaries. Only four per cent now end in prosecution. In 2021, the median time between a rape offense and the completion of a trial reached more than two and a half years. Last fall, hundreds of school buildings had to be closed for emergency repairs, because the country’s school-construction budget had been cut by forty-six per cent between 2009 and 2022.

In October, I talked with Tony Durcan, a retired local-government employee who was responsible for libraries and other cultural programs in the city of Newcastle during the twenty-tens. Durcan told me that he’d had “a good war,” all things considered. There were moments, he said, when the sheer extremity of the crisis was exciting. Between 2010 and 2020, central-government funding for local authorities fell by forty per cent. At one point, it looked as if sixteen of Newcastle’s eighteen libraries would close. The city’s parks budget was cut by ninety-one per cent. The situation forced some creative reforms: Newcastle City Library now hosts the Citizens Advice bureau, where residents can apply for benefits and seek other forms of financial guidance. (The library is featured in “I, Daniel Blake,” Ken Loach’s anti-austerity film of 2016.) But other parts of the city government fell apart. “Youth services and a lot of community-support services, they just disappeared completely,” Durcan said. Child poverty rose sharply. (About forty per cent of children in Newcastle currently live below the poverty line.) But after a while Durcan and his colleagues stopped talking about the cuts, even though their budgets continued to fall. “There was a view—was it helpful? Were you risking losing confidence in the city?”

Over time, Durcan came to question the official reasoning for the savings. “You can make a mistake, even when you’re acting for the best,” he explained. “I don’t think that’s what happened in austerity.” Newcastle was a Labour stronghold, as was the rest of the northeast. Until 2019, the Tories held only three out of twenty-nine parliamentary seats in the region. A similar pattern was repeated across England. Poorer communities, particularly in urban areas, which tended to vote Labour, suffered disproportionately.

In Liverpool, where the Conservatives have not won a Parliamentary seat for forty years, spending, per head, fell more than in any other city in the country. Public-health spending in Blackpool, one of the poorest local authorities in England, was cut almost five times more, per person, than in the affluent county of Surrey, just south of London, whose eleven M.P.s are all Tories. Durcan and his colleagues noted the discrepancies between Labour- and Conservative-supporting regions. “And so there was cynicism,” he said, “and also great disappointment, a sense of injustice.”

Osborne denies that austerity was ever targeted in this way. “It’s not like we ministers just sit there and go, We’re not going to cut Kensington Council. We’re going to cut Liverpool Council. That is a lampoonish way of thinking about British politics,” he said. But some of his colleagues were more willing to acknowledge that electoral thinking was at play. One former Cabinet minister conceded that there were “big strategic moves” to favor older voters, who were more likely to vote Conservative, in the form of pension increases and interventions to raise property prices. David Gauke, a Treasury minister from 2010 to 2017, agreed that the parts of the country that had benefitted most under Labour had seen their budgets cut under the Conservatives. “There was a rebalancing that went on,” he said. “Did it go too far? Maybe it did.”

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What was less forgivable, in the end, was the cuts’ unthinking nature, their lack of reason. In the fall of 2013, a staffer named Giles Wilkes, who worked for a senior Liberal Democrat minister in the coalition, became alarmed by projections that showed ever-reducing government budgets. “I don’t wish to paint the picture of the British state as too chaotic and heedless and amateur. But I was wandering around in 2013 and 2014, saying to people, Does anyone know what this means for the Home Office or the court system, for local authorities and the social-care budget?” Wilkes said. “Nobody was curious .” Wilkes is now a fellow at the Institute for Government, a nonpartisan think tank. “It was very obvious in real time,” he told me. “There wasn’t a central function going, Hold on a mo. Have we made sure that we can provide a decent prison estate, a decent sort of police system?”

And so stupid things happened. Since 2010, forty-three per cent of the courts in England and Wales have closed. No one thinks that this was a good idea. For years, the Conservatives cut prison funding and staffing while encouraging longer jail times. “You kind of had a mismatch,” Gauke, who later served as the Justice Secretary, admitted. The number of adults sentenced to more than ten years in prison more than doubled—until the system caved in, overrun by violence, self-harm, drug use, and staff shortages. In 2023, the government activated what it called Operation Safeguard, in which hundreds of jail cells in police stations were requisitioned to hold convicted offenders, because the prisons were full. In September, a terrorism suspect escaped from Wandsworth Prison, in South London, by clinging to the underside of a food-delivery truck. Eighty of the prison’s two hundred and five officers had not shown up for work that day.

The long-term effects of austerity are still playing out. A 2019 paper by Thiemo Fetzer, an economist at the University of Warwick, asked, “Did Austerity Cause Brexit?” Fetzer found that, beginning in 2010, the parts of the country most affected by welfare cuts were more likely to support Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party, which campaigned against immigration and the E.U. The withdrawal of the social safety net in communities already negatively hit by globalization exacerbated the sense of a nation going awry. Public-health experts, including Marmot, argue that a decade of frozen health-care spending undermined the country’s response to the pandemic. More broadly, austerity has contributed to an atmosphere of fatalism, an aversion to thinking about the future. “It is a mood,” Johnna Montgomerie, a professor at the University of British Columbia who studies debt and inequality, has written. “A depression, a chronic case of financial melancholia.”

Since leaving politics, in 2017, Osborne has enjoyed a lucrative career, serving simultaneously as an adviser at BlackRock, the asset-management firm, and as the editor of the Evening Standard newspaper; more recently, he has been a partner at an investment bank and a podcaster. He insists that the cuts, ultimately, enabled the U.K.’s public finances to withstand the pandemic and the energy crisis that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “There’s no counterfactual,” he told me. Osborne likes to accuse his critics of living in a parallel reality, in which the financial crisis and Britain’s deficit never existed: “It’s, like, Apart from the assassination, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?”

But that does not mean the Tories made good choices. British social-security payments are at their lowest levels, relative to wages, in half a century. Under a steady downward ratchet, started by Osborne and continued by his successors, household payments have been capped and income thresholds effectively lowered. In 2017, a “two child” limit was placed on benefits for poor families. In November, 2018, Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty, toured the U.K. When we spoke, he recalled a strong sense of denial, or ignorance, among British politicians about the consequences of their decisions. “There was a disconnect between the world and what senior ministers wanted to believe,” he said.

The fall in Britain’s living standards isn’t easy for anyone to talk about, least of all Conservatives. The Resolution Foundation, which studies the lives of people with low and middle incomes, is chaired by David Willetts, a former minister in Cameron’s government. Willetts is a tall, genial man, who worked for Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit in the eighties. His nickname in the Party was Two Brains. “What I say to Tories now is, Look, we are behind for various reasons,” Willetts said, carefully. “You can argue about it. But our household incomes are clearly lower than France or Germany or the Netherlands.” Part of the problem, Willetts explained, was that Britain’s richest twenty per cent had largely been spared the effects of the past fourteen years—and that made it genuinely difficult for them to comprehend the damage. “We are all O.K.,” he said. “The burden of adjustment has almost entirely been borne by the less affluent half of the British population.”

In late November, I took a train to Worcester, a cathedral city south of Birmingham, on the River Severn. It was a raw, washed-out morning. Floodwater shone in the meadows. The city is famous as the home of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce—a dark, sweet yet sour, almost indescribably English condiment, first sold by a pair of chemists in 1837—which has been doused on two centuries’ worth of shepherd’s pie and other stodgy lunches. Worcester used to be a den of political corruption: in 1906, men willing to sell their votes to the Tories could collect payment in the rest rooms of the Duke of York, a pub in the middle of town. More recently, it has been a bellwether. In the nineties, Conservative strategists described “Worcester Woman,” a median female voter—politically aware, married, with two children. (Since 1979, the city’s M.P.s have belonged to the party in power.) I was on my way to Citizens Advice Worcester—part of a charitable network that offers free counselling on debt relief and legal matters—behind a restored Victorian hotel.

Shakira was playing on the radio in the reception and a sign read “If You Are Frightened of Your Partner, Call Us.” Geraint Thomas, a Welsh lawyer who runs the center, was in his office, worrying about a heating bill. A few years ago, it was some four thousand pounds a year, but after recent price hikes it was now about fourteen thousand. In 2017, the charity had started running services in Herefordshire as well. Now funding was tight, and various Covid emergency funds were coming to an end. “Next year, we have got a bit of a hole,” Thomas said. The clock on his wall had stopped.

Since 2019, the number of people seeking help at the center had risen by thirty per cent. Two years of high inflation and rising interest rates meant that the caseworkers were now seeing homeowners and people working two jobs, along with the unemployed and families on benefits. “It’s like a black hole, dragging more and more people in,” Colin Stuart, who manages volunteers, said. Anne Limbert, who oversees the advice team, explained that, until a few years ago, it was usually possible to make a recovery plan for clients. “It used to be that we could help people, you know, and make a difference,” she said. “Now it’s just kind of depressing.” Increasingly, Limbert was sending clients to food banks.

The caseworkers said that they had mostly tuned out politics. Gwen Fraser, a volunteer manager in Herefordshire, which has some of England’s most deprived rural communities, had met a visiting M.P. a few months earlier. “I thought, You’re not in the real world, mate,” she said. Not long ago, a seventy-seven-year-old man, behind on his mortgage, had told Fraser that he was suicidal. The proportion of people coming to the center with a long-term health condition had risen by twenty per cent since 2019. (N.H.S. prescriptions for antidepressants in England almost doubled between 2011 and 2023.) Fraser had recently settled on a phrase that she found useful in her paperwork: “Overwhelming distress.”

Worcester Woman voted for Brexit. In 2016, the city chose to leave the European Union by a margin of fifty-four per cent to forty-six per cent. The perception of the Brexit vote as a cry of anguish from deindustrialized northern towns or from faded seaside resorts isn’t wrong—it just leaves out the rest of England. Two weeks after the referendum, Danny Dorling, a geography professor at the University of Oxford, published an article in the British Medical Journal showing that Leave voters weren’t defined neatly either by geography or by income. Fifty-nine per cent identified as middle class, and most lived in the South. “People wouldn’t believe me for years,” Dorling told me. “This was Hampshire voted to leave.”

Dorling’s politics are on the left. He opposed Brexit and often describes Britain as a failing state. During the summer of 2018, Dorling gave dozens of public talks across the country reflecting on the referendum. He noticed that places that had voted Remain invariably had better rail connections than those that voted Leave. A lot of Brexit supporters were older and economically secure but had a keen sense of the country going downhill. “Something was falling apart,” Dorling said. “They had got a house in their twenties. They’d had full employment. Their children were in their forties and they might be renting. . . . It was an almost entirely unselfish vote by the old for their grandchildren—let’s try it, or let’s at least show we’re angry.”

How you interpret the Brexit vote informs, to a great extent, how you make sense of the past fourteen years of British politics. It is not just a watershed—a before and after. It is also a prism that clarifies or scrambles the picture entirely. One perspective sees the whole saga as a woeful mistake. In this view, Cameron decided to settle, once and for all, an internal Tory argument about Britain’s place in an integrating E.U., a question that had haunted the Party since the last days of Thatcher. In the process, he turned what was an abstruse obsession on the right wing of British politics into a much simpler, terrifyingly binary choice for the population on how they felt their life was going.

In the accident theory of Brexit, leaving the E.U. has turned out to be a puncture rather than a catastrophe: a falloff in trade; a return of forgotten bureaucracy with our near neighbors; an exodus of financial jobs from London; a misalignment in the world. “There is a sort of problem for the British state, including Labour as well as all these Tory governments since 2016, which is that they are having to live a lie,” as Osborne, who voted Remain, said. “It’s a bit like tractor-production figures in the Soviet Union. You have to sort of pretend that this thing is working, and everyone in the system knows it isn’t.”

The other view sees Brexit as an unfinished revolution. Regardless of its origins, the vote in 2016 was a repudiation of how Britain had been governed for a generation or more. In the B . M . J . article, Dorling observed that younger voters—who chose overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U.—were angry with their elders. “They will feel newly betrayed . . . but their real betrayal has been a long time in the making,” he wrote. For a highly centralized country that is smaller than Wyoming, the U.K. is lopsided beyond belief. It contains regional inequalities greater than those between the east and the west of Germany, or the north and the south of Italy—inequalities that have been allowed by successive governments to grow to shameful extremes. On average, people in Nottingham earn about a quarter of what people make in Kensington and Chelsea, in West London, which is some two hours away by train.

During the Brexit campaign, the E.U. came to represent not just a supranational monolith across the English Channel but profound distances within the U.K. itself. And the politicians who defended the E.U. looked and sounded, for the most part, as if they spent more time in Tuscany each summer than they had spent on Teesside in their lives. “The kind of globalism, the internationalism, the liberal élite view, was seized on by people who thought that they’d been spoken down to for decades,” John Hayes, a Tory M.P. and a Brexiteer, told me. “And the more they wheeled out the establishment figures, the more it was, Yeah, that’s them. Those are the ones who don’t get it. They don’t understand us.”

Almost eight years after the vote, what stays with me is how unimagined Brexit was. Overnight, and against the will of its leaders, the country abandoned its economic model—as the Anglo-Saxon gateway to the world’s largest trading bloc—and replaced it with nothing at all. “I can’t think of another occasion when a party has so radically changed direction while in office,” Willetts said. Thatcher was an architect of the E.U.’s single market, which in time became a heresy.

You can marvel at the recklessness of Brexiteers such as Farage, or of Johnson, who spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign. (“He is not a Brexiteer,” Osborne said. “I really would go to my grave saying, deep down, Boris Johnson did not want to leave the E.U.”) But the real dereliction ran deeper. Sensible Britain failed. The Civil Service did not plan for Brexit. Ivan Rogers was the U.K.’s permanent representative to the E.U. from 2013 to 2017. He started warning about the likelihood of Brexit about five years before the vote. “It was difficult to get the attention of the system,” he said. Beyond a briefing paper, demanded by the House of Lords, there was only some “confidential thinking,” in the words of Jeremy Heywood, the former head of the Civil Service. (Heywood died in 2018.) “The mandarins have a lot to answer for on this,” Rogers said. “We were very badly prepared in 2016.”

“I didn’t think it was very wise,” Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, said, of the official refusal to consider the referendum going wrong. “We did a ton of planning.” After the vote, the Bank stabilized the markets while British politics imploded. Cameron resigned and was replaced by Theresa May, a former Home Secretary with limited experience of the economy or of international affairs. In the second half of 2016, May worked with a small group of advisers to formulate a Brexit strategy that ultimately satisfied nobody. “It was incredibly poor statecraft,” a former Cabinet colleague said. “Absolute shit. Abominable.” The abiding image of the Brexit talks was a photo of Michel Barnier, the E.U.’s chief negotiator, with his colleagues and their neat piles of paper on one side of a table, while their British counterparts, led by David Davis, a bluff former special-forces reservist, sat on the other side with a single notebook among them.

One Friday lunchtime, a couple of months ago, I met Dominic Cummings at a pub not far from his house in London. A light snow was in the air. Cummings, who is fifty-two, worked on education policy in the coalition government before becoming the campaign director of Vote Leave. (He coined its notorious slogan, “Take Back Control.”) Cummings is a Savonarola figure in British politics, an ascetic and a technocrat, who wants to save the state by burning it down. He refers to Elon Musk by his first name and writes Substack essays with titles such as “On Complexity, ‘fog and moonlight,’ prediction, and politics VII: why social science is so bad at prediction & what is to be done.”

Police officer and investigator look at a crime scene within a crime scene.

Cummings reveres the Apollo space program and takes a dim view of almost all Britain’s elected officials. “Where they are not malicious they are moronic,” he told me once. He talks rapidly, with a slight Northern rasp. (He is from Durham, near Newcastle.) Next to our table in the pub, a woodstove emitted a sudden, enveloping cloud of smoke, which dissipated while we talked. Cummings appeared to be wearing two hats, against the cold. He apologized if it seemed as if he were staring at me. He had recently undergone retinal surgery.

Cummings, unsurprisingly, saw Brexit in revolutionary terms—as a chance to break with the country’s ruling orthodoxy. “The Vote Leave campaign was not of the Tory Party,” he said. “It was not a conservative—big ‘C’ or little ‘c’—effort. But none of them wanted to confront the reasons why we did it in the first place. . . . For us, this was an attempt to wrench us off the Cameron, establishment, Blairite line.” Cummings believes that Britain must rediscover its ability to build things—roads, railways, houses, research institutes, products that people want to buy—in order to prosper again. He argues that it is America’s ecosystem of universities, entrepreneurs, and government procurement departments that have helped maintain its economic and technological edge, not just lower taxes or a freer form of capitalism. “When you start talking about this to Tories, they go, Oh, Dominic, you sound like a terrible central planner,” Cummings said. “And you go, That’s America. This is not weird left-wing shit.”

No one would accuse Cummings of having a popular platform. His jam is A.I. and Nietzsche. But, after the Brexit vote, he kept waiting for May’s government to act on what was, to him, its obvious implications: to restrict immigration, reform the state, and explore dramatic economic policies, in order to diverge from the E.U. and to boost the country’s productivity. “I kept thinking, month after month, God, like, it’s weird the way they are just thrashing around and not facing it,” Cummings said. In his view, the election of Trump, that November, provided a perfect excuse for Remainers not to take the Brexit vote seriously. “They just lumped it all in with, Oh, it’s a global tide of populism. It’s mad, irrational, evil. It’s partly funded by Putin,” he said. “They didn’t have to reëvaluate and go, Maybe the establishment in general has been, like, fucking up for twenty-plus years. ”

In July, 2019, May resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Johnson, who hired Cummings as a senior adviser. Cummings thought that Johnson would probably screw it up. At the same time, he saw an opportunity to advance what he considered the true Vote Leave agenda. “In some sense,” he said, “the risk was worth taking.”

That fall was the most kinetic, breathtaking period of Britain’s fourteen years of Tory rule. With Cummings at his side, along with Lee Cain, another former Vote Leave official, who became his director of communications, Johnson broke the deadlock that had existed since the referendum. He asked the Queen to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament. He expelled twenty-one Conservative M.P.s—including eight former Cabinet ministers and Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill—for attempting to stop the country from leaving the E.U. with no deal at all.

On a Tuesday in late September, the Supreme Court ruled that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament had been unlawful. “The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme,” the Justices found. I stood outside the court in the rain, and it felt as though the thousand-year-old timbers of the state were moving beneath our feet. Someone in the crowd was wearing a prison jumpsuit and an enlarged Johnson head. A woman was dressed as a suffragist. Anna Soubry, a former Tory M.P. who quit the party to fight for a second referendum, shook her head in wonder. “Astonishing,” she said. But Johnson prevailed. Before the year was out, he had cobbled together a new, hard-line Brexit deal and thumped Corbyn at a general election on another three-word Cummings-approved slogan: “Get Brexit Done.”

Johnson was, briefly, unassailable. In the election that December, the Conservatives won seats in places such as Bishop Auckland, in Cummings’s home county of Durham, which they had not held for more than a hundred years. The Party gathered a new, loose coalition of pro-Brexit voters—many of whom were from formerly Labour-voting English towns—to go with its traditionally older, fiscally conservative base. Johnson’s celebrity (the hair, the mess, the faux Churchillian vibes, the ridiculous Latin) was the glue that held it all together. He sensed the public mood. (With Johnson, that was not the same as doing something about it.) He disavowed austerity—promising more money for the N.H.S., new hospitals, and more police—and described a mighty program to redress the country’s economic imbalances, which he called Levelling Up.

Johnson’s premiership collapsed under the pressure of the pandemic and of his own proclivities. According to Cummings, the alignment between the goals of Vote Leave and Johnson’s ambitions as Prime Minister decoupled in January, 2020, just a few weeks after the election. Cummings wanted to overhaul the civil service and Britain’s planning laws. Johnson, for his part, wanted a rest. “He was, like, What the fuck are you talking about? Why would I want to do that?” Cummings recalled. (Johnson did not reply to a request for comment.) “It’s basically cake-ism, right?,” Cummings said, referring to Johnson’s political lodestar: having his cake and eating it, too. “I want to do all the things you want to do, and I want everyone to love me,” Cummings recalled. “I was, like, Yeah, that’s not happening.”

Britain’s first cases of the coronavirus were announced on January 31, 2020, the day the country left the European Union. In March, Johnson ordered the first national lockdown, caught COVID , and later spent three nights in the I.C.U. For months, the country staggered from one set of restrictions to the next—a reflection of Johnson’s inconstant attitude toward the virus. In texts, Cummings used a shopping-cart emoji to indicate the Prime Minister veering from one half-formed idea to the next. Levelling Up became a pork-barrel exercise: of seven hundred and twenty-five million pounds earmarked in June, 2021, about eighty per cent was for Conservative constituencies.

Johnson’s Downing Street was operatically dysfunctional. A rift opened between Cummings and his team and a faction centered on Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s then fiancée, a former Conservative Party communications director. In November, 2020, Cummings accused the Prime Minister of betraying the Vote Leave program and resigned. “I said, Listen, we had a deal. And if you end up breaking our deal there is going to be hell to pay,” Cummings recalled. Cain left as well. A little more than a year later, the Daily Mirror , a left-wing tabloid, broke the news that Johnson and his staff had organized parties while the rest of the country was under lockdown—beginning with the party for Cain’s departure, the previous November. Johnson resigned six months later.

The pandemic bore out truths about the British state. There were bright spots: the vaccines and their rollout by the N.H.S.; the intervention of the Treasury, under Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, whose furlough plan protected millions of jobs. More generally, though, the virus revealed tired public services, a population in poor health, and a government that was less competent than it thought it was. “It’s very convenient for everyone to blame Boris,” Cummings said. “But the truth is, in January, February, of 2020, it was the civil service saying‚ We’re the best-prepared country in the world. We’re brilliant at pandemics. The reality is, everything was crumbling.”

In October, 2023, Cummings testified at the U.K.’s Covid inquiry, an investigation of the government’s handling of the pandemic led by a retired judge. His written evidence was a hundred and fifteen pages long and began with an epigraph from “War and Peace”: “Nothing was ready for the war which everybody expected.”

The hearings took place in an office building around the corner from Paddington Station. I sat next to a row of bereaved family members, who were holding photographs of their loved ones. Cummings wore a white linen shirt, which came untucked, a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and black boots. He is such a contentious figure—an agent of these disordered times—that people often don’t really listen to what he says. A great deal of the media coverage of Cummings’s testimony focussed on his texting style. In messages during the pandemic, he referred to ministers as “useless fuckpigs,” “morons,” and “cunts.” The inquiry’s lawyer asked Cummings if he thought his language had been too strong. “I would say, if anything, it understated the position,” he replied.

In written testimony, Cummings implored the Covid inquiry to address a wider crisis in Britain’s political class. “Our political parties and the civil service are extremely closed institutions with little place for people who can think and build,” he wrote. Cummings believes that the war in Iraq, the financial crisis, the pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine all, in their ways, exposed serious shortcomings in the British state that have yet to be addressed.

Brexit, too. When we met, Cummings observed that the country has still failed to confront the full implications of the vote, either domestically or abroad: “You can just treat it as, like, a weird thing, like a witch trial in a medieval village. Now the witch has been burnt, and now the community is getting back to normal. Or you can think of it as part of big structural changes in Western politics, society, and the economy. And if the establishment thinks that you can treat it like a sort of episode of witchcraft mania, then they’re just going to walk straight into recurring shocks.”

I was at Heathrow Airport, refreshing the BBC’s Web site on my phone, when the screen changed to a black-and-white commemorative portrait of the Queen. On February 6, 1952, when Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died, the Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. “We cannot at this moment do more than record a spontaneous expression of our grief,” he told the House of Commons that afternoon. Seventy years later, in September, 2022, Britain was seized again by deference, tenderness, and other, more inchoate, emotions. You could not escape the ritual. Hats, horses, artillery in London’s parks. In her later years, the Queen’s aura of permanence had been enhanced by the recklessness at work in other parts of Britain’s public life. Her survival helped to contain a sense of crisis.

The Queen died on Liz Truss’s second full day in office. When the country’s brand-new Prime Minister and her husband, Hugh O’Leary, arrived at Westminster Abbey for the state funeral, Australian television identified them as “maybe minor royals.” Four days later, Truss launched the Growth Plan 2022, a Thatcher-inspired, forty-five-billion-pound package of tax cuts intended to reignite the British economy. The bond markets didn’t like it. The pound fell to a record low against the dollar. The International Monetary Fund asked Truss to “re-evaluate.” Her approval rating dropped by almost thirty points in a week. Ashen, Truss fired her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, then left office herself, on October 25th, serving seventy-one days fewer than Britain’s previous shortest-serving Prime Minister, George Canning, who died suddenly of pneumonia in 1827.

It made sense to pretend that Truss and her Growth Plan had been a rogue mission, inflicted on an unsuspecting nation. Truss was depicted as mad, or ideologically unreliable, or both. She had been a Liberal Democrat at Oxford who once opposed the monarchy. She was strangely besotted with mental arithmetic. But the truth is that Truss was neither an outlier nor a secret radical, but a representative spirit of the Conservative Party and its years in power. She was one of the first M.P.s of her intake to be promoted to the Cabinet, brought on by Cameron, before serving both May and Johnson in a hectic and haphazard series of important jobs: running departments for the environment, justice, international trade, and a large part of the Treasury.

In all these positions, Truss was the same: spiky, dynamic, considered skillful on TV. In 2012, she and Kwarteng contributed to “Britannia Unchained,” an ode to tax cutting and deregulation that described the British as “among the worst idlers in the world.” I asked one of Truss’s contemporaries, the former Cabinet minister, if anyone took the ideas seriously at the time. It was hard to catch the attention of the Party’s base under the coalition, he complained. “The easiest way was to show a bit of leg,” he said. “It used to be hanging.” Truss campaigned for Remain before becoming a Brexiteer. As Foreign Secretary, she posed on top of a tank—pure Thatcher cosplay—and dominated the government’s Flickr account, with pictures of herself jogging across the Brooklyn Bridge and standing, ruminatively, in Red Square, in Moscow.

Dachshund and another dog walk together.

“It’s silliness,” Rory Stewart told me. Stewart became a Conservative M.P. on the same day as Truss, in 2010, after working for the British government in Iraq, running an N.G.O. in Afghanistan, and teaching at Harvard. He was ejected from the Party during the Johnson purge of 2019. Last year, he published “How Not to Be a Politician,” a compulsive, depressing memoir of his career during this period. “It’s clever, silly people. It’s a lack of seriousness,” he said, of Truss and many of his peers.

In 2015, Stewart was sent to work under Truss at Britain’s department for the environment. Truss challenged him to come up with a strategy for England’s national parks in three days. “She said, Come on, Rory, how difficult can this be?” he recalled. Truss started firing off suggestions. “Get young people into nature. Blah blah blah blah.” (The plan was announced on time; Truss declined to speak to me.) “I felt with Liz Truss slight affection but above all profound pity,” Stewart said. “Because she’s approaching these big conversations as though she’s sort of performing as an underprepared undergraduate at a seminar.”

On a cloudless summer’s morning, in the dog days of Theresa May’s government, I travelled to Scunthorpe, in North Lincolnshire. In the sixties, Scunthorpe was a growing steel town with four blast furnaces named after English queens. In 2016, the population voted overwhelmingly for Brexit; three years later, the steelworks was at risk of closure, in part because of trade uncertainties caused by the vote. British Steel, which ran the plant, had been sold to private-equity investors for a pound. Four thousand jobs were on the line.

In the afternoon, I sat down with Simon Green, the deputy chief executive of the local council. Green was in his early fifties, angular and forthright. He grew up in Grimsby, a fishing town on the coast, and spent his career in local government—in Boston and New York, as well as in Nottingham and Sheffield—before taking the job in North Lincolnshire, in 2017. Green was sick of reporters, like me, coming up to Scunthorpe from London for the day, to gawk at its predicament and wonder why people could have believed that Brexit would improve their situation. “No disrespect, but we do get a level of poverty porn,” he said. “A lot of doom and gloom.”

Green assured me that the Brexit-related anxiety around the steelworks was a blip. “We’re actually on a bit of a comeback roll,” he said. He was excited about the region’s potential for green technology and the construction of HS2, a new Y-shaped high-speed railway that was going to transform connections between London and cities in the northeast and the northwest. “Rail track, ballast, concrete, cement—you name anything to do with trains, infrastructure, it’s an engineering, Midlands, Northern thing,” he said. Green ascribed the Brexit vote in Scunthorpe to “values and culture” rather than to economics—a sense of dislocation and of feeling disdained by politicians in London.

Recently, I wondered how Green was getting on. In 2019, Scunthorpe was part of the “Red Wall” of Labour constituencies that flipped for the Tories. British Steel had changed hands once more. Now Chinese investors were planning to install new furnaces, which required fewer workers and were fed with scrap metal. For the first time since 1890, the plant would no longer produce virgin steel from ore. I met Green a couple of weeks before Christmas. He had left his job a few days before. He seemed relieved to be done. Seven local authorities in England have gone bust since 2020, including the one serving Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. In North Lincolnshire, the council now spends about three-quarters of its budget on services for vulnerable children and adults—roughly double the proportion of a decade ago. “We’re still here,” Green said, ruefully. The saga of the steelworks continued. “It’s endless,” he went on. “Is it closing? Isn’t it closing?” Britain has had eleven different economic programs in the past thirteen years.

We were in a teaching room at the University Campus North Lincolnshire, which opened a few years ago in the former local-authority offices. The old council chamber, built in the shape of a blast furnace, was now a lecture hall. The average student age was twenty-nine. Green was proud of the project. It reminded him of mechanics’ institutes in the nineteenth century. “People are using their own judgment to better themselves,” he said. “If you want a job in this area, you can get a job. We need more quality opportunity.” Green had had a clear strategy for Scunthorpe and the nearby Humber estuary, built around green technology and education. “I asked a question to my colleagues and politicians as well,” he said. “What sort of town do you want this to be in ten, fifteen, twenty years?”

Britain has no equivalent strategy for itself. In September, Sunak weakened several of the country’s key climate-change targets. A few weeks later, he cancelled what was left of HS2, the new rail network. Only the stem of the Y will now be built, from London to Birmingham, at a cost of some four hundred and seventy million pounds per mile , with little or no benefit to the North. “I can get quite excited, agitated by that,” Green said. “It makes us look a laughingstock.” Green was studiously apolitical when we talked. I had no sense of which way he voted. But he despaired of the shallowness and contingency now at the heart of British politics, and the lack of narrative coherence—or shared purpose—about what these years of struggle had been intended to achieve. I asked if he ever worried that the country was in a permanent state of decline. “I think, at the moment, we are at the crossroads,” he replied.

When will it end? Sunak says that he will call a general election in the second half of the year. The gossip in Westminster says that probably that means mid-November: a British encore, to follow the main event in the U.S. But it could come as soon as May. The Prime Minister began preparing the ground last fall, after his first year in office, by presenting himself as a change candidate—a big claim, considering the circumstances.

In October, I went to Manchester to watch Sunak address the Conservative Party’s annual conference. He was introduced onstage by his wife, Akshata Murty, the daughter of N. R. Narayana Murthy, a founder of Infosys, the Indian I.T. conglomerate. (According to the London Sunday Times , Sunak and Murty have an estimated net worth of about five hundred million pounds.) Murty wore an orange pants suit, and she addressed Britain’s most successful political organization as if it were a local gardening society. “Please know that Rishi is working hard,” she said. “He shares your values and he knows how much you care about the future of the U.K.”

Sunak has a quietly imploring tone. British politics was in a bad way, he explained. People were fed up. “It isn’t anger,” Sunak said. “It’s an exhaustion with politics, in particular politicians saying things and then nothing ever changing.” Sunak dated the rot back thirty years without explaining why, but, presumably, to indicate the fall of Thatcher. (Thatcher was everywhere in Manchester; she is the modern Party’s only ghost.) Having positioned himself as the country’s next, truly transformative, leader, Sunak offered his party a weirdly pallid program: the dismantling of HS2, plus two long-range, complex policies, to abolish smoking and to reform the A-levels—England’s standard end-of-school exams. “We will be bold. We will be radical,” Sunak promised. “We will face resistance and we will meet it.”

Increasingly, Sunak has been pulled between the Party’s diverging instincts: to retreat to the dry, liberal competence of the Cameron-Osborne regime or to head off in a more explicitly protectionist, anti-immigrant, anti-woke direction. In Manchester, the energy was unmistakably on the Party’s right. Suella Braverman, then the Home Secretary, magnetized delegates with a speech warning of a “hurricane” of mass migration. Truss staged a growth rally, and Nigel Farage cruised the conference hall, posing for selfies. (There is talk of Farage standing as a Conservative M.P.) Back in London, I had lunch with David Frost, an influential Conservative peer. “Rishi, I feel for him, in a way,” Frost said. “He’s just trying to keep the show on the road and not upset all these different wings of the Party. But the consequence of that is you end up with a sort of agenda which is not politically meaningful at all.”

On January 14th, a poll of fourteen thousand people, which Frost facilitated, suggested that the Party is on course for a huge defeat later this year. The question is what kind of haunted political realm it will leave behind. Under Starmer, Labour has been tactical in the extreme, exorcising Corbyn’s left-wing policies (Corbyn has been blocked from standing for the Party at the election), while making vague noises about everything else. It has nothing new to say about Brexit and equivocates about its own tax and spending plans, if it wins power. The Party recently scaled back a plan to invest twenty-eight billion pounds a year in green projects. There is no rescue on the way for Britain’s welfare state.

Osborne noted all this with satisfaction. “The underlying economic arguments have basically been accepted,” he said, of austerity. “It’s rather like the Thatcher period. Everyone complained that Thatcher did deindustrialization, and yet no one wants to unpick it.” By contrast, Cummings sees the two cautious, hedging leaders in charge of Britain’s main political parties—and the relief among some centrists that the candidates are not so different from each other—in rather darker terms. “They are deluded when they think it’s great that Sunak and Starmer are in. It’s just like they’re arguing over trivia,” he said. “The politics of it are insane.”

I am afraid that I agree. It is unnerving to be heading into an election year in Britain with the political conversation so small, next to questions that can feel immeasurable. I put this to Hayes, the Tory M.P., when I went to see him in the House of Commons. “You’re arguing we have very vanilla-flavor politics, in a richly colored world. There’s something in that,” he said. Then he surprised me. “I think the key thing for the Conservatives now is to be more conservative,” he said. We were sitting in a bay window, overlooking the Thames. A waiter poured tea. Hayes seemed to relish the coming election. It was as if, after almost fourteen years of tortuous experiment, real conservatism might finally be at hand. “Outside metropolitan Britain and the university towns, it’s all up for grabs,” Hayes assured me. “Toryism must have its day again.” ♦

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You Say You Want a Revolution. Do You Know What You Mean by That?

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Photo Essay: That’s a Wrap

By: Outpatient Surgery Editors

Published: 4/3/2024

What we saw at the 2024 AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo.

I n March, the Outpatient Surgery Magazine editors headed down to Nashville to attend AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo, the 71st edition of the popular event. Over a whirlwind four-day period, we attended insightful education sessions and keynotes, met dozens of readers and contributors, and networked our collective behinds off in the ASC Hub.

What follows is just a small sampling of what we saw at Expo. Hopefully this glimpse into perioperative nursing’s largest and most premier event inspires you to head to Boston for Expo 2025. Visit: OSM

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    6.2 THE BIG PICTURE: Using Outside Sources of Information A strong academic research essay needs strong evidence (proof). The credibility of your sources of outside information is one key part of this evidence. ... And in a long essay with multiple quotes and paraphrases, repeated use of the same verb of attribution can be distracting and ...

  19. Long Essay Photos, Download The BEST Free Long Essay Stock ...

    Download and use 70,000+ Long Essay stock photos for free. Thousands of new images every day Completely Free to Use High-quality videos and images from Pexels. Photos. Explore. License. Upload. Upload Join. Free Long Essay Photos. Photos 74.8K Videos 8.6K Users 11.4K. Filters. Popular. All Orientations. All Sizes # Download. Download. Download.

  20. How to Format Images in an Essay

    To insert an image into the text using Microsoft Word: Place the cursor where you want to add a picture. Go to Insert > Pictures. Click on This Device to add pictures from your own computer or select Online Pictures to search for a picture from the internet. Select the image you wish to use and click Insert.

  21. How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

    Essay length guidelines. Type of essay. Average word count range. Essay content. High school essay. 300-1000 words. In high school you are often asked to write a 5-paragraph essay, composed of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. College admission essay. 200-650 words.

  22. 10 photo essays that capture 2021, a year of uncertainty and endurance

    But it's 2021 and Kevin Martin and company are still here. Jay Westcott is a photographer in Arlington. Mayflies litter the stage at a Candlebox show in Iowa. Kevin Martin relaxes in the green ...

  23. Creating Photo Essays About Community: A Guide to Our Where We Are

    Step 1: Read the Where We Are series closely. Step 2: Decide what local community will be the subject of your photo essay. Step 3: Take photos that show both the big picture and the small details ...

  24. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

  25. What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse

    The ship is about 984 feet long - almost the length of three football fields. At the time of the crash, the Dali weighed 95,000 gross tons - or 213 million pounds - and was chartered to ...

  26. Opinion

    An Idyll on the Shores of a Toxic Lake. Ms. Lowe is the author of, most recently, "Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires.". Mr. Albrecht is ...

  27. What Have Fourteen Years of Conservative Rule Done to Britain?

    The Conservative-run Britain of the eighties was not harmonious. Life beyond the North London square where my family lived often seemed to be in the grip of one confrontation or another. The news ...

  28. Month in photos

    The Piano Lesson. Five Notre Dame staff members were recently involved in the South Bend Civic Theatre production of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson. Natalie Davis Miller, managing editor of NDWorks in Internal Communications, was the director, while Jonathan Bailey and Max Gaston from the Law School and Tiana ...

  29. 2024 White House Easter Egg Roll in photos

    A person in an Easter Bunny costume attends the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on on April 1, 2024 in Washington, DC. In addition to the traditional egg roll and egg hunt, First Lady Jill ...

  30. Article

    What we saw at the 2024 AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo. I n March, the Outpatient Surgery Magazine editors headed down to Nashville to attend AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo, the 71st edition of the popular event. Over a whirlwind four-day period, we attended insightful education sessions and keynotes, met dozens of readers and contributors, and networked our collective behinds ...