One of the questions asked by student in the audience that I found important was: “Do you need text in a photo essay?” I found this question particularly intriguing because I wondered how you could have an “essay” without words. Cahill pointed out that in fact photo essays’ primary purpose is to allow the photos to tell the stories.
Although, he does recognize that descriptions are sometimes necessary to convey the full effect and emotion of the photos. In turn, he reasons that one should let the photos tell the story, while the description should be used only to describe and enhance, rather than narrate.
Other aspects of the presentation that I found helpful for my overall online exhibit for Project 2 was Cahill’s emphasis on perception. He pointed out that visually a photograph in an exhibit or photo essay must immediately convey a certain point. He continued to pose examples from his own photo catalog of action in pictures that conveyed emotions of happiness and freedom. He elaborated that the reaction from the audience and the audience’s interpretation of the photo (or series of photos) is of primary importance because if photos evoke mixed responses or ambiguous tones, then the overall message may be lost.
While my online exhibit for Project 2 does not necessary fit under the category of “photo essay,” Cahill’s presentation gave me ideas for what I wanted the aesthetic and design of the website to look like. I knew that the overall “theme” of the website would be international attitudes toward dialects, mainly in China, Japan, and the U.S. When I think about the term “international,” the first word that comes to mind is “travel” since traveling is inherently necessary in order to have international experience.
In turn, the idea of “travel” manifested itself in the “water” or “ocean” theme of my group’s website, as water and waves continuously move. Another metaphor or message I intended to convey was the notion that language and dialects all change and flow together in certain ways, and that attitudes toward dialects similarly relate to one another.
Louis Cahill’s presentation and experiences as a professional photographer and storyteller encouraged me to create a theme that was both aesthetically appealing and had meaning relative to my group’s project goals. His explanation and analysis of the nuances of audience perceptions gave me the resources to refine my telling of the stories and experiences of the people I reference in my essay.