Picture Essay vs. Picture Story

For this journal entry I looked at the differences between picture story and picture essay. To make the visual comparison easier, I attempted to find picture essays and picture stories that showed the same subject matter. This proved to be difficult because there are a lot more picture essays floating around the internet than there are true picture stories. A lot of people advertised their work as picture stories but I didn’t think they fit the bill based on what we’ve learned in class. Therefore, I chose a picture essay about Yosemite National Park and a picture story about cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Below I have posted five pictures from each piece. I have also posted my opinions and comments on whether I think it fits into the category in which it was advertised. At the bottom I have posted my overall comments.


This piece titled “Winter in Yosemite National Park” was advertised as a picture essay for the LA Times by Mark Boster.






I definitely think that this piece fits into the category of picture essay. To begin with, the photos are of the same location and roughly the same subject matter but they aren’t totally interrelated. If the photographer (Mark Boster) had wanted to turn this into a picture story he could have followed a group of tourists, a park employee or a single animal as they went along their day in the snow. Instead, he photographed single images that are beautiful but don’t follow a timeline.

The theme with this picture essay is quite straightforward and clean. It’s winter time in Yosemite National Park and these are the various images that the photographer captured during a specific season. In total this essay contains about 20 images, some more eye-catching than others. I think this also qualifies as an essay because any of these photos could be taken out without incident. These individual photographs aren’t needed to tell a story therefore this essay could be displayed in parts or in full.

According to the LA Times’ website, this was one of four essays by the same photographer of Yosemite. His goal was to photograph Yosemite in all four seasons, so he traveled there four separate times during the course of a year in order to produce four different photo essays for their travel section. He shot this winter essay in February of 2010. Alone it doesn’t represent an essay’s long documentation process but when it is combined with the Yosemite four seasons projects it speaks to the length that often accompanies photo essays.


This award-winning picture story was done by Chris Anderson for Esquire Magazine. It’s essentially a day in the life of cyclist Lance Armstrong as he prepares to compete his 6th consecutive Tour de France title.


Lance Armstrong on a training ride in the Hollywood Hills.


Lance Armstrong relaxes in the pool with his (then) girlfriend Sheryl Crowe.


Lance Armstrong prepares for future training sessions by looking over maps.


Lance Armstrong takes a short break during a photo shoot for Esquire Magazine.


Lance Armstrong on another training ride in the Hollywood Hills.

I would categorize this as a picture story for a variety of reasons. First, there is a beginning, middle and an end. We see Lance Armstrong at the beginning of the day (training) and the end of the day (training) and the various pieces that make up the other parts of his day (personal time, business and interviews/photo shoots). I included the last picture in this edit because I felt that it was like the quintessential ending shot of a picture story, the subject heading out towards the horizon. It’s a good visual representation of the end of Lance Armstrong’s day and the end of this story.

In addition, this story has a linear story and in my opinion all the photos are essential to that story. I don’t feel that any images could have been taken out here as successfully as they could have been removed from the picture essay. Interestingly enough, I needed the captions for this piece and I didn’t need any written explanation for the picture essay. The title simply helped me associate the winter photos with Yosemite as a location. I needed captions with these Lance Armstrong pictures in order to orientate time, place and people.

This is only a portion of the Lance Armstrong picture story but the original did include an opener (present here), an ender (present here), moment (present here), interaction (present here) and portrait (present here). When I edited it down I didn’t include any of the detail pictures but there was a great close-up of his muscular legs that would have been appropriate. I should have done a better job in editing the photos and not included some similar pictures but it was difficult to edit it down to only five photos.


This showed me that I am actually more attracted to the style of picture story than I am the style of picture essay. I like looking at beautiful pictures but I also like to witness a story take place in front of my eyes. I find that a picture story has more long-term emotional resonance with me. Seeing the progression of something helps me connect to the subject matter more often than it does with a set of photos that aren’t as related.

In addition, I know that I am a visual learner and I can learn something more concrete from a picture story than I can from a regular written news story. If I am shown what is happening, rather than being told what is happening, I am ten-times more invested in the outcome of the issue or subject. I recognize this in myself and I will now spend time looking for picture stories on important issues to aid in my comprehension.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s