Purpose and Learning Objectives

In this assignment, you should practice writing using the writing process and developing a well-constructed analysis essay in formal register. The essay should show how an analysis of the visual components of an image leads to a better understanding of the image.

Process for Completion 

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The first step in this process will be to choose an image.  Browse the images available through the Gordon Parks Foundation Archives.  The link is available near the end of Unit 3.  Choose an image that you find engaging.  This image will be the subject of your essay.

After you have chosen your image, you should engage in some prewriting activities using the ideas and terms presented in Unit 3.  First, take stock of your initial reactions to the image.  What emotions did you feel as you first looked at the photograph?  

Next, analyze the image by looking closely at the content, framing, composition, focus, color, lighting and context.  What interesting or unique features do you notice about the image?  What is the cultural or historical context of the image?  You should record all of these activities in your next writer’s notebook assignment.  Some of them will become important pieces of your final draft.

Next, it will be time to find your focus and begin generating a working thesis statement.  For this assignment, your thesis will make a claim about the meaning of the image.  In other words, what message does the image communicate?  Remember, every image tells a story and an image may tell a different story depending on who is looking.  Once you have decided what idea or story the image communicates to you, you will need to explain how content, framing, focus, color, angle and lighting come together to create that story or convey meaning.

After completing the previous steps, it will be time to begin drafting your essay.  The following outline might help you to structure your initial draft.

  • Introduction: Idenitfy and describe the image and your initial reactions. Embed the image into the body of your essay or include a link to the image so that your audience can view it.
  • Thesis:  Tell your readers what idea or story the image communicates.
  • Supporting paragraphs:   Explain how the visual elements come together to create meaning.  In multiple body paragraphs, discuss content, framing, composition, color, focus, angle, lighting and context.  You do not necessarily need to discuss every one of these elements, but you should discuss enough of them so that your reader understands how the visual elements work together to create a story. You may have three or more body paragraphs dedicated to this task.  It would be a good idea to discuss just one or two elements in each paragraph.
  • Conclusion:  At a minimum, your conclusion should remind your reader how the visual elements convey meaning.

Minimum Requirements

  • The final draft of your essay should be between 600 and 900 words in length (about 2 -3 pages long).
  • The essay should meet the expectation of an academic rhetorical situation. You will be expected to use formal register English.  Your audience will be a general audience of educated adults. 
  • The image you have chosen as the subject for your essay should be linked to or embedded in the body of the essay.
  • The essay should be written in MLA format, with a proper header, page numbers, title, and font. See the MLA guidelines in the unit.
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