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Photo Analysis Essay Sample

Organizing Your Analysis

Summary:

This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author’s understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles.

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2015-08-30 05:01:04

There is no one perfect way to organize a rhetorical analysis essay. In fact, writers should always be a bit leery of plug-in formulas that offer a perfect essay format. Remember, organization itself is not the enemy, only organization without considering the specific demands of your particular writing task. That said, here are some general tips for plotting out the overall form of your essay.

Introduction

Like any rhetorical analysis essay, an essay analyzing a visual document should quickly set the stage for what you’re doing. Try to cover the following concerns in the initial paragraphs:

  1. Make sure to let the reader know you’re performing a rhetorical analysis. Otherwise, they may expect you to take positions or make an evaluative argument that may not be coming.
  2. Clearly state what the document under consideration is and possibly give some pertinent background information about its history or development. The intro can be a good place for a quick, narrative summary of the document. The key word here is “quick, for you may be dealing with something large (for example, an entire episode of a cartoon like the Simpsons). Save more in-depth descriptions for your body paragraph analysis.
  3. If you’re dealing with a smaller document (like a photograph or an advertisement), and copyright allows, the introduction or first page is a good place to integrate it into your page.
  4. Give a basic run down of the rhetorical situation surrounding the document: the author, the audience, the purpose, the context, etc.

Thesis Statements and Focus

Many authors struggle with thesis statements or controlling ideas in regards to rhetorical analysis essays. There may be a temptation to think that merely announcing the text as a rhetorical analysis is purpose enough. However, especially depending on your essay’s length, your reader may need a more direct and clear statement of your intentions. Below are a few examples.

1. Clearly narrow the focus of what your essay will cover. Ask yourself if one or two design aspects of the document is interesting and complex enough to warrant a full analytical treatment.

The website for Amazon.com provides an excellent example of alignment and proximity to assist its visitors in navigating a potentially large and confusing amount of information.

2. Since visual documents often seek to move people towards a certain action (buying a product, attending an event, expressing a sentiment), an essay may analyze the rhetorical techniques used to accomplish this purpose. The thesis statement should reflect this goal.

The call-out flyer for the Purdue Rowing Team uses a mixture of dynamic imagery and tantalizing promises to create interest in potential, new members.

3. Rhetorical analysis can also easily lead to making original arguments. Performing the analysis may lead you to an argument; or vice versa, you may start with an argument and search for proof that supports it.

A close analysis of the female body images in the July 2007 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine reveals contradictions between the articles’ calls for self-esteem and the advertisements’ unrealistic, beauty demands.

These are merely suggestions. The best measure for what your focus and thesis statement should be the document itself and the demands of your writing situation. Remember that the main thrust of your thesis statement should be on how the document creates meaning and accomplishes its purposes. The OWl has additional information on writing thesis statements.

Analysis Order (Body Paragraphs)

Depending on the genre and size of the document under analysis, there are a number of logical ways to organize your body paragraphs. Below are a few possible options. Which ever you choose, the goal of your body paragraphs is to present parts of the document, give an extended analysis of how that part functions, and suggest how the part ties into a larger point (your thesis statement or goal).

Chronological

This is the most straight-forward approach, but it can also be effective if done for a reason (as opposed to not being able to think of another way). For example, if you are analyzing a photo essay on the web or in a booklet, a chronological treatment allows you to present your insights in the same order that a viewer of the document experiences those images. It is likely that the images have been put in that order and juxtaposed for a reason, so this line of analysis can be easily integrated into the essay.

Be careful using chronological ordering when dealing with a document that contains a narrative (i.e. a television show or music video). Focusing on the chronological could easily lead you to plot summary which is not the point of a rhetorical analysis.

Spatial

A spatial ordering covers the parts of a document in the order the eye is likely to scan them. This is different than chronological order, for that is dictated by pages or screens where spatial order concerns order amongst a single page or plane. There are no unwavering guidelines for this, but you can use the following general guidelines.

  • Left to right and top to down is still the normal reading and scanning pattern for English-speaking countries.
  • The eye will naturally look for centers. This may be the technical center of the page or the center of the largest item on the page.
  • Lines are often used to provide directions and paths for the eye to follow.
  • Research has shown that on web pages, the eye tends to linger in the top left quadrant before moving left to right. Only after spending a considerable amount of time on the top, visible portion of the page will they then scroll down.

Persuasive Appeals

The classic, rhetorical appeals are logos, pathos, and ethos. These concepts roughly correspond to the logic, emotion, and character of the document’s attempt to persuade. You can find more information on these concepts elsewhere on the OWL. Once you understand these devices, you could potentially order your essay by analyzing the document’s use of logos, ethos, and pathos in different sections.

Conclusion

The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis essay may not operate too differently from the conclusion of any other kind of essay. Still, many writers struggle with what a conclusion should or should not do. You can find tips elsewhere on the OWL on writing conclusions. In short, however, you should restate your main ideas and explain why they are important; restate your thesis; and outline further research or work you believe should be completed to further your efforts.

How to Write a Picture Analysis Essay

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It is widespread today to post pictures on the internet forums and social networks. Recently, it has become pretty popular to disseminate photos from different parts of the world; photos which describe some important event there, or merely the way of living of the local people. The main goal of this process of dissemination is to convey a given message to wider audience, and also to give more information about a subject. Regrettably, people just post these pictures or share them, without even an attempt to reflect upon their message, background or event which has been captured. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to render the reality in an absolutely perfect way, so every picture, painting, or video shows only one side of it. Therefore, a picture shows the world from one personal point of view. This is your starting point while writing a picture analysis essay. 

How to write a picture analysis essay - 6 essential tips

  1. Focus your attention on the author of the picture. Who is he/she? What is his/her field of interest? Does he/she have any artistic achievements and fame? This information will help you to analyze the context of the picture better. 
  2. What is the context of the picture? when and where has it been taken? Explain a little about the temporal and geographic dimensions of the picture. This is pretty important because, otherwise, your interpretation may be wrong or inadequate. A lot of “false” images are circulating in the World Wide Web, and they lack reliability and trustworthiness exactly because of this misplacing or distorting the information about their context. This is true especially when the pictures are related to war crime allegations. Hence, you should be certain that you have gathered all the required information. 
  3. Think about what you see on the picture. There can be one human being or more than one, or just a landscape, or an abandoned house, or an animal, and so forth. The best pictures are usually those which combine various elements, thus enforcing different impressions on the mind of the observer. 
  4. Now is the time to grasp the message of the picture. Professional photographs always aspire towards disseminating important information, or changing the attitude of people towards a definite issue. Social, political and economic issues are mostly referred to. Here you need to analyze the picture against its background; if you know where it has been taken and who is on the picture, then it will be much easier for you to understand it. 
  5. During all this preliminary research it is recommended to have notes in order to write your thoughts and insights. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the structure. You have to be able to incorporate the following things in your text:
  •  context
  • author of the picture and its source/s
  • description of the picture
  • techniques used by the photographer
  • message of the picture
  • reaction to the picture; for example, some pictures depicting war action, poverty, disasters as well as some positive images (of friendliness, equality, happiness) can provoke strong reaction from the society.  

       6. After completing the first draft of your essay, consult with your friends or classmates regarding your task. Ask them what they think about your essay and the picture. Maybe they will point you to                something on the picture that you haven’t been able to notice yourself. Remember: an advice given by your friends should only help you make your paper more objective and informative. Do not                  plagiarize!

If you have doubts about the way how to write a picture analysis essay, we can say that it is absolutely up to you and depends on your own style of writing. At any rate, what you need is to practice your imagination, and to collect the necessary information. Then your essay will have value and impact.

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