Essay #1: Susan Sontag and James Nachtwey walk into a bar …


Essay #1
Due by class time (11:15 a.m.) on Medium. Put the link in your reading notes.
Length: 750-1,000 words (about 3-4 double-spaced pages).

As I mentioned in class earlier, an important goal of this class is to step back and interrogate the visually saturated world we live in. Photographs, particularly works of photojournalism, bring all kinds of baggage with them. Good photojournalism lives in the grey area between “art” and “documentation,” striving in one image to be both aesthetically pleasing, accurate and evocative. This grey area prompts a lot of questions about the nature of “truth” and “reality,” the “sponsorship” of images, their purpose and even packaging.

Your assignment is to put Susan Sontag and James Nachtwey in a conversation together – literally write a script of how that dialogue might go. How would each think about photojournalism? What are the questions they would ask each other and how would they answer? Your dialogue should be constructed in a way that provides a summary of what you believe their main points are. For Sontag, focus particularly on Ch. 5 and 7, but feel free to bring in stuff she writes elsewhere. For Nachtwey, rely on his Ted Talk you watched. Don’t quote from these works though. The script should be dialogue that you make up. A good way to do it is to take a couple of photographs and use them as examples. Suppose that they are placed on the table during the conversation. Be sure to embed them with your writing.

This is trickier than it might sound. Good dialogue avoids to much exposition – long-winded, boring explanations. Good dialogue, like a good essay, builds toward some sort of conclusion. It’s more than banal chit-chat and yes/no answers. So be creative. Be interesting.

I’ll get you started.

James: Good afternoon Susan.

Susan: James, how have you been?

James: Fine, thanks. I just came back from a reporting trip to _________. It’s amazing what is happening there. Amazing, but tragic. Do you want to see some photographs?



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